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NCAA Tournament Projections: Where might Colorado land?

CU is all but locked in.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes were 21-6 with a resume that included a neutral site over likely 1-seed Dayton, away wins over bubble teams Arizona State, Clemson and USC, and home wins over Oregon and Stanford. That’s not exactly sterling, but the Buffs were looking at a potential 4- or 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would have been their highest seed in program history.

Since then, the Buffs have lost four straight, at home to UCLA, and on the road to California, Stanford and Utah. None of those are damning losses, but the accumulation of tough losses has worn down the team’s psyche. It also questions how well this team will perform moving forward, even into next season.

What’s important to note, however, is that the Buffs are all but assured of an NCAA Tournament berth. They have done their work early in the season and have one of the best wins in all of college basketball, that neutral site win over Dayton. This is what their resume looks like compared to Indiana, an actual bubble team:

Similarly, Stanford is a bubble team with an identical 21-10 regular season record. The difference is that the Cardinal’s two best non-conference wins were over Oklahoma in Kansas City and at home against San Francisco. The Buffs beat Arizona State in Shanghai, Clemson in Las Vegas, Colorado State in Fort Collins, and Dayton in Chicago. That’s a massive difference in non-conference resume.

Colorado isn’t playing for a tournament bid, instead they’re playing for their seeding. Maybe that’s why they’ve been so lethargic, since their slump coincided with their “lock” status.

Realistically, the Buffs can land anywhere between a 5-seed and an 8-seed. They are currently projected as a 7-seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, which is fair. If they were to lose to Washington State in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, it’s easy to see them falling down a spot — they wouldn’t fall any farther, keep in mind, because even Oregon lost to Washington State earlier this year.

If the Buffs beat Washington State and lose to Arizona State in the second round, they probably keep their current 7-seed. If they beat ASU, they could possibly jump back to the 6-line. If they beat Stanford or UCLA (or Cal, technically) to reach the Pac-12 Championship, they would very likely be a 6-seed or better.

Now if the Buffs beat Washington State, Arizona State and UCLA/Stanford, they would likely face Oregon or Arizona in the championship game. If the Buffs were to win it all — four games in four nights — they would probably undo all their wrongs and climb to a 5-seed, maybe a 4-seed. It’s very unlikely, but that’s probably the limit for how far CU can climb. This scenario is infinitely more likely than them dropping out of the NCAA Tournament altogether, and it’s probably more likely than them falling past an 8-seed.