The court at the CU Events Center is named after Russell “Sox” Walseth for good reason.
Very few coaches have achieved the level of success that Walseth enjoyed during his 20 seasons on the Buffs’ bench, from 1956-76.
Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes, however, are on a run of success that hasn’t been seen since Walseth’s years.
After Saturday’s 78-67 win against Southern California, the Buffs (19-11, 10-8 Pac-12) have secured a winning conference record for the fifth time in eight years. The last time CU did that was 1962-69, when Walseth had a winning conference mark six times in eight years.
“I think any time you can be compared to Sox Walseth, it’s a compliment,” Boyle said.
Naturally, winning the conference is the goal every season, but that hasn’t been done by a CU team since 1969, and coming in above the .500 mark on a routine basis is an accomplishment that can’t be taken lightly. From 1970-2011, CU was above .500 in conference just five times.
“I’ve been in the Missouri Valley, I’ve been in the Trans America Conference – which doesn’t even exist anymore – the Big Sky,” Boyle said. “It doesn’t matter what conference you’re in; it’s tough to win and to have a winning record.”
CU had finished the previous two seasons at 8-10 in Pac-12 play, and at one point this season, the Buffs appeared to be headed down that road again.
Following a 2-6 start, though, the Buffs won eight of 10 down the stretch – the best closing mark since 1961-62 when Walseth, of course, was the coach – and secure the No. 5 seed for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.
“It means a lot,” Boyle said of how his team has played lately. “What you want is you want to be going to Las Vegas with momentum, and I feel like we’ve done that and that’s a good thing.”
CU came oh-so-close to its first-ever top four seed and first-round bye, but will take the fifth seed into the tournament for the fourth time. They were also the No. 5 in 2013, 2014 and 2016. In the 2012, the year the Buffs won the Pac-12 tourney in Los Angeles, they were the No. 6 seed.
Never under Boyle has CU gone into the conference tournament with this much momentum.
“I like where our team is, I like our mind set I like our mentality and let’s go hook it up,” Boyle said.
For the Buffs, though, this finishing stretch may just be a launching point.
Boyle has enjoyed sustained success during his tenure and loses only one senior off this year – guard Namon Wright, who has played only five minutes since Jan. 3 because of a foot injury. The entire core of this team, led by point guard McKinley Wright and forwards Evan Battey and Tyler Bey, is set to return next year.
The Buffs are set up to once again reach 10 conference wins in 2019-20 – and perhaps race past that benchmark.
“We’d like to get north of 10 (wins), but again, with a young team and as we look to next year – when we start looking to next year – that’s going to be a goal of ours,” Boyle said.