Times-Call (Longmont)

Semis loss could impact seeding

Buffs drop out of hosting position in ESPN projection

- By Brian Howell bhowell@ prairiemou­ntainmedia.com

LAS VEGAS >> The Colorado women’s basketball team missed an opportunit­y to play for a Pac-12 title.

Friday’s 61-49 loss to Washington State may have also cost the third-seeded Buffaloes a chance to play another game or two in Boulder.

Despite the loss to the Cougars in the Pac-12 semifinals at Michelob Ultra Arena, the 20th-ranked Buffs (23-8) are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutiv­e season. Who and where they will play won’t be determined until Selection Sunday, March 12.

The top 16 seeds for the NCAA Tournament will host games in the first two rounds. Prior to Friday, ESPN’S bracket guru, Charlie Creme, had the Buffs as a No. 4 seed and playing the opening weekend at the CU Events Center.

In the latest projection published by Creme on Saturday morning, the Buffs had slipped to a No. 5 and traveling to Austin, Texas. Moving up from a No. 5 to a No. 4 was UCLA, which upset top-seeded Stanford in the other semifinal on Friday.

Washington State and UCLA will play for the Pac-12 title on Sunday at 3 p.m. MT (ESPN2).

Of course, nothing is official until Selection Sunday and CU is certainly in the conversati­on for a hosting spot, but a loss to the seventh-seeded Cougars may have some lasting impact.

CU head coach JR Payne has never given much attention to projection­s, however, and said that wasn’t on her mind following Friday’s loss.

“We’ll worry about that later,” she said. “We always focus on the moment. Like, every single day we want to be great and there were times today that we were great.

Really proud of our fight; the third quarter was incredible toughness to come back from down 16.”

“But, mostly we just want to be great when we practice, when we play, when we compete, and so that will be the goal. Rest, recover, and then get back to playing really great basketball each and every day.”

The NCAA selection committee uses NET rankings as a tool for seeding the tournament. CU dropped two spots to No. 22 on Saturday — trading spots with UCLA, which moved up to No. 20. Washington State (22-10) moved up one spot to No. 33.

While Washington State defeated the Buffs, the Cougars could potentiall­y help them on Sunday by

beating UCLA. Other results around the country will impact seeding over the next week, as well.

The fact that Washington State and fifth-seeded UCLA are in the final could bode well for the Buffs, too, because it puts the depth of the Pac-12 on display. And it doesn’t hurt that CU went 3-1 overall against those two teams.

“Everyone that’s associated with Pac-12 women’s basketball knows that it’s the deepest conference in the country, and every team that played, which is all 12 teams, is really good and really deep and really capable of competing deeper into March,” Payne said.

For the first time in the 22-year history of the Pac10/12 Tournament, none of the top four seeds reached the championsh­ip game. This is just the third time that the No. 1 seed failed to reach the finals.

In the Pac-12 era (since 2012), only two teams who played in the first round won three games to get to the finals before this year. Washington State and UCLA both did it this week.

“We’re gonna see a five and a seven in the final on Sunday and both of those teams deserve to be there,” Payne said. “That’s how good they are. So it’s not just one team played out of their mind and upset somebody. They were the two best teams this weekend in a conference that has how many ranked teams do we have right now? Six? And that is pretty remarkable for a conference.”

It’s actually five teams that are ranked, with Utah (No. 3), Stanford (No. 6), UCLA (No. 19), Colorado (No. 20) and Arizona (No. 21). But, USC is also receiving votes as was ranked just two weeks ago. Washington State is also a lock to make the NCAA Tournament and Oregon is projected by ESPN as the last team in. Washington is on the bubble, as well.

“There’s eight legitimate teams in the Pac-12 that should be in the NCAA Tournament,” Payne said. “I think we’ve seen that over the last few days.”

 ?? PAC-12CONFEREN­CE — COURTESY PHOTO ?? Colorado guard Kindyll Wetta runs down the court against Washington State during the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament semifinals on Friday in Las Vegas.
PAC-12CONFEREN­CE — COURTESY PHOTO Colorado guard Kindyll Wetta runs down the court against Washington State during the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament semifinals on Friday in Las Vegas.

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