Pac-12 announces five first-round byes for reformatted 2021 men’s basketball tourney

CU Buffs have been seeded fifth four times in nine years

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 8, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – February 8, 2021: Colorado’s Dallas Walton with a power dunk during the Oregon State at Colorado men’s basketball game in Boulder on February 8, 2021.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The road to Colorado’s first bye in the opening round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament just became slightly less arduous.

On Friday, the Pac-12 announced its adjusted format for next month’s conference tournament, which is set to include just 11 teams after Arizona self-imposed a postseason ban in hopes of mitigating the pending damage from the program’s ongoing NCAA investigation.

As expected, this year the top five teams in the league will receive first-round byes instead of the typical four teams. That will reduce the number of first-round games on the tournament’s opening day, March 10, from four to three. From there, the tournament format will follow its typical schedule, with the winner of those three first-round games advancing to the quarterfinals against the bye teams on March 11.

The No. 4 and 5 seeds will be paired up in the quarterfinals, while the top seed awaits the winner of the opening-round match between the eighth and ninth seeds. The No. 2 seed will play the first-round winner between No. 7 and No. 10, and the third seed will play the winner of the 6-11 matchup. The semifinals will be held on Friday, March 12, with the championship game to air on ESPN on March 13 at 8:30 p.m. MT.

Although they won the tournament in 2012, the Buffs have never received a first-round bye during their previous nine appearances in the Pac-12 tournament. Last year, the Buffs were in position to possibly land the league’s top seed with two weeks remaining in the regular season, but faded to the sixth slot after losing their final four regular-season games. CU then lost its first-round game at the conference tournament for the first time in coach Tad Boyle’s 10 seasons with the Buffs (including CU’s final year in the Big 12 in 2011).

CU has been seeded fifth four times in nine appearances at the Pac-12 tournament. After Thursday night’s loss at Oregon, the Buffs will enter Saturday’s game at Oregon State (6 p.m. MT, ESPNU) tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with Stanford, though CU’s season sweep of the Cardinal will give the Buffs the tiebreaker edge with Stanford.