Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
At this point, it seems it only is a matter of when, not if, the Pac-12 Conference will move to a 20-game basketball schedule.
That will be a good thing for the Colorado Buffaloes. And their fans, too.
The Pac-12 held its annual summer meetings this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., and one of the biggest topics of conversation circled around the expected move to a 20-game league slate beginning in the 2019-20 season.
The change will keep the Pac-12 in pace with the Big Ten, which will play a 20-game league schedule for the first time next season, and the ACC, which does the same in 2019-20.
Given the priority placed on RPI numbers in the competition for NCAA Tournament berths, a 20-game league schedule will benefit the Buffs on a number of fronts. Most immediately, it will erase the discrepancy that occurs when teams play two sets of opponents just one time apiece. This past season the Buffs hosted the northern California schools, Cal and Stanford, but didn’t visit them. Same with the Oregon schools, which CU visited but didn’t host. That deprived the Buffs of extra winnable games against Cal and OSU, while the young squad was forced to play the league heavyweights in Arizona and Los Angeles twice.
That’s not to say the setup was unfair to the Buffs. They went a solid 5-5 against the league’s top four teams (Arizona, ASU, USC, UCLA) yet sat out the postseason in large part because of a 2-5 record against Washington, Washington State, Utah, and Oregon State. But a 20-game schedule evens the playing field across the board (USC, for instance, just missed the Big Dance, but didn’t get to play the Arizona schools at home) and eliminates at least a small portion of the scheduling headaches for CU coach Tad Boyle’s program.
It is a constant challenge attempting to bring commendable programs to the Coors Events Center, where teams have to play at altitude against a club that generally has been competitive under Boyle. Eliminating two nonconference dates for another pair of quality showdowns against league foes — one at home and one on the road, likely before the holidays in December — means a little less scrambling for early-season foes that can bolster that RPI mark. And given the NCAA selection committee’s recent decree to weigh road results more heavily, adding another league game away from home creates an extra opportunity.
If the 20-game league schedule, and in turn 10-game nonconference schedule, was in place for the 2018-19 season, much of the Buffs nonconference slate would already be set. CU will play return dates at San Diego and New Mexico while also traveling to Air Force to complete the state rivals’ four-game contract. The Buffs also will play three games at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii in a field that also will include TCU, Rhode Island, Hawaii, St. Mary’s, UNLV, Charlotte, and Indiana State.
For the fans, an extra Pac-12 foe at home means one more game against a league rival and one less against the likes of Northern Colorado or South Dakota State (though, to be fair, the double-overtime win against South Dakota State was one of the more entertaining games of the 2017-18 home slate).
Here to stay
On Sunday night the Colorado women’s lacrosse team is expected to receive its second consecutive berth in the NCAA Tournament. Take a moment to marvel at the accomplishments of coach Ann Elliott.
When she was hired in 2013 the Buffs’ lacrosse program remained more an idea than a team. In five seasons CU never has had a losing record, overall or within league play, and the Buffs have reached the conference championship game each of the past two seasons. Another step remains — CU lost both of those league title games, including last week against Stanford, and the Buffs still are seeking their first NCAA tourney win — but it seems Elliott already has built a national power that is here to stay.
The recruiting inroads Elliott has achieved has allowed the Buffs to replace stars like Paige Soenksen, the starting goalie for CU’s first four seasons, with talent like Julia Lisella, who began the week ranked sixth in the nation in save percentage (.527) while looking like a defensive stalwart for years to come.
Regardless of how this week pans out, expect Elliott to keep the Buffs among the nation’s elite next year despite the pending graduations of all-time leading scorer Darby Kiernan and defensive veterans Sarah Brown and Kelsie Garrison.
Kudos to Fairview graduate Brent Wrapp, who this spring wrapped up one of the most unlikely and overlooked collegiate basketball careers by a local product. The 2013 BoCoPreps.com boys basketball player of the year, Wrapp was offered just one Division I opportunity out of high school at Cal State-Bakersfield, and that opportunity was only an invitation to join the program as a walk-on.
Earlier this week Wrapp was honored with the school’s President’s Award. The award is presented annually to the CSU Bakersfield graduating senior who “represents CSU Bakersfield in a positive light both in competition and in the community.”
Wrapp ended his career as CSU Bakersfield’s co-all-time leader in career assists.