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Focus is on No. 6 Arizona, but date at ASU might be up in air for CU Buffs

Utah-ASU postponement could scuttle Buffs’ game in Tempe

University of Colorado Boulder's Keeshawn Barthelemy ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Former Colorado guard Keeshawn Barthelemy will continue his collegiate career at Oregon. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

Barring any last-minute change of plans — which certainly is a reasonable fear these days — the Colorado men’s basketball team will head to Arizona on Wednesday evening ahead of a huge battle at No. 6 Arizona.

Who, or even if, the Buffaloes play on the back half of the trip might still be up in the air even when the CU team flight takes off.

Following a home sweep of the Washington teams and an off day on Monday, the Buffs returned to practice on Tuesday with an eye on pulling off an upset at Arizona on Thursday (9 p.m. MT, FS1) that would give CU its first road win at Arizona in 56 years.

However, on Monday night Arizona State announced that because of its program’s ongoing COVID-19 issues, the Sun Devils’ Thursday night home date against Utah has been postponed. CU (11-3, 3-1 Pac-12) is scheduled to complete its road trip at ASU on Saturday night.

“We’re willing to stay down and play Sunday. We’re willing to do whatever we have to do to get that game,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “My job is to serve our players, and our players want to play gamers. (The seniors), it’s their last go-around. Their junior year was already messed up with no fans. Now we’re cancelling games, postponing games. I just want to get the games in. Whatever we have to do to get the Arizona State game in from our standpoint, we’ll do within reason.”

Ideally, the Buffs will complete the trip as planned as ASU on Saturday. Obviously ASU has not released the particulars of its virus issues, but since it is an ongoing virus pause and not a new setback, the idea the Sun Devils might have enough players cleared from quarantine protocols by Saturday — or, as Boyle noted, perhaps one day later on Sunday — despite not playing on Thursday certainly isn’t out of the question. Per Pac-12 protocols, players who test positive must quarantine for five days and practice twice before being cleared to play.

If CU plays at ASU as planned, it will be the Sun Devils’ first game since Jan. 2 and just their second since Dec. 19. The postponed date against Utah on Thursday is ASU’s fifth cancellation or postponement since losing at home against San Francisco on Dec. 19.

If the Buffs ultimately do not play at ASU, it would be the third Pac-12 game, all on the road, that CU will be tasked with rescheduling after having the New Year’s trip to Oregon postponed. Yet a postponement might not necessarily mean the Buffs would remain idle over weekend after the Thursday game at UA.

In the event of an open scheduling window later in the weekend, the top priority would be to get another Pac-12 game lined up, although as of Tuesday evening the Thursday Utah-ASU game was the only one off the ledger so far this week in the league. If the Buffs have an open slot and no available option within the conference, CU could pivot to a nonconference game if an agreeable team is available. The canceled game against Kansas from Dec. 21 will give the Buffs the option of securing an on-the-fly nonconference replacement if further postponements keep clouding the remaining schedule.

“You have to stay fluid,” Boyle said. “I’ve had conversations with certain (nonconference) programs about that.”