Buffs Hope to Impress in Final Two Games

With two regular season games remaining, it's still far from decided where the Colorado Buffaloes will finish in the Big 12 Conference, and how that will affect their chances at an NCAA bid. Meanwhile, CU got back to practice Monday, the first since beating Missouri over the weekend. CU began focusing squarely on their game with Kansas, which takes place Wednesday night in Lawrence.

(as of Feb. 27 a.m.) The Race for 4th Place in the Big 12
*Oklahoma 10-4, 19-6
Texas A&M 8-6, 18-7
Colorado 8-6, 18-7
Nebraska 7-7, 17-10

* Oklahoma hosts Oklahoma State Monday night. If they win, the Sooners have clinched at least third place in the Big 12. If they lose Monday night, and lose March 5 at Texas, Colorado could claim third place in the Big 12 if the Buffaloes win their remaining two games.

If the Big 12 postseason tournament began today, Texas A&M would be the fourth-place team because they own the first tiebreaker (head-to-head competition) against CU, two teams with identical records.

The Aggies' remaining games are vs. Texas and at Texas Tech. Colorado plays at Kansas and home vs. Iowa State.

Nebraska can climb into fourth place, as well, but would have to have help in the form of CU and TAMU stumbles this week. Nebraska hosts Kansas State and plays at Missouri to close out the season.

What's at stake is a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament in Dallas. The 5-12 seeds play first round games March 9. The four winners advance to the second round vs. the No. 1-4 seeds on March 10. The championship game is March 12.

Ironically, a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament could hurt CU's chances of getting into the NCAA tournament. The Buffs are a bubble team and need as many wins as they can get, both in the final week of the season and in the conference tourney, in order to impress the NCAA selection committee. A first-round bye would erase an opportunity for a win against a team that finished below them in the standings.

And the NCAA tournament is ultimately where the Buffs want to get. It's why the final two games are big.

"This is it," said senior Chris Copeland before Monday's practice. "We've got two really important games. It's the last time to make an impression on the NCAA committee, I think. If we come out strong, we can definitely make some noise."

But a win at Kansas on Wednesday (6 p.m. MT, tip-off) is difficult to imagine, at least for most people outside the CU locker room. Colorado has not won at Allen Feildhouse since 1983. That's 22 games in a row the Jayhawks have beaten the Buffs in Lawrence.

Head coach Ricardo Patton said the losing streak hasn't caused him any lost sleep.

However, he said, "I plan to continue to try to get better every game. To try and every year recruit well. To take a better team in there each year and try to compete.

"If everyone else in the country were going in there and just waxing them, then it would bother me a lot. But it's been a very difficult place, not only for Colorado, but for a lot of (teams) to go in and win."

Kansas is 13-2 at home this season, losing to Nevada and Kansas State. The last time the Jayhawks lost two games at home was during the 1998-99 season, when they dropped three at Allen Fieldhouse.

Which begs the question: What makes Lawrence such a difficult place to play? Is it the fact they regularly sell out the 16,300-seat arena?

Patton said it's something else.

"What makes it tough playing at Allen Fieldhouse is the caliber of players they've had for many, many years," he said.

Copeland agreed.

"They always have better players than most schools," he said. "Going there to win is just always tougher because they have great teams."

Kansas is, however, coming off a road loss after falling at Texas 80-55 this past weekend. The Longhorns' victory put an exclamation point on what will likely be a regular-season championship for the team from Austin. Although UT holds just a one-game edge over Kansas in the standings (UT is 12-3, Kansas is 11-3 in conference play), they now hold the tiebreaker if the two should end up with identical conference marks.

Asked what Texas did to beat the Jayhawks, Patton said, "(Texas has) just got players that stepped up and made plays. Their guys are very talented, they were at home," Patton said. "Texas can sometimes make you look a little worse than you actually are."

Copeland took note of a tough-minded Texas defense when he watched the game on TV.

"I thought they played aggressively defensively, tried to force a lot of turnovers," he said. "That's one thing we're going to have to focus on — not any different than any other game, but we're going to have to focus on defense."