For the third consecutive year, Washington State will hold the No. 11 seed, take on the No. 6 seed and play in the late game on the opening day of the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
A narrow loss to Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday assured the Cougars would claim the No. 11 seed at the conference tournament and Oregon’s win over Stanford sent Colorado to the No. 6 seed.
The Cougars (15-16, 6-12) and Buffaloes (21-10, 10-8) are scheduled to tip off at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Vegas.
WSU will be aiming to win its first game in the conference tournament since 2009 – Tony Bennett’s final season in charge – when the Cougars beat an Oregon team coached by ex-WSU coach Ernie Kent.
The Cougars enter the tournament on a two-game skid, having lost 83-62 to Arizona on Thursday before dropping the regular-season finale to ASU, 83-74, on Saturday. The Buffaloes are also a team trying to rediscover their form, having lost their last four games. Prior to that, Colorado hadn’t lost more than two consecutive games all season.
Tad Boyle’s team should be a familiar sight for WSU in Las Vegas. Over the last five years, the Cougars have only played two teams in the conference tournament, facing the Buffaloes in 2016 and ’17 before opening against Oregon in both 2018 and ’19.
WSU and Colorado played just once during the 2020 regular season, though, with the Buffaloes winning 78-56 in Boulder on Jan. 23. The Cougars were only trailing by eight points with under 11 minutes left in the second half before the Buffs went on a surge, eventually taking a 25-point lead.
Kyle Smith’s team may feel better about its chances playing at a neutral site after going 1-8 in Pac-12 road games this season and it’s also worth noting the Cougars were playing without guard Marvin Cannon and forward Tony Miller, who erupted for a career-high 21 points in Saturday’s loss to ASU.
The Buffaloes were without talented junior guard Tyler Bey, an All-Pac-12 First Team selection in 2018-19.
Colorado was ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and in position to contend for a regular season Pac-12 title before losing to UCLA, Cal, Stanford and Utah. The Buffaloes have won 20-plus games each of the last two seasons under Boyle and have had just one losing season since he took over in Boulder in 2011-12.
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