Three weeks, we thought the Colorado Buffaloes would contend for the Pac-12 title. At 21-6, they were one win away from setting a school record for regular seasons wins, they were all but guaranteed to get a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, and they were looking at a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Buffs have lost four straight, at home to UCLA, then on the road to Cal, Stanford and Utah. Nothing is going right — their defensive focus is absent, McKinley Wright isn’t getting support on offense, they’re not even rebounding well, and oh hey the refs aren’t helping either. Colorado is now a 6-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament in a season they could have won the title, because they have folded under the pressure.
This isn’t to say this team is broken. Slumps happen, especially during three-game road trips. They need to wake up, re-focus and get back to what makes them a quality basketball team.
The Buffs get the chance to get right against Washington State. The Cougars are quite obviously the worst team in the Pac-12, and yes it’s possible C.J. Elleby gets hot and CU has another inexplicable loss. It’s much more likely the Buffs overpower their opponent and finally get a win. Regardless of how they win, it matters more that they get positivity flowing.
In the strong likelihood CU makes it to the second round, Arizona State awaits. These games happened a long time ago, but the Buffs have already beat ASU twice this season, once in Shanghai and once in Tempe. Arizona State is tough as hell and have improved considerably since those games. They’re physical on the boards, grind you down on defense, and just need to hit some shots to beat you; that formula is how they won seven straight to (likely) earn a tournament berth.
Now if CU beats Arizona State — which they done have twice, as ASU is prone to rough shooting nights — they would likely play 7-seed Stanford or 2-seed UCLA. The Bruins themselves won seven straight games until losing to USC, went from dead to possibly playing in the Big Dance, and have beaten Colorado twice already. They’re so damn tough, make a mess of the game, and know how to draw fouls.
If CU gets right, if they find what made them good earlier in the season, this isn’t a bad draw at all. The possibly of playing Wazzu, Arizona State and UCLA is quite friendly, all things considered. Those teams probably want to play Colorado, but the Buffs are better basketball teams than the others when they’re right.
Colorado has already clinched an NCAA Tournament bid, so don’t fret. If they somehow lose to Washington State, they’re still a 7- or 8-seed, most likely. If they beat Wazzu and maybe beat Arizona State, they could reach the 6-seed. If they make a run to the Pac-12 title, they could get back to where they were, possibly to the 5-line. There is a lot of bad that can be undone in Las Vegas.