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CU men’s basketball notes: Pac-12 tourney picture clearing for CU Buffs

McKinley Wright IV dominates final matchup against ASU’s Remy Martin

BOULDER, CO - March 4, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – March 4, 2021: Colorado’s Evan Battey rebounds over ASU’s Kimani Lawrence during the Arizona State Colorado men’s basketball game in Boulder on March 4, 2021. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Assuming the Saturday showdown between USC and UCLA tips off as planned, the Colorado Buffaloes will be the No. 3 seed at the Pac-12 Conference tournament next week.

Having already clinched the program’s highest seed for the tournament since joining the Pac-12, CU’s 75-61 victory against Arizona State on Thursday night in the regular season finale essentially secured the third seed next week in Las Vegas.

There is one caveat to that scenario, however, in that if that battle of Los Angeles gets canceled due to sudden COVID-19 issues, the 24th-ranked Buffs will remain in the fourth slot.

Thursday’s result also settled the question of which teams the Buffs might face in their first game in Las Vegas. Arizona State’s loss locked Oregon State into the fifth spot, which this year accounts for the final first-round bye due to the 11-team field created by Arizona’s self-imposed postseason ban. That moves Stanford into the sixth slot.

If all goes as planned, the third-seeded Buffs will play the late game on Thursday, March 11 at 9:30 p.m. MT against the winner of the first-round match between sixth-seeded Stanford and 11th-seeded Cal. If a cancelation strikes in Los Angeles on Saturday and the Buffs are relegated to the fourth seed, the will play fifth-seeded Oregon State in the quarterfinals on March 11 at 3:30 MT.

Snubbed again

McKinley Wright IV was snubbed yet again for national recognition, as last week he was left off the list of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award as the top point guard in the nation. Wright was among the original 10 nominees for the honor but didn’t make last week’s cut. Those who did were Jared Butler of Baylor, Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State, Ayo Dosunmu of Illinois, Collin Gillespie of Villanova, and Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs.

On Thursday, it was announced that Gillespie has suffered what likely is a season-ending knee injury. Cunningham also had to be helped off the floor after scoring 24 points in 17th-ranked Oklahoma State’s loss against No. 3 Baylor Thursday night.

Wright, the first Pac-12 men’s basketball player to post at least 1,600 points (he has surpassed 1,700), 600 rebounds, and 600 assists, also was left off the midseason finalist lists for the Wooden Award and the Naismith Trophy. Additionally, before the season he did not receive a single vote in the AP preseason All-American poll, while Arizona State’s Remy Martin landed on the first team.

That once again looked like an inexplicable discrepancy, as Martin went 1-for-9 with just six points and one assist. Wright, on the other hand, went 10-for-17 with 24 points, four rebounds, and four assists.

Quotable

“They really just turned it up in the second half. We kind of just folded defensively and McKinley Wright had his fingerprints all over that.”

— Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, whose club allowed the Buffs to shoot .484 after halftime while getting outscored 44-31.

Notable

CU senior Jeriah Horne posted his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Those dozen rebounds matched a season-high Horne also reached Feb. 13 at Cal…The Buffs are guaranteed to finish with a winning percentage of at least .690, which will be their best winning percentage since the 1968-69 season (21-7, .750)…In his third game back from a six-game injury layoff, CU freshman Jabari Walker returned to form with nine points and five rebounds. Walker posted just six points and two rebounds combined in his first two games after returning from a foot injury…It was another strong showing at the line for the top free throw shooting team in the nation. CU went 17-for-19 on free throws, increasing their NCAA-best free throw percentage to .834. The NCAA record is .822 set by Harvard in 1983-84…With four assists against ASU, Wright increased his season assist total to 154 and now owns four of the top 10 single-season assist totals in program history — 154 this season (10th), 159 last year (eighth) 167 in 2018-19 (sixth), and 175 in 2017-18 (second).