What will the ramifications be from one of the biggest wins in the history of the Colorado men’s basketball program?
In terms of the NCAA Tournament picture, probably not much, as the Buffaloes still will most likely require a run to the Pac-12 Conference tournament championship to reach the 68-team field. Yet the Buffs put themselves in position to make that possible conference tournament run a little easier.
For those few who made the mistake of not watching the Buffs after a listless showing in a home loss against Arizona State two nights earlier, the Buffs contributed to a wild Saturday of college basketball by topping No. 2 Arizona 79-63. All of the top six teams in the men’s AP top 25 lost on the same day for the first time in college hoops history.
Unfortunately for the Buffs, a few too many nights like Thursday’s loss against ASU dampened the impact of the win against UA, as CU moved up seven spots in Sunday’s NET rankings to No. 78. Yet while the Buffs will begin the final week of the regular season in fifth in the Pac-12, they probably are the best-positioned team to land the No. 4 spot and the final first-round bye at the conference tournament.
CU (19-10, 11-8 Pac-12) completes the regular season at Utah on Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPNU).
“You can’t look in the rear view mirror. You just can’t,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I’d like to, and it’s human nature. I’m not saying I won’t when I’m driving in my car. But in terms of dealing with our team, it’s about looking through the windshield, not the rear view mirror. We’ve got to move forward with this. And, again, learn from what happened, why it happened, and use that going forward.
“It’s hard to win games in college basketball in February. It’s even harder in March.”
The Buffs will seek a top-four finish in the Pac-12 for the second consecutive year and just the second time overall in 11 seasons in the league. The win against Arizona — just the second time ever and the first time in 30 years CU has knocked off a No. 2-ranked team — will aid that push on a number of levels.
Most prominently, topping the Wildcats will give the Buffs the first tiebreaker against the three other teams still in the mix for that fourth spot — Oregon (11-7 Pac-12), Washington (9-8), and Washington State (8-9).
The Buffs, of course, have to uphold their end of the bargain by winning at Utah. That alone will eliminate Washington State from the race for No. 4, even with the Cougars playing two of their final three games this week against lowly Oregon State. Oregon can claim a top-four spot with wins in its final two games this week regardless of how CU fares at Utah, but that will require a road sweep in Washington. One loss would open the door for the Buffs.
Washington opens its final week at home against UCLA on Monday before hosting Oregon and Oregon State. If the Buffs end up tied with any of those three teams (Oregon, Washington, Washington State), all of whom they recorded two-game splits against during the regular season, CU’s win against Arizona will give the Buffs the tie-breaker edge.
In the event of that sort of tie after a regular season split, the tiebreaker scenarios begin by looking at each team’s head-to-head record against the league’s No. 1 seed. Barring a last-week collapse by Arizona, that will be the Wildcats, and the Buffs are the only team besides UCLA that has defeated UA in league play.
“We’re playing Utah on their Senior Night. They’re going to have great energy and emotion,” Boyle said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. We’ve got a week to kind of prepare and get better.”