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Pac-12’s Thursday night slate could aid fortunes of CU Buffs

Buffs need a win at Utah plus some help to land first-round bye at league tourney

Colorado’s Tad Boyle has words with the official at the California game on February 6, 2020 in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado basketball fans can be excused if they channel surf rather intensely on Thursday night, and perhaps root for teams they wouldn’t even consider backing just about any other day of the year.

But Thursday may not be just another night in terms of the immediate fortunes of the Buffaloes. Three of the four games on the Pac-12 Conference ledger could have implications for the Buffs as they prepare for their regular season finale Saturday at Utah (12:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).

Buffs fans might be tuning in, hoping for the results that will put CU in better position to nab one of the league’s top four spots and a first-round bye at next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. CU coach Tad Boyle, however, may not be checking out the action.

“I’m not going to root, I can tell you that, because it gets you nowhere,” Boyle said. “If I’m home and I’ve got nothing else doing I’ll watch the games. I’m just concerned about getting this team right Saturday at 12:30. That other stuff, what’ll happen will happen. I’ve got no control over it. I don’t really worry about it. We’ll figure out Friday what our situation is. Things might become a little more clear based on Thursday night. Maybe not. We’ll just wait and see.

“You control what you can control. That’s one of the messages that we give our team. I think I’ve got live it as a coach too. I’ve got to control what I can control. I can’t control what’s going to happen to the Oregons or the Arizonas. What’s going to happen is going to happen. I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control.”

After being in contention for the conference crown just a few weeks ago, the Buffs’ current three-game losing streak has left them scrambling for a first-round bye. Any scenario for a top-four finish requires a CU victory at Utah, but the Buffs also will need some help this weekend, beginning perhaps on Thursday night.

Going into the final week of the regular season, CU still can finish anywhere between third and seventh in the jumbled top half of the league standings. In addition to a Buffs’ win against the Utes, CU needs two of three teams — Arizona, Arizona State, and Stanford — to suffer at least one loss this weekend for the Buffs to land in the top four.

The most likely candidate for a loss is Stanford, which plays at Oregon State Thursday night before visiting an Oregon team Saturday that is unbeaten at home and needs a weekend sweep to claim the league’s top seed. Beyond that, Buffs fans will have to cross their collective fingers that one of the Washington schools pulls off an upset on the road against the Arizona schools. ASU hosts Washington State Thursday night while Arizona hosts Washington.

“I think the main thing is we have to focus on ourselves,” CU junior D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We definitely were watching a few of the games in the past, and I think that might have gotten to us a little bit, focusing on other people. I think if we just lock in, the rest will take care of itself.”

Wednesday marked a return to full-fledged practice for the Buffs following a prolonged and intense film session on Tuesday. Boyle hasn’t been shy about sharing his thoughts on the poor practices that led up to the poor performances during last week’s trip through the Bay Area, but he reported Wednesday’s workout was a step in the right direction for the Buffs.

“We had good energy. Guys competed,” Boyle said. “We’re still turning the ball over too much. We did a lot of defensive stuff today to get that mindset back, to get that toughness back, and I thought the guys responded well.”