Skip to content

Women’s basketball: CU Buffs continue upward trajectory, vault to No. 21 in AP Top 25

Colorado's Frida Formann looks to pass against Washington on Sunday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
Colorado’s Frida Formann looks to pass against Washington on Sunday in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

The 2021-22 Colorado women’s basketball team was a good story.

It was a program that had been down for years rising up to snag the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, making a run to the semifinals and then a long-awaited return to March Madness.

Then, after their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years, the Buffs lost three multi-year starters to graduation. That included Mya Hollingshed, a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 performer and a first-round pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft.

In the fall, Pac-12 coaches and media picked the Buffs to finish eighth.

With four games remaining in the regular season, however, the Buffs (20-5, 11-3 Pac-12) are on the verge of clinching a top-three finish. And, on Monday, they vaulted to No. 21 in the Associated Press Top 25 – the program’s highest ranking since December of 2016.

“I think we’re playing great basketball,” CU head coach JR Payne said after Sunday’s 65-43 rout of Washington. “What I love most about it is we knew that we had all the pieces we need to be successful. We knew that.

“You could argue that on paper we lost as much as anybody in the conference (after last year). For us to be able to do what we’re doing speaks volumes to who we have on our current roster, the type of development that they’ve poured into themselves.”

Seniors Quay Miller and Jaylyn Sherrod have taken their games to a higher level this year. So has junior Frida Formann, who is shooting as well as she did two years ago but contributing more than ever beyond her shooting.

Colorado Buffaloes' head coach, JR Payne in the game against the Washington Huskies in Boulder on Feb. 12, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)
Colorado Buffaloes’ head coach, JR Payne in the game against the Washington Huskies in Boulder on Feb. 12, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff photographer)

Aaronette Vonleh, a transfer from Arizona, has been arguably the most improved player in the conference, while the Buffs continue to get nightly contributions from a variety of players.

“They’re all really maximizing in the absence of some (key players from last year),” Payne said. “I’m really proud of us for that. We, from day one, believed in ourselves; with no hesitation, believed in ourselves. And we also know that if we don’t maximize our effort and all that stuff, then you’re gonna lose. But, we’re doing the damn thing, as they say.”

Doing their thing has put the Buffs in line for their best conference finish in nearly 20 years.

The top four teams in the regular season standings earn a bye for the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Since joining the conference in 2011, the Buffs have had a bye just once (fourth in 2013) and never under Payne.

“We’ve never experienced that (bye), so it’d be great,” said Payne.

CU hasn’t finished as high as third in the conference standings since 2004, when it was third in the Big 12.

Going into the last two weeks of the regular season, the Buffs have a two-game lead over a trio of teams tied for fourth: Arizona, UCLA and USC. They also currently hold tie-breakers over Arizona and UCLA.

The Buffs are also just one game behind co-leaders Stanford and Utah, so a regular season conference title isn’t out of the question.

Latest AP Poll

South Carolina remained at No. 1 in the latest AP Top 25 released on Monday. Indiana is at No. 2, followed by Stanford, Utah and LSU. At No. 4, Utah has its highest ranking in program history.

Other Pac-12 teams in the Top 25 are UCLA (No. 16), Arizona (No. 18) and USC (No. 25). The Trojans are ranked for the first time since 2016.


Backup point guard Kindyll Wetta scored just seven points over the weekend, but turned in a fantastic set of games, racking up 11 assists and zero turnovers. In the last three games, she’s played 75 minutes, 26 seconds with no turnovers.

“I just see her playing with a lot of confidence,” Payne said. “I think she’s put in a lot of work to build her confidence in all areas of her game. … She’s playing really good basketball and not only do we know it, but she knows it and that’s my favorite part.

“She doesn’t say it, but I think you can see the confidence in the way she’s playing.”

Stepping up

Charlotte Whittaker missed the entire 2021-22 season after undergoing major surgeries on both hips. The 6-foot-3 forward has had a quiet season, but is playing her best basketball of late.

In the past four games – all wins – Whittaker has played a total of 36 minutes, 30 seconds, while contributing 12 points, seven rebounds and giving the Buffs valuable minutes off the bench.

“Charlotte went through some of the most significant surgeries I’ve ever heard of for a collegiate athlete, so it takes time,” Payne said. “I think early (in the season) she was frustrated, but I think she’s gotten to a place now where she’s just gonna take it day by day and she’s locked in on scouting reports, really locked in on, ‘How can I help the team?’

“I think she’s hitting her groove and she’s gonna continue to get more and more confident.”