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Colorado’s Path to the Pac-12 Championship

Taking a look at the Pac-12 Tournament bracket

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes need to win four games in four days to win the Pac-12 Championship and make the NCAA Tournament. Only one Pac-12 team has done that, and it was the Buffs in 2012. Here’s how the Buffs can do that in Las Vegas.

To begin, this is the Pac-12 Tournament bracket:

Here’s how I think the Pac-12 Tournament will go:

So, the Buffs start play at 1 p.m. (MST) against Arizona State, whom they beat at home January, 90-81 in overtime. In that game, the Buffs played superb defense against a Sun Devils team that had been on fire offensively up until that point in the season. In the second game of the season series, CU lost in Tempe, 80-66. The game was closer than the final score, since it felt like the game was up for grabs until the Devils started hitting absurd shots in the final minutes of the game and pulled. Anyway, the key for CU to win would be to play disciplined, high-energy defense again and to hit some shots that haven’t been falling in recent weeks. If the Buffs play with energy, it’s not unrealistic to see them shoot well enough to pull off the win.

After that, the Buffs have a rematch with the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats (Thursday, 1 p.m.), whom CU also beat at home and could have had in Tuscon. As good as Arizona has been in Pac-12 play, they struggle scoring against CU’s zone defense. More curiously, Arizona also struggles to defend CU, which doesn’t make much sense considering no one else in the conference struggles to defend them. Colorado has the yearly tradition of losing to Arizona in Las Vegas, but hey, the Buffs did beat them in that 2012 Pac-12 Championship. They would just have to defend Deandre Ayton as well as they have, maybe provide concrete evidence of Sean Miller’s misdoings, and make a bunch of threes. Not impossible at all.

Once CU upsets Arizona, it gets much easier as the Buffs move on to (likely) play the UCLA Bruins (Friday, 6 p.m.), whom they swept this season. The Bruins made both of those games closer with second half runs, but there’s something about this Buffs team that gives UCLA problems. Perhaps it’s that Dallas Walton confounds Thomas Welsh. Maybe it’s that star wing Kris Wilkes can’t deal with Tyler Bey’s length and physicality. Maybe it’s that McKinley Wright is the antithesis of Aaron Holiday. Maybe it’s that UCLA has only been good for season with Steve Alford and it was because they had Lonzo Ball making everyone at least 5 times better than they really were. Whatever the case, CU just has to keep it up to knock off the Bruins and advance to the championship.

The other side of the bracket is wide open. Any of USC, Utah, Oregon or Washington could meet CU in the final and it wouldn’t be surprising (Saturday, 7 p.m.). Because it’s my fantasy article, I’m going to have USC advance. Also, right before tip-off, the FBI will get a tip-off and USC will have to kick off Chimezie Metu. Now that the Trojans don’t have Metu or Bennie Boatwright (knee injury), the Buffs don’t have to worry about USC’s size that has caused them so many problems. Without those two giants, the Buffs would then be able to allocate all their attention to stopping Jordan McLaughlin. That’s more difficult said than done, but the Buffs do enough to eek out of the championship win. Andy Enfield looks on in horror (and in handcuffs) as Tad Boyle celebrates the impossible. McKinley Wright wins the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.