First, a bit of credit to Jeff Bzdelik. The former Colorado coach, who left after last season to try his luck turning around Wake Forest, recruited most of the players involved in the Buffaloes' postseason run.
Some were members of the squad two years ago when it suffered a school-record 22 defeats. They remembered that pain vividly at times this season while making a 21-13 push to the postseason under first-year coach Tad Boyle.
"Being part of that turnaround and seeing how it all works is really special," said junior forward Austin Dufault. "It has been tough and at times I've thought about what it would be like if I went to other places. But now there's no doubt I made the right choice. I'm happy just to be a part of it right now."
Think back to when Boyle was hired. The first few weeks were spent recruiting existing players, convincing them to stay and be part of something special, just the fifth 20-win season in Colorado history. He persuaded senior guard Cory Higgins to help with the re-recruitment process and practically all the veterans bought in.
Boyle then made it fun. He installed an up-tempo system that fit the explosive capabilities of his players and also capitalizes on any advantages the thin mountain air provides in Boulder.
Colorado seemed to solidify an NCAA run with two wins in the Big 12 Tournament, reaching the semifinals for the first time in history. Also, the last time, considering the Buffs are headed to the Pac-12 next season. Seeded fifth, Colorado outlasted Iowa State and then defeated Kansas State before falling 90-83 against eventual tournament champ Kansas.
But on Selection Sunday, the Buffs were snubbed. In spite of impressive wins, including one against Texas, and a strong push to close the season, they headed to the NIT.
"The way we're playing now, we're one of the top 68 teams in the country. I know that," Boyle said. "But we're not in the (NCAA) tournament and we'll have to deal with it. And we'll have to make a statement in the NIT. Otherwise, talk's cheap."
Their opening salvo was an impressive one -- an 88-point outburst against Texas Southern, which had no answer for the Buffaloes' dominant tandem of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. They combined for 52 points, and next take aim at California, which visits Boulder after a 77-74 win over Ole Miss on Wednesday.
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