For the first time in program history, ESPN's College GameDay visited the University of Colorado to feature its men's basketball game against the no. 4 Arizona Wildcats. Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, and Jay Williams were the featured hosts for the event.
In a press conference on Friday, Phelps said that Saturday was really about the fans.
“When you look at what this game means for Colorado, it’s a game for the fans," Phelps said. "It’s a game for the students. It’s the game to say, you know what I’m tired of hearing about Arizona, I’m the Bruins, I’m tired of hearing about Pauley Pavilion, this is our house. Now we have earned the respect to be as good as anybody in the Pac-12 with any home court advantage."
Throughout the season, Colorado's success on the court has drawn the attention of college basketball fans nationwide and earned them the spotlight during their final home game of the season.
With a current overall record of 20-7 and 9-5 in conference play, the Buffaloes are making a name for themselves not only in the Pac-12, but on the national level.
“I think it’s been coaching and what they have done," Phelps said. "When you look at how they played at Southern California over the weekend, with five guys in double-figures, that’s the new Colorado. I think this win, in this house, says, ‘Pauley Pavilion you’re fine, Tucson you’re fine, but this is our house: Colorado Basketball has arrived, and not just in the Pac-12.’"
Although a win today would certainly help the Buffs out in their run to the NCAA tournament, Davis believes that they won't need a win today to get in.
"I think they are (in) right now," Davis said. "I was looking at our basketball power index (BPI) rankings on the way out here and their record, with and without their top players--we differentiate that both for your team and for your opponent--their record's pretty set. I think that really gives the tournament selection committee a pretty good picture of what they are now, and I think they're a tournament team."
"I think the Pac-12 is an excellent league, I think Lunardi has six Pac-12 teams in the tournament right now," he added. "Certainly, Colorado is in it, and I think it would be a situation, in my judgment anyway, that they would have to play their way out rather than play their way in."
Davis does, however, think that a win for Colorado today would erase any doubts that fans have about Colorado's spot in the Big Dance.
"I think a win tomorrow would be big," he said. "Arizona is a different team now, too, without (Brandon) Ashley. They don't score as easily as they did, and it's not the same thing beating them now as it was when they were full-strength, as it is for Colorado...So I think a win, even a home win, over Arizona tomorrow would be a huge gold star on the resume for sure. I don't mean to diminish any other team, but they're still going to have to take 68. That's getting pretty far down the ladder sometimes, and I think, to me, Colorado is solidly in that group."
The CU students were certainly a big part of the GameDay festivities. Fans began showing up as early as 11:00 p.m. on Friday night and as late as 7:00 a.m. Although the score predictions varied, every CU student agreed that the Buffaloes would run away with a victory today, and by a three-point margin.
"I think it's going to be a really close game, but hopefully the Buffs will pull through," said freshman Jimena Mohedas.
Sophomore Kyle Rojas predicted that "The CU Buffs will win 67-64," adding that, "I'm excited for the national recognition for the program."
Sophomores Vincent Arvia and Ryan Gaynor both agreed that they were most excited for the GameDay atmosphere and predicted that the Buffs would win 71-68 or 65-62 respectively.
Before heading to Boulder, Davis said that he was impressed with Colorado's "electric" student section, adding that it was a key component of the players' success at home.
"They create a great atmosphere. I was watching a game on Wednesday night against Arizona State, and it seems like an intense, raucous environment in which to play. When you turn on games and home games here, there are some places you watch on television and it feels flat, and there are other places that have a little edge. And this place seems to have an edge to me when you watch the games, and I think the players feed off that."
The game coverage will start at 6:00 p.m. tonight on ESPN, and tipoff is set at 7:00.