In order to advance to the first round of the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament next week, the Huskies will need to do what they did last year — beat the team three times in a season.
Washington and Colorado finished the regular season with identical 16-15 records and tied for eighth in the Pac-12 standings at 8-12.
The Huskies have beaten the Buffaloes twice this season, giving UW the No. 8 seed and CU the No. 9 seed when the teams meet in the Pac-12 Tournament opener at noon Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The winner will face No. 1 seed UCLA in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup.
Washington enters the postseason having lost six of its last nine games, including a 93-84 loss to Washington State in his latest outing.
Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak with a 69-60 win over Utah on Saturday.
“It’s one game at a time,” UW coach Mike Hopkins said when asked about postseason play after losing the regular-season finale. “We always say DMGB is better anyway. But you can tell they were down. You can sit and feel sorry for yourself, or you can sit and be happy to get better and be able to go and party in Vegas. It’s the most wonderful thing at this time of year.”
Last year, not then. No. 6 seed Washington defeated Utah 82-70 in the Pac-12 opener for its third straight win against the Utes before losing 65-61 to USC in the next round.
In their previous games against Colorado this season, Washington earned a 73-63 home victory on Dec. 4 and escaped the Coors Events Center with a 75-72 win on Jan. 19.
Hopkins relied on a six-player rotation Thursday, and the Huskies could be shorthanded again without senior guards Noah Williams (knee) and PJ Fuller II (illness), neither of whom has played in weeks.
UW is 21-21 in the Pac-12 Tournament and 1-0 against Colorado. In their only postseason meeting, then no. In the 2019 semifinals, No. 1 Washington beat No. 5 Colorado 66-61.
The Buffaloes are the only team in Pac-12 history to win four conference tournament games before winning the championship. Colorado did it in 2012 as a No. 6 seed.
The No. 8 seed has never advanced past the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament.
Just don’t tell that to the eternally optimistic Hopkins, who has a 3-5 record in the Pac-12 Tournament, including three first-round losses.
“To get to the NCAA tournament, we have to play great in our tournament,” he said. “We have to win. That’s the great thing about March Madness.”
Hopkins also needs an extended postseason run to appease critics demanded a change of coach to Montlake. The sixth-year coach is 101-90 with the Huskies and has two years remaining after this season on a $6.3 million deal.