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The time for celebration is over for the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team — it’s time to go back to work.
After shocking the nation by winning four games in four days to win the Pac-12 Tournament, The Buffs will take on the No. 23 University of Nevada, Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night in Albuquerque, N.M.
“[UNLV] is a very good, solid team both defensively and offensively,” said Colorado senior guard Carlon Brown. “Offensively they like to get up and down in transition like we do, and they play man-to-man just like we do too. I think the match-up is a pretty good match-up for both teams, it’s just whoever is going to play best on that particular night.”
Unlike last year, the Buffs didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of waiting to find out if they had made the NCAA Tournament. A Pac-12 Tournament win meant Colorado automatically qualified.
At a Selection Sunday gathering at CU head coach Tad Boyle’s house last season, the Buffs were sure they had a spot, but ended up left out of the tournament. In 2012, though, the selection committee didn’t have a choice.
CU head coach Tad Boyle said it was a relief not having to wait to know whether or not the Buffs were in.
“It made all the difference in the world,” Boyle said. “We wouldn’t have been at my house again if we didn’t know we were going to be in. When you play your way in, you feel like you’ve earned it, and certainly our group has earned it.”
The Buffs received an 11-seed in the tournament and will be considered underdogs on Thursday night.
Despite being the lower seed, the players said winning the Pac-12 Tournament has given them all the confidence in the world.
“I think we gained a lot of confidence, especially being an underdog,” said freshman guard Askia Booker. “We were picked No. 11 in the conference, and we came out and competed very well as a team. It’s a big confidence booster.”
With momentum on the Buffs’ side, the players know they have to keep working hard in order to overcome a talented UNLV squad.
“We have to stay confident, don’t change anything that we’ve been doing, which is mainly playing defense and rebounding the ball at the end of the day,” Booker said. “I think our offense will come, eventually, especially if it’s from Carlon Brown and Andre [Roberson] and Austin [Dufault] and Nate [Tomlinson]. They’ve produced very well lately on the offensive end, and I think that’s going to continue, but it really comes down to defending and rebounding.”
The CU athletic department is taking 100 students, who pay $50 for a bus ride, tickets and hotels, down to Albuquerque to cheer on the Buffs. With the city just a few hours’ drive from Boulder, many more will be making the trip down on their own.
The fans have been a big part of CU basketball this season, and the players said it will help to have a lot of fan support in Albuquerque.
“Our fan base is going to be big for us,” said sophomore forward Andre Roberson. “They’ve been big for us all season long, and they just give extra motivation, that extra boost of energy, and I feel like it works in our favor.”
On Sunday, after finally seeing their name in the NCAA bracket, many players said they were just happy to be in. That all changes on Thursday. Booker said his team has already gotten rid of that attitude and is looking to make a mark on this year’s tournament.
“’Just happy to be there’ goes out the window now,” Booker said. “We’re actually here, and we’re happy we’re here, but we’re here to compete, not just have a good time. We’re here to win this whole thing, whether people think we can or not. We all believe we can win it, and we’re going to compete really hard.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Mark McNeillie at Mark.email@example.com.