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CU Buffs women in position for NCAA Tourney push

Colorado at No. 57 in NET rankings heading into last few weeks of the season

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 12, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – February 12, 2021: Colorado’s Aubrey Knight on the offensive rebound during the USC Trojans and Colorado Buffaloes women’s basketball game in Boulder on February 12, 2021.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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For the first time, the NET rankings will be used to help determine which teams will play in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, and heading into the stretch run of the season, the Colorado Buffaloes are in position to get in the conversation.

As of Monday, CU was at No. 57 in the NET rankings. The NCAA Tournament field will include 64 teams, but won’t necessarily be the top 64 in the NET; those rankings are just one part of the selection process.

Finishing among the top 64 would help the Buffs (8-9, 6-8 Pac-12) at least get mentioned in committee meetings, but head coach JR Payne and her team would love to move up in those rankings. If CU can find a way into the top 50, it could make a strong NCAA Tournament case.

CU has had five games postponed, including four against teams in the NET top 11: No. 6 Oregon, No. 8 UCLA (two games) and No. 11 Arizona. Those games are unlikely to be played, but the Buffs have opportunities to move up in the NET.

CU has three regular season games remaining, including Friday at Washington State, which is No. 39 in the NET. CU also plays at Washington (No. 95) and at Utah (No. 102), followed by the Pac-12 tournament, where there could be an opportunity or two to play a top team from the conference.

Helping CU’s cause is that it owns a victory against the current No. 1 team in the NET rankings, Stanford.

If the Buffs don’t reach the NCAA Tournament this year, they are still in good position for selection to the 32-team Women’s NIT. Unlike past years, there is no requirement for a .500 record for the WNIT.

The Buffs have played in the NCAA Tournament just once in the past 16 seasons (2013). They are aiming for their first postseason appearance since the 2017 WNIT.

Hollingshed’s maturation

CU senior Mya Hollingshed has improved every year of career and has developed into one of the better players in the Pac-12. A classic example of her maturation was Friday’s 66-56 win against Southern California.

Hollingshed led the Buffs with 18 points, while also pulling down six rebounds.

After the game, Payne joked, “It’s funny, because in the locker room, I said, ‘Man, Mya, I thought you played terrible and you ended up with 18 points.’”

Hollingshed certainly wasn’t terrible, but was a pedestrian 2-for-6 for six points through the first 26 minutes. In the pivotal last 14 minutes, however, she was 5-for-6 shooting and scored 12 points and was a major factor in CU outscoring the Trojans by 27-14 in that time.

“I really thought, in the end, she did what we needed her to do down the stretch of the game,” Payne said.

It was a sign of Hollingshed’s development, because early in her career, a slow start offensively often resulted in a quiet night overall.

“I’m proud of her for not wilting, because she’s wanted to be consistent and really worked on consistency,” Payne said. “In past years when she struggles early, she probably would have really struggled the rest of the game and she didn’t do that.”

Hollingshed leads the Pac-12 in rebounding (8.4 per game) and is sixth in scoring (16.4 per game). She’s also ninth in blocked shots (1.3 per game), 12th in shooting percentage (.468) and 13th in free throw percentage  (.767).

Delayed celebration

Friday’s game against USC was the final home game of the season for the Buffs, but it came and went without the usual senior day celebration for Hollingshed and Annika Jank.

Although families were allowed to attend the game, they couldn’t come onto the floor, and there no other fans allowed in the arena.

CU has decided that Hollingshed and Jank deserve better than a quiet, no frills celebration for their contributions to the program. Both will be invited to return for senior day next year, where they will be honored along with the 2022 seniors.

Notes

On Monday, the Pac-12 named Arizona’s Cate Reese as player of the week, while Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker was the freshman of the week. It’s the seventh freshman of the week honor (in 12 weeks) for Leger-Walker, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring, at 19.5 points per game.