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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Colorado rebounds from NCAA Tournament snub with Pac-12 Tournament Championship

Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

LOS ANGELES — On Selection Sunday a season ago, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and his players sat glued to the television waiting to hear their postseason fate.

The group of Buffaloes huddled together in anticipation like a group of kids waiting for their presents on Christmas morning.

But Santa Claus never came.

Despite a 21-13 record and an RPI of 66, the Buffs didn’t hear their name called by the selection committee, which chose schools like Clemson and UAB over Colorado.

That feeling of disappointment resonated in Boyle and his team. As Colorado entered Saturday’s Pac-12 Tournament championship game against Arizona the Buffs met and decided to dedicate the game to Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, Marcus Relphorde, Trent Beckley, Javon Coney and Alec Burks.

“Not a lot of you in this room may know those six guys, but those six guys sat in my home last year on Selection Sunday for their last opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament, and they were snubbed,” Boyle explained in the pressroom in the Staples Center. “That inspired us.”

Colorado played inspired against Arizona and as a result, the Buffs won’t have to put their NCAA Tournament fate in the hands of a committee. They don’t have to feel the same disappointment they felt a year ago.

The Pac-12 Conference newbies marched into Staples Center like they ran the place and took what they believed was rightfully theirs a season ago. Boyle said that Selection Sunday a season ago was the second hardest day in his life as a college basketball coach.

“I knew what that team deserved,” Boyle said. “We got shut out.”

They wouldn’t let that happen again.

“This team wasn’t going to be denied,” Boyle said.

The Buffs certainly weren’t denied as they capped off an improbable Pac-12 Tournament run that saw four wins in four nights against Utah, Oregon, Cal and Arizona.

But Colorado isn’t a flash in the pan. Although the Buffs had their ups and downs in their first season with the Pac-12, they earned the postseason championship fair and square after an impressive season.

“They are well coached, play extremely hard, very good on defense,” UA head coach Sean Miller said of Colorado. “Whoever draws them is running into a hungry, well coached, disciplined team. I really believe that’s the story of today. They beat us. They were the better team.”

Arizona had everything to play for. Seniors Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Brendon Lavender were playing their last conference – and possibly meaningful – games as Wildcats.

The UA needed a victory or else it could end up in the same shoes as Colorado last season. With all of that considered, Colorado still persevered. The Buffs held the Wildcats to 18-for-49 shooting and 5-for-19 from three capping off a season as one of the conference’s top defensive teams.

“From the day we first played them I knew that was a real good team,” Perry said of Colorado. “They’re coached real well, they have great players, and they run the floor real well. Their transition game is unbelievable.”

Colorado was selected to finish 11th in the Pac-12 before the season began. No one thought the Buffs would come even close to sniffing the postseason this year.

“No I didn’t,” Lavender said when asked that very question. “Obviously they’re a great team and they deserve what they’re getting right now. They beat us in the most important game of the season. It hurts man.”

Arizona now feels what Colorado did a season ago. If the role reversal continues to play out, maybe CU ends up making an Elite Eight run and being a Carlon Brown 3-pointer from the Final Four. Even if that’s not the case, CU’s avenged last season’s snubbing and far exceeded expectations.

“If you believe in destiny, you believe in the Colorado Buffaloes because it was meant to be for us,” Boyle said. “I’m just so proud of these guys.”

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