It's go time.
The sixth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes are set to begin play in the first ever Pac-12 Tournament tonight when they take on the eleventh-seeded Utah Utes at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Buffs, who just two weeks ago were in line for a first round bye, hope to see a return to form in the tourney as they hope to play their way into the NCAA Tournament.
The Buffaloes entered their final four games of the conference year with a 10-4 record and an outside chance at securing a regular season title. But a 1-3 finish that included back-to-back road games where the Buffs allowed over 80 points for only the second and third times this season slid them back into the six-seed and a first round match-up with the Utes. Earlier this week, head coach Tad Boyle stressed that the team must get back to what they do best.
On Monday, a day before the Buffs left for Los Angeles and their late date in Los Angeles with No. 11 seed Utah, Boyle termed CU's defense on the Oregon trip "God-awful, against Oregon State especially." He said the Buffs lacked "effort, focus, toughness - you name it . . . Oregon made some tough shots. Devoe Joseph (24 points on 11-of-16 shooting) made some big-time shots. You have to tip your cap to him. But you don't give up 61 percent (shooting from the field) in the second half to Oregon and 69 in the second half to Oregon State . . . we were not doing what has allowed us to have success up to this point."
In the early game against Utah, Colorado rolled in a 73-33 victory that was the Buffaloes first-ever Pac-12 conference victory. Utah was never close as the CU freshman guard tandem of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker paced the team with 19 and 14 points respectively. In the second meeting on February 18th Colorado won a closer than expected game, 55-48. The Buffs were lethargic throughout and were tied with less than 15 minutes to play. It would take another performance like that one for the Utes to have a shot tonight and if Utah center Jason Washburn can be slowed, the 13-point favorite Buffaloes should be headed to the second round.
What happens after that is anyone's guess, but there are plenty of examples of teams getting hot at the right time and ripping through the tournament. Colorado matches up very poorly with two teams in this conference, UCLA and Stanford, and the Buffs are on the opposite side of the bracket from the Bruins and odds aren't good that Stanford would be able to take down California for a second time. Stepping back, let's take this one game at a time and root on Tad Boyle and Buffaloes to victory. Parker will be in Los Angeles covering the tournament so stay tuned to the Ralphie Report over the next few days (and forever and ever).
Let's go Buffs.