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Colorado earns third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance

Askia Booker high-fives his teammates as the starting line-ups are announced against Cal Thursday, March 13, 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. (Nate Bruzdzinski/CU Independent)
Askia Booker high-fives his teammates as the starting line-ups are announced prior to the Colorado vs. California game Thursday, March 13, 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The Buffaloes are a No. 8 seed, the highest-ever under coach Tad Boyle. (Nate Bruzdzinski/CU Independent)

Last Friday’s 20-point loss to Arizona did not signal the end of the University of Colorado men’s basketball season. It took less than 60 seconds Sunday for the CBS Selection Show to reveal that the Buffs have earned the No. 8 seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament’s South Region, and will face No. 9 Pittsburgh in the second round this Thursday.

“I love going to plays, but I’m not into drama,” head coach Tad Boyle said about the short-lived suspense. “I like to know where we’re going and who we’re playing, and we found out right away.”

Boyle held a selection show viewing party for the team and selected guests at his house in Boulder. He said the main goal of the day was to support the players and their journey this season so far.

“One of the reasons I like to do it at my house is because our program is based on family and family values,” Boyle said. “I wanted it to be intimate and a place to gather people who care about this program. This is the way it should be, because this is a special moment.”

Colorado will tip off against Pittsburgh at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., Thursday at 11.40 a.m. MST. No. 1 seed Florida takes on either Albany or Mt. Saint Mary’s the same day. Assuming they are not surprised with an upset, the Gators would be Colorado’s third-round matchup if the Buffs take down the Panthers.

Of course, none of the players are focusing on Florida yet.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time and just focus all our attention toward [Pittsburgh], and after that we’ll see what happens,” said senior center Ben Mills. “We’ll have to go through the scouting report pretty seriously and try to see what their weaknesses are.”

Junior guard Askia Booker was one step ahead in checking out Thursday’s competition.

“They’re very guard-talented,” Booker said. “They push the ball just like [we do] and they play very fast. We play a lot of teams like that, especially in the Pac-12, so I think we should be just fine.”

The difficulty of the Pac-12 conference has been pointed out time and again this past season, but the true test for the Buffaloes involved coping with the injuries of junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and freshman forward Tre’Shaun Fletcher. Dinwiddie averaged 14.7 points per game before tearing his ACL, and he still holds a team-high free-throw shooting percentage of .857.

“The Pac-12 this year was unforgiving, even when you were healthy,” Boyle said. “The way our guys handled [losing Fletcher and Dinwiddie] shows the character and resiliency in what these young men are made of.”

With this year’s trip to the Big Dance being the Buffaloes’ third straight appearance, the biggest sources of excitement were the freshmen on the roster.

“I’m just happy to get in, really,” Fletcher said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re eight, nine, 10 … We just have to go out hard. The focus is on making my teammates better and making sure everybody’s sharp.”

Like Fletcher, freshman guard Jaron Hopkins believes the Buffs can use their excitement and short turnaround from the Pac-12 tournament to their advantage.

“We’re just going to carry along the momentum that we got from the tournament even though we came up short,” Hopkins said. “Our confidence is still pretty high, so we just have to get out there and compete.”

Despite the year’s many challenges, a 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament is the cherry atop the sundae of a 23-11 season record for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Jordyn Siemens at

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