The sixth-seeded Colorado Buffaloes have earned a berth in today's Pac-12 Tournament Finals against the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats thanks to three straight victories in three consecutive nights. This is the first time that the Buffs have played in a conference tournament final since they were members of the Big Eight. The stakes are raised even higher today as the Buffaloes are a single victory away from earning their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2003.
After the Utah game Tad Boyle stressed to his squad that they have to pick up the intensity on the defensive end of floor and the team has more than delivered in the two wins over Oregon and Cal.
Colorado was impressive on defense to say the least. Boyle keeps preaching it and the Buffaloes keep doing it. Offensively, the Buffaloes were as efficient as they can be. They shot 50% from the field. Andre Roberson was phenomenal like he has been all tournament. This guy has so much potential and he already is an amazing player. His leaping and timing never fail to impress. Austin Dufault had big plays down the stretch as well. He struggled in the first, but found his groove and showed his superior athleticism towards the Cal interior big men adding 15 points.
In last nights win, the Buffs started fast and withstood a barrage of comeback attempts, answering the Bears multiple runs with rim-shattering dunks and persistent defense. A steal and windmill slam by Carlon Brown put the exclamation point on the win and allowed Buffaloes fans to finally take a breath of relief.
The Wildcats make the final in a slightly better situation than Colorado, with at least an outside chance of a tournament berth even with a loss. After a bye in the first round, both of their wins over UCLA and Oregon State were relatively comfortable for the team that has won 9 of it's last 11 games. In yesterday's win over Oregon State the Wildcats overcame a seven point halftime deficit and blew out the Beavers in the second half by an astounding 45-27 margin. Senior guard Kyle Fogg had a monster effort with 22 points and 8 rebounds and forward Jesse Perry, who has given the Buffaloes fits so far this season, chipped in with 16 points and 11 boards.
Thanks to the suspension of Josiah Turner, the Cats are really thin on the bench and really only had seven guys get minutes yesterday (the eighth, Kyryl Natyazhko only logged two). While the Buffaloes are coming off of an extra game and have to recover more quickly after their late finish last night, some of the advantage for the Wildcats is negated by the high number of minutes that the starters have been forced to log. If the Buffs can slow down Perry better than they were able to in the first two games and can figure out the conference leading (FG %) Wildcat defense, this game will go to the team that can attack the basket and take advantage of second chance opportunities.
No one outside of the Colorado community expected the Buffaloes to even be at this point. It's an incredible credit to Tad Boyle and his staff that they were able to turn this slumping team around. The Buffaloes, especially senior guard Carlon Brown, have stepped up their game at the best possible time, and as Tad Boyle said last night, we are seeing the heart of this team shine through.
"I told the team tonight I think we found our heart," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "It's been there all year . . . but this team has found its heart here in Los Angeles."
Tons of credit goes to the Colorado fans, specifically the 50 member contingent of the C-Unit that has represented the student body incredibly well to college basketball fans across the country, and Mike Bohn and the athletic department who had the foresight to get those kids to Los Angeles.
We've come a long way already, but this is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. A berth in the NCAA Tournament is on the line, and we've come to damn far not to reach out and take it.
Let's go Buffs.