Contact CU Independent Men’s Basketball Beat Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org
If ever there was a time to win on the road, it would be this weekend, with the University of Colorado men’s basketball team visiting No. 13 Utah. Although the Buffaloes are pretty much cemented in the No. 5 spot for the Pac-12 Tournament already, they still have the chance to do something no other Colorado team has ever done: finish the regular season with 22 wins.
Right now, the Buffs are tied for the best regular season record in school history with a 21-9 mark, making Saturday the perfect opportunity to make history and buff up their résumé for the selection committee in a week and a half.
At this point, there is little doubt that the Buffs have earned a bid to the NCAA tournament, but another win over a ranked opponent after their big win against No. 9 Arizona last week couldn’t hurt.
Right now, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Buffs as a solid No. 10 seed playing No. 7 South Carolina in the first round of the Big Dance, and CBS Sports has them at the seven seed to take on UConn in round one.
Still not convinced? Let me change that.
A lot of teams this season have 20-plus wins this season, it’s true. But how many can say they have 10 or more wins in conference play within one of the Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC and Pac-12)? Colorado can.
How many teams can say they’ve matched up against 10 top-100 RPI teams and defeated five of them? Oh, and CU is ranked No. 28 themselves in that category. For any of you who may be wondering, those teams include Oregon, Utah, SMU, Cal, Iowa State, Arizona, Oregon State, USC, UCLA and ASU.
Before last week, they needed a marquee win to convince the committee that they were worthy of the madness in March. With Arizona, they got it.
But now, let’s take a look at Utah, who is eighth out of roughly 350 teams in RPI and deadly on their home court. They’ve only lost two games this season at home, which means it is definitely not an impossible task. Without the previous loss to Utah, the Buffs would have been perfect at home, but one last-second shot that record down the tubes.
And Josh Scott was quoted earlier this week saying that he wants revenge.
This game will have less to do with him wanting to avenge the last loss than his desire to finish out his senior season strong and to make a mark on the program’s history.
But Utah won’t be an easy opponent by any means. Led by a strong Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate in Jakob Poeltl, who averages 17.6 points and nine rebounds, has the strong aid of Jordan Loveridge (11.9 ppg), Kyle Kuzma (11.1 ppg) and Brandon Taylor (9.6ppg), who can be a force to be reckoned with when he wants to be.
The Utes are scoring 79 points per game, make nearly 50 percent of their shots from the field and have an impressive 36.5 percent conversion rate from behind the arc. The Buffaloes, in comparison, are shooting 43.2 percent from the field and crushing the three-point shooting at 39.7 percent while scoring 77 points a contest.
As it has been all season, the biggest key of the game is to contain the ball-handling to minimize turnovers, which has been Colorado’s kryptonite this year. They did that against Arizona, and good things happened. Similarly, they can’t allow the Utes to get hot in the low post. When push comes to shove, they need to force the ball out of the paint and make Utah take threes.
Rest assured, if the Buffs get hot and they don’t go down by a double-digit margin, the Utes will have their hands full.
The Buffs will visit the Utah on Saturday, March 5 and will tip off at 7:30 p.m. You can catch the game on ESPNU.