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Latest schedule shuffle gives CU Buffs extra day to prep for Arizona

Pac-12 facing schedule crunch down the stretch

BOULDER, CO - Jan. 30, 2021: ...
Daily Camera file photo
BOULDER, CO – January 30, 2021: Colorado’s Jabari Walker shoots over Utah’s Riley Battin during the Pac-12 game between Utah and Colorado in Boulder on January 30, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Instead of preparing to host an Arizona State team that finally was showing signs of play more in line with the Sun Devils’ lofty preseason expectations, Colorado took an unplanned day off on Wednesday.

That gave the Buffaloes another 24 hours to stew over, and try to get past, last weekend’s collapse against Utah.

With Thursday’s home date against Arizona State postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the ASU program, head coach Tad Boyle opted to give his team a day off Wednesday before reconvening on Thursday to begin preparations for Saturday’s home date against Arizona, a matchup moving forward as planned (6 p.m., FS1).

That will give CU one more practice than planned to prepare for a Wildcats team that handed the Buffs an 88-74 defeat in their Pac-12 Conference opener. More pertinent to the Buffs than gaining a little payback, as well as a regular season split, against the Wildcats will be CU’s ability to shake off the disaster against Utah that saw the Buffs waste a 19-point lead with less than 9 minutes remaining.

Before going into a forced hiatus for a few days, CU head coach Tad Boyle said he was pleased with the way his team responded at practice early this week.

“The thing I’ve learned in 27 years of coaching is how resilient young men are,” Boyle said. “I’ve got no reason to believe our guys won’t be resilient. Big picture scenario, the thing I shared with them is we’ve got four losses in conference play, and three of those four losses have been one-possession games. Every one has been a different kind of scenario, but they’ve been one-possession games so we’re right there. We’ve got to figure out how to turn those into wins.”

The postponed game against ASU was the Buffs’ fourth since the start of Pac-12 play, including that previous matchup against Arizona, which originally was scheduled for Dec. 2. Last week’s home win against Washington State originally was set to be played on Dec. 5, and Monday’s scheduled home game against Oregon State (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) was originally scheduled on Jan. 9.

With Arizona attempting to appeal to NCAA investigators by self-imposing a postseason ban this year, the Pac-12 tournament will be an 11-team competition next month. The league has yet to announce the format for the tournament, but the most logical way to retain the Wednesday through Saturday format (March 10-13) would be to award first-round byes to the top five finishers in the regular season, rather than the usual four. That would allow the bottom six teams to play each other in a first round shortened from four games to three, with those winners joining the top five in the quarterfinals on Thursday (March 11).

If the league hasn’t finalized its tournament format, it may be because the final week of the regular season is shaping up to be a mess in the Pac-12. Currently the Buffs have no games scheduled during the final week after moving up the visit to Utah to Jan. 11, leaving ample room for a future makeup date against Arizona State. Getting that game back on the ledger, however, might be easier said than done. With ASU also postponing its Sunday date at Utah, the Sun Devils currently have six postponed games to reschedule. Oregon, which is set to resume play on Thursday against Washington State after its own program shutdown, has four games to reschedule, including a home date against ASU.

Oregon has played just once since Jan. 9.