Coming into the 2016-17 season, some of us in CU media got a bit too hyped for our own good. Some idiot writer even predicted the Buffs would be 18-6 at this point in the season, finish the regular season at 24-7 and make a magnificent run in March to reach the Final Four. Of course, the Buffs have done slightly worse than that, and, of course, that writer was fired for gross incompetency*.
*This writers claims that he was being overly optimistic (perhaps even humorously optimistic) because it kinda worked when he did it for the football team.
Anyway, the Buffs probably won’t get into the NCAA Tournament. I mean, they could, but they would have to win six of their seven final Pac-12 games (they ain’t beating Oregon in Eugene), make a serious run in the Pac-12 Tournament, and then get lucky with the Selection Committee. It could happen, theoretically, but it’s also possible, theoretically, that Arthur Dent travels back in time and prevents Sefo Liufau from getting injured against Michigan and the Buffs are able to beat Michigan, beat USC, run the table, reach the College Football Playoff, upset Alabama and beat Clemson in the National Championship. It could happen, but it won’t, because Arthur Dent is a bumbling idiot, and if he did stumble into the past, he should change something awful that happened in November.
Since the Buffs won’t make the NCAA Tournament, we should move on from that idea. Naturally, if your favorite team doesn’t make the Big Dance, you hope they can make the Medium-Sized Dance, also known as the NIT. This is obtainable, even very probable for the Buffaloes in 2017.
The last time CU made the NIT in 2011, Alec Burks and Cory Higgins (oh yes) cut down the nets in Boulder and made it to the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden. The Buffs should have made the NCAA Tournament that year, but the committee gave the last 11th seed to some scrubby team called the VCU Rams, who did absolutely nothing with their chance at glory.
The Buffs are only 13-11 (3-8) at the moment, but their schedule shakes out nicely for them to conclude the season. Colorado swept the Oregon schools at home — the win over the Ducks looks more impressive every day — and picked up a crucial road win over Stanford. The Buffs couldn’t complete their comeback against Cal, but with those three wins in the bank, they’re in decent shape moving forward.
In order to make the NIT, Colorado probably has to win four or five of their final road games (four if they make a run in the Pac-12 Tournament, five if they’re one-and-done) to get them to 17-14 or 18-13 on the season. With three Top 25 wins on their resume (Texas, Xavier and Oregon), the Buffs would most definitely make the NIT then, likely with a favorable seed. Now, to get those four or fives....
Colorado has a pair of very winnable games this week at the Coors Events Center. First up is a Thursday night matchup against the Markelleshington Fultzskies, who are 9-14 overall and 2-9 in the Pac-12. Now, one of those wins was over Colorado, but it was an overtime loss on that cursed Seattle court. That wasn’t the best loss for the Buffs, but it seems that Colorado was and is the much better team and should take mush away with the victory, even if Fultz plays like Jesus Shuttlesworth again.
Washington State (11-12 overall, 4-7 Pac-12) is also not good. The Cougars also beat Colorado in overtime and have been generally pesky against better teams, but this game shouldn’t be particularly close. All CU needs to guarantee a victory is to slow down Josh Hawkinson (which CU did last time), contain Ike Iroegbu (CU did not last time) and hope Charles Callison doesn’t score 30 points again.
After (hopefully) sweeping the Washington schools at home, the Buffs will travel to Oregon to take on the Beavers and Ducks. No road game is ever easy, especially for the Buffs, but oh my Oregon State is bad at basketball. OSU is 4-20 (nice), haven’t won a game since the middle of December, and are probably the worst major conference team over the last five years in college basketball. I realize that Colorado will probably tighten up and play like anthropomorphic bananas, but there’s no way they should lose this gimme game.
After they get back from Oregon, Colorado finishes the season with three home games against Utah, Stanford and Cal. If they sweep the Washington schools and beat Oregon State, Colorado only really needs one win in their final three games to get into the NIT, and there seems to be another should-be win just sitting there for the Buffs. Oh hello, Stanford, team that Colorado just thoroughly outplayed on the road and will likely have nothing to play for but pride and a potential CBI Tournament appearance (it’s not fun, fyi). This win shouldn’t be easy because no win is easy for the Buffs, but it should be a win nonetheless.
So there’s the four wins Colorado must get. From there, they can only improve their postseason chances as they face Utah and Cal, two teams who will likely be on the March Madness bubble and playing fiercely. Both of those teams are quite good (hence their being on the bubble), but Colorado has a very good chance of knocking off one or both, especially if the Coors Events Center is rocking and the Buffs are playing with a bit of energy.
If Colorado loses both of those games, they should still get into the NIT, but it won’t be with a great seed. If they win one (you pick which: rivalry game or Senior Night), they should get into the NIT easily and host a game or two. If they win both, they’ve suddenly won six of their seven final Pac-12 games and just need to make a serious run in the Pac-12 Tournament (and upset UCLA, Arizona or Oregon) and get lucky with the Selection Committee to get into the NCAA Tournament.