After a successful 2013-14 regular season and conference tournament, the Colorado Buffaloes boasted a 23-11 record with numerous marquis victories at home and away. Their success was not overlooked by the NCAA selection committee on Sunday, who placed Tad Boyle's team in the South regional of the Big Dance.
The team, coaches, and friends all gathered at Coach Boyle's house on Sunday afternoon to anxiously await their fate in the postseason this year. Colorado had been on the bubble for some time, and two solid victories in the Pac-12 tournament earned them a spot in the NCAA tournament.
"One of the reasons I like to do it at my house is because our program is based on family and family values, and what it's like to be a part of something bigger than yourself," 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."
They didn't have to wait long. The selection committee started out with the South regional, announcing that Florida earned the no. 1 seed and that they were to take on the winner of the Mount Saint Mary's-Albany play-in game in the first round.
And then—three minutes after the selections began—they announced that Colorado would enter the tournament at the no. 8 seed in that regional. The entire house erupted in cheers and applause as ESPN switched over to the live feed in Boulder.
"I think the eight seed is a good seed for us," freshman forward Jaron Hopkins said. "I think it's going to be a tough game and it's going to be fun out there in Orlando."
When the team learned that they would be playing no. 9 seeded Pittsburgh in the first round in Orlando, FL this coming Thursday, their excitement grew even more.
"I'm just happy to get in, really," said freshman forward Tre'Shaun Fletcher. "This experience is what every player wants to experience in their college career. And being part of a program that gets to do this every year, I think that if we just play hard we can go as far as we want."
"I'm excited," senior center Ben Mills said. "Pitt is going to be a good team and we're ready for them. It's going to be a good game."
Now the team must focus on a talented Big East team that they have never played before, let alone seen play before. Junior guard and team leader Askia Booker has seen some of Pitt this season, and thinks they will be a tough opponent to take on.
"It's physical," Booker said. "They play fast and every team out there is talented. We're going to play a very talented team next game; we're just going to have to prepare and I think we can win."
In addition to their fast-paced game, Booker identified where their biggest strengths were on the court.
"They are very guard talented," he said. "They push the ball just like us and they play very fast. They're long and athletic, and we play a lot of teams like that, especially in the Pac-12, so we should be just fine and we're going to prepare right."
The Buffaloes are coming off of a fairly successful conference tournament run, during which they defeated USC and California back-to-back in the exact same fashion, 59-56 both times. They fell in the semifinals round to no. 4 Arizona in a tough 63-43 loss.
With their success this past weekend, Booker believed that, "We can beat anybody. USC's a great team, and so is Cal. Cal was probably one of the best teams in the Pac-12 for a while and I think our conference is one of the best conferences in the nation. We're going to come out with all-time confidence, and we're going to get in the gym this week and work hard."
Hopkins believed that confidence would by key to the team's success in the NCAA tournament this weekend, something that is in good supply for the team right now.
In preparation for the tournament, Hopkins said that, "I think we're going to carry over the confidence we just got from the tournament even though we came up short. Our confidence is still pretty high."
If the Buffaloes do, in fact, defeat Pittsburgh to advance to the second round of the tournament, there is a good chance they will be playing the no. 1 overall seed, Florida. The thought, though daunting, will not worry the team until they know for sure that they'll make it that far.
Mills attested to this, saying that "We're just going to take it one game at a time. We'll just focus all our attention on Pitt and after that we'll see what happens."
In discussing the timing of their pick, near the beginning of the program, Boyle mentioned, "To have it come up as early as it did this time is a relief…We want to find out as much as we can about Pittsburgh in the next twenty four hours."
The Buffaloes will start dancing on Thursday, Mar. 20 in Orlando, FL. The time of the game is yet to be determined.