Coin Toss: Will the Buffs make the NCAA Tournament?

Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

Contact CU Independent basketball beat writer Alissa Noe at alissa.noe@colorado.edu and follow her on Twitter @crazysportsgirl1

As Selection Sunday nears, collegiate basketball fanatics across the country wait in eager anticipation to see if their favorite team will make it to March Madness. Should University of Colorado basketball fans get their hopes up? The CUI’s Justin Guerriero and Alissa Noe both have answers to that question.

Justin Guerriero: I’ll admit without hesitation that my opinion on this matter has been shaped by recent events. Since the start of February, the Buffs have been looking shaky. So far, they’re 2-4 this month, having lost to Oregon, Oregon State, USC and UCLA. As for the losses at Oregon and UCLA, I think “blowout” describes the end result better than the word “loss.”

Say what you will about Oregon being one of the best squads in the Pac-12 and the awful display of basketball that was CU’s loss to UCLA being a fluke — I guess I’m willing to at least somewhat accept that, but losses are losses. And the Buffs’ play this month has really left a bad taste in my mouth. I have half a mind to get in touch with the NCAA and have them add a few more tallies to the Buffs’ loss column after they barely dispatched Washington and Washington State a few weeks ago.

A win’s a win, yes, but come on, were those wins really satisfying? Did they inspire hope within you that the Buffs are worthy of being included in the nation’s most competitive collegiate basketball tournament? This recent type of play from the Buffaloes is not evident of a minor slip up, it’s evident of a team that could potentially nosedive in the following weeks.

Alissa Noe: My perception of this team’s winning ability has also faltered a bit over the past few weeks, but you have to remember — winning on the road in the Pac-12 is hard for any team this year, not just the Buffaloes. Just look at Arizonathey too dropped both of their road games to USC and UCLA, along with California, and the Wildcats are one heck of a good team. In fact, all but one of their losses have come in 2016 and Oregon at home was one of them.

Losing to Oregon on the road was inevitable, but you also seem to forget that the Buffaloes already beat them this season at home. As for Washington and Washington State, well, Washington State was a bit of a fluke in its own right. For the love of God, Que Johnson and Josh Hawkinson scored 25 and 18 points, respectively. When you have two players dropping over 15 points, that’s a hard win to come by.

And who doesn’t love a little excitement deep into conference play? And don’t forget that CU’s best player, Josh Scott, didn’t play against Washington State or Washington. So yes — any win is a good win, especially when your forces are depleted. Washington State’s lone win in conference play came against No. 25 UCLA so, based on your line of thinking, wouldn’t that mean that the Bruins are unfit to play in the NCAA Tourney simply because they lost to the worst team? Come on, Guerriero, you’re smarter than that.

JG: Well to answer your first question regarding “who doesn’t love a little excitement deep into conference play,” I can think of a few people. Let’s see, head coach Tad Boyle, yours truly, and I’d wager a good deal of fans, coaches and players alike. This February has been a derailment for the Buffs. There’s no hope of winning the Pac-12. It’s because the Buffs have shot themselves in the foot this month. Given the road ahead, this seems borderline disastrous.

In the last three regular season games this season, Colorado will take on No. 9 Arizona and Arizona State this week at the Coors Events Center, followed by a road game at Utah on March 5. Granted, the Buffs are a tough team to beat at home — their 11-1 record in Boulder attests to that. But these three final games before the Pac-12 Tournament are going to expose the fact that this Buffaloes team is good, not great.

Where’s the pizzazz? What makes the Buffaloes, who as of now are a middle of the pack team in the Pac-12, so worthy of making the NCAA Tournament? This Buffs team is talented and fun to watch, and make no mistake — if they do make the cut I think they could potentially shake things up, but that’s a big if. The 2016 Buffaloes seems like just another resume without distinction on the desk of an executive, being looked over to fill job opening with the hundreds of other applicants. Worse teams have made the tourney, and better teams have not, but regardless, as of right now the Buffs don’t jump out as a definite selection for March Madness. The next few weeks will tell.

AN: You can’t forget that the win-loss category isn’t everything. They don’t have any really bad losses (meaning to bad team) even if they’ve been blown out a couple times. They’ve even had a few good losses, if losses can ever be good. Take their matchup against No. 7 Iowa State, for example. The Cyclones should have easily blown them out, especially during the first game of the season, but they didn’t. They only won by six. Colorado only lost to No. 18 SMU by four, and Utah by two on a last-second shot.

No, they have not been finishing strong, but neither did UCLA last year. Heading into the postseason, the Bruins’ record stood at 20-13. They didn’t do a whole lot in the Pac-12 tournament either.  So no, a stellar record isn’t everything. And with the self-imposed season ban on a sure-fire Sweet 16, maybe Elite Eight team in Louisville, more NCAA hopefuls have a better shot of getting in. And that team might just be Colorado.

Oh, and one more thing. The Buffaloes have a pretty good ratings percentage index (RPI) ranking, which puts them at No. 34 in that category. And for those of you who don’t know, Justin, RPI measures strength of schedule and gauges how that team does against their schedule. And CU’s strength of schedule is quite daunting, with ESPN putting them at 60th out of 351 teams. So I guess that means they’re doing pretty well with the schedule that was handed to them.

Colorado hosts Arizona on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and covers whatever needs to be covered at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communication. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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