Colorado vs Illinois

Time: 04:40 P.M. EST
  •  

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - For 50 years, Colorado could usually be dismissed as a program floating around the backwaters of college basketball.

Since coach Tad Boyle arrived in 2010, Colorado sure looks like a program on the rise.

Boyle has led Colorado to the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1962-63, and the No. 10-seed Buffs (21-11) are a trendy early-round upset pick when they face No. 7 seed Illinois (22-12) on Friday in the East Regional.

"We're the pretty girl right now," Colorado forward Spencer Dinwiddie said Thursday. "Everybody wants to pick us."

Colorado wouldn't have been anyone's pick until Boyle arrived from Northern Colorado. Since then, the Buffaloes have averaged 23 wins. Last season they stormed through the Pac-12 tournament to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, then snagged an opening-round win over UNLV. Energized by that experience, Colorado earned an at-large bid to this season's NCAA tournament after a solid 10-8 finish in the Pac-12.

Everything, Dinwiddie said, is going just like Boyle promised.

"When coach was recruiting me, he talked about wanting to build Colorado into a perennial Top 25 program. I think you see the strides that we're making toward that," Dinwiddie said. "And we are just going to get better."

Boyle, a former Kansas player, is building Colorado's foundation on players like Dinwiddie, a forward from California who led the team in scoring, and Texan Andre Roberson, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year who ranks second nationally in rebounds with 11.3 per game.

Roberson grew up in San Antonio, about 75 miles south of Austin, and was passed over by the major programs in the Lone Star State until he had already decided to take his game to the Rocky Mountains.

"I was kind of a late bloomer. The Texas schools didn't come in until late," Roberson said. "I took it as a sign of disrespect."

For Boyle, attracting talent like Roberson and Dinwiddie took making a hard sell on what Colorado could be, not what it had been. Colorado had been to the NCAA tournament just 10 times between 1940 and 2011.

"We sell the opportunity to come and make your mark on a program and leave your stamp on a program and build a legacy," Boyle said.

Comparing basketball pedigrees with Illinois isn't even close. The Illini have been to the NCAA tournament 30 times, 11 since 2000. Illinois missed last season's tournament but returns with a senior-laden lineup under first-year coach John Groce.

The Illini burst through a 12-0 start that included winning the Maui Invitational and a win over Gonzaga, the team that entered the NCAA tournament at the top seed in the West Region and ranked No. 1.

The schedule got much tougher when the Big Ten season started in January. After a 2-7 start in league play, Illinois rallied to an 8-10 finish and enter the NCAA tournament having lost three of their last four games.

The mid-season slide brought out a lot of "doubters and haters," Groce said. "They stayed the course. I appreciate the way they fought."

With that kind of up-and-down season, Illinois players displayed little of the positive energy Colorado did during the teams' pregame NCAA news conferences Thursday.

Dinwiddie talked about the momentum surrounding the Colorado program and the chase to "win it all." Illinois guard D.J. Richardson noted Friday's game "could possibly be our last" and the team wants to "come out and fight and have fun."

While that could come across as a sense of doom from Illini players, it could also be a quiet confidence from a team that had to slug its way through the nation's toughest conference to get here.

"We know we can play with anybody in this tournament," Illinois forward Tyler Griffey said. "We have had some big moments and big games and big wins, but we have had some low points too. I think we have learned from all of those experiences and we are going to use them to our advantage."

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
Pac 12
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Arizona16-234-45
Utah13-526-919
Oregon13-526-1027
UCLA11-722-1448
Stanford9-924-1359
Arizona St.9-918-16102
Oregon St.8-1017-14133
California7-1118-1595
Colorado7-1116-18116
Wash. State7-1113-18169
Washington5-1316-15125
USC3-1512-20208
Big Ten
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Wisconsin16-236-44
Maryland14-428-713
Michigan St.12-627-1223
Iowa12-622-1243
Purdue12-621-1355
Ohio St.11-724-1141
Indiana9-920-1461
Illinois9-919-1473
Michigan8-1016-1680
Minnesota6-1218-1598
Northwestern6-1215-17124
Nebraska5-1313-18158
Penn St.4-1418-16108
Rutgers2-1610-22179

Related Video

 

CBSSports.com Shop

Men's White Florida Gators 2015 NCAA Women's Softball College World Series Champions Locker Room T-Shirt

Florida Gators 2015 NCAA Women's Softball College World Series Back to Back Champions
Get the Locker Room Gear
Shop Now

 
 
 
Other Games
ALB 61 Final
DUKE 73
MISS 57 Final
WISC 46
TEMP 76 Final
NCST 72
UOP 49 Final
UM 78
CINCY 63 Final
CREI 67
LAS 63 Final
KSU 61
JMAD 62 Final
IND 83
FGCU 78 Final
GTOWN 68
IONA 70 Final
OHST 95
NOVA 71 Final
UNC 78
NWST 47 Final
FLA 79
OKLA 55 Final
SDSU 70
IAST 76 Final
ND 58
WKY 57 Final
KAN 64
MINN 83 Final
UCLA 63