It’s been a while since the Colorado women’s basketball team had any need for its home jerseys in the Pac-12 Tournament.
On Wednesday, however, the white uniforms will be put to use, as the Buffaloes (10-9, 8-8 Pac-12) officially finished the regular season in sixth place. It’s the best regular season finish for CU since placing fourth in 2013. The Buffs were ninth or lower the previous seven years.
The sixth-seeded Buffs are slated to face 11th-seeded Washington (6-13, 3-13) on Wednesday at 9 p.m. MT at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.
“I think it’s an incredible accomplishment to be wearing white in the Pac-12 Tournament,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “This is such a tough league and wearing white is a big deal. We’ve earned that.”
Fourth-ranked Stanford (22-2, 19-2) won the regular season title for the first time since 2014. No. 9 Arizona (15-4, 13-4) finished second, with No. 10 UCLA (14-4, 12-4) third and 14th-ranked Oregon (13-6, 10-6) placing fourth.
CU has won four in a row, but got an unexpected day off Sunday. The Buffs were scheduled to play at Utah in the regular season finale, but less than two hours before tipoff, the Utes announced a cancellation of the game due to a high-risk COVID-19 exposure within the Utah program.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t get to play Utah,” Payne said. “We prepared all week for it and wanted the game and felt like we were on a roll. We’ve won a bunch of games in a row and wanted to keep that going, but without that game, now we just turn our sights to Washington.”
The Buffs were practicing shots at Utah’s Huntsman Arena when the game was canceled.
It was the sixth canceled game of the season for CU, with only one — Dec. 20 at home against Arizona State — being called off because of COVID-19 issues with the Buffs. Three games were canceled because of COVID-19 issues at other schools and two games against UCLA were canceled because of too many injuries with the Bruins.
With the Utah game canceled, the Buffs’ first-round matchup with Washington will be their first game since Feb. 21 when they beat the Huskies, 55-50, in Seattle. It will be CU’s longest break between games since the holiday break in December.
“I think it’s all in your perspective,” Payne said of the break. “Every team right now needs the rest. We have a lot of very high minute players. I just choose to see it as a positive. We had great practice this week, we got a lot of good work in, so it’s not like we’ve necessarily been off. That can be a real positive in that we didn’t put 40 more minutes (of game time) on these kids’ legs.
“We can probably be more prepared going in Wednesday, based on the fact that we didn’t play today.”
Although there were canceled games and some disappointing early season losses, Payne said she’s ultimately pleased with how the Buffs navigated the regular season. CU’s current four-game winning streak is the program’s longest in conference play since a 10-game streak in 2013.
“We’re very young and we carry a lot of momentum going into the tournament,” Payne said. “I just think we’re playing so well and have such great cohesiveness and excitement about how we’re doing and what our potential is that we’re very excited for the tournament.”
If the Buffs get past Washington, they will face third-seeded UCLA on Thursday at 9 p.m. MT.
Since joining the Pac-12 in the 2011-12 season, the Buffs are 6-9 in the conference tournament. They have been the higher seed just once in those 15 previous games, playing as the No. 4 seed and beating No. 5 Washington in the 2013 quarterfinals.
The schedule for the tournament (all games on the Pac-12 Network, unless noted otherwise). All times listed are MT.
Wednesday, March 3
Game 1: No. 5 Oregon State vs. No. 12 California, noon.
Game 2: No. 8 Southern California vs. No. 9 Arizona State, 3 p.m.
Game 3: No. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 Utah, 6 p.m.
Game 4: No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Washington, 9 p.m.
Thursday, March 4
Game 5: No. 4 Oregon vs. Game 1 winner, noon.
Game 6: No. 1 Stanford vs. Game 2 winner, 3 p.m.
Game 7: No. 2 Arizona vs. Game 3 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 8: No. 3 UCLA vs. Game 4 winner, 9 p.m.
Friday, March 5
Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 6 p.m.
Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 9 p.m.
Sunday, March 7
Championship Game, 6 p.m. (TV: ESPN2)