Xavier Johnson celebrates amongst the crowd after they rushed the court following the upset over then 9th-ranked Arizona during a college basketball game against on Thurday, Feb. 14, 2013 at the Coors Events Center. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)
Xavier Johnson celebrates amongst the crowd after they rushed the court following the upset over then 9th-ranked Arizona during a college basketball game against on Thurday, Feb. 14, 2013 at the Coors Events Center. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)

CU men’s basketball season ends with high hopes for next season

“This year was an exciting year; it was a good year,” said men’s basketball head coach Tad Boyle.  “This was a good year for Colorado basketball in the sense of one more NCAA tournament.  It was the first time we’ve had back-to-back NCAA tournaments in fifty years, first time post-season play in three straight years ever.  A lot of firsts and some seconds that we’re pretty proud of.”

Xavier Johnson celebrates amongst the crowd after they rushed the court following the upset over then 9th-ranked Arizona during a college basketball game against on Thurday, Feb. 14, 2013 at the Coors Events Center. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)
Xavier Johnson celebrates amongst the crowd after they rushed the court on Thurday, Feb. 14, 2013 at the Coors Events Center. (Kai Casey/CU Independent)

The University of Colorado men’s basketball team took a step backwards from last season, but still managed to make it to the Big Dance despite competing in a tough Pac-12 conference during the 2012-13 season.  They finished the season with a 21-12 record overall and a 10-8 record in conference play.

As a team, the Buffs were No. 1 in Pac-12 conference-only defense and No. 1 in conference 3-point defense.  Although they were not ranked in the top 25 for the majority of the season, the Buffs remained in the top 50 out of 350 basketball programs nationwide.

Sophomore guard Askia Booker carried his team as it powered past Dayton, No. 16 Baylor, and Murray State to start the Buffs season.  Booker considers their road to the Charleston Classic title one of his greatest achievements of the season.

“Murray State at the beginning of the season was probably the best game I’ve had all year,” Booker said.   “There were a lot of ups and downs in the game, we were trailing and leading, and we ended up winning by seven.  Putting the team on my back and leading us to victory was personally pretty sweet.”

“The Charleston Classic was a great way to start out the year, ” senior guard Sabatino Chen added.  “It was just a good year overall.”

After their success in Charleston, the AP poll ranked the team at No. 23 on Nov. 19.  The Buffs moved up to No. 19 a week later after defeating the Air Force Falcons by a 15-point margin.

By the start of their Pac-12 conference games, the Buffs had reached an incredible 10-2 record, which included a home victory over in-state rival Colorado State.

As the team entered Pac-12 play, however, the level of competition increased significantly and it became more difficult to maintain a winning record within the conference.  The Buffs managed to achieve the feat with an 10-8 record in the Pac-12, but their road to victory was not easy.

The team had to play two ranked teams within the conference (Arizona and Oregon) twice and won an astounding three games out of the four.

The Buffs fell to Arizona in Tucson after a controversial buzzer-beater call sent the game into overtime and gave the Wildcats a chance to outscore them in the last five minutes. This loss motivated Colorado to fight harder against ranked opponents, and in turn led them to win their next two matchups against Arizona and Oregon.

When Arizona visited Boulder over a month later, the Buffs outplayed them for 40 minutes and ran away with a 13-point victory.

Freshman forward Josh Scott believes this Arizona game was the Buffs’ best this season.

“From top to bottom, we just destroyed them,” he said.  “The crowd was there behind us and the energy was there.  Our defense was good, and I don’t think Arizona had an easy possession all game.  When we played Wyoming, I felt like we never got an easy possession off of them, so I felt that’s what we were doing in this game.  It was really cool to beat a top ten team by thirteen.”

The Buffs continued their success against ranked Pac-12 teams when they played Oregon away, and upset them by one point.  They added to their winning streak when they dominated Oregon once more at home without the help of junior forward Andre Roberson.

Chen qualifies the team’s performance during this game as their best of the season.

“From the team standpoint, I’d probably say Oregon at home was our best game because Andre was gone,” he said.  “I played really well that game and everyone stepped up their game with Andre missing, so that stood out.”

Two games later, the Buffs squared off with Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament and won in a tight competition, 74-68. Their Pac-12 run ended, however, after the Buffs fell to Arizona in the quarterfinals the next day.

Despite this loss early in the tournament, the NCAA selection committee still gave CU a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament.  The Buffs faced off with Illinois, who was seeded at No. 7, and their season ended there because they could not stop the Illini from lighting up behind the arc.

By the end of the season, Andre Roberson earned the Defensive Player of the Year award and was named to the conference first team in the Pac-12 and the All-Defensive team.  Sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie was also honored with a place on the conference first team, and Scott earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Freshmen team.

After the team’s performance this year, Boyle has high hopes for his next season at CU.

“You guys know I’m always trying to minimize and downplay [expectations] as much as possible,” he said. “But as we progress as a program – you go to three straight postseason tournaments and back-to-back NCAAs – just the natural progression is the thinking that each year is going to be bigger and better.”

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.noe@colorado.edu.

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