Monday, March 12, 2012

A Determined Herd

Apologies to those of you who pop by this space on a regular basis. Today's subject matter may very well be of no interest to any of you. Feel free to read no further. See you tomorrow? As if I would know.

Saturday evening in Los Angeles something extraordinary happened. It had been more than two decades since the mens' basketball team at the University of Colorado had played for a conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. On that March afternoon in 1990 the Buffs came up short, losing to the Oklahoma Sooners 92-80 in the Big Eight Conference Championship Game. In Los Angeles on Saturday evening, this year's team made amends. The Buffs defeated Arizona 53-51 to capture the automatic bid from the Pac-12 Conference.

This season was Colorado's first in the Pac-12. Although last year, Coach Boyle's crew set a school record for victories with 24, in this season's pre-season coaches' poll the Buffs were picked to finish 11th. Better than 12th I suppose. Not by much. They finished sixth.

By virtue of their sixth place finish the Buffs did not earn one of the Pac-12's four first-round byes. In order to earn their ticket to March Madness the Buffs had to do something that has not been done in school history in at least the past eighty years - if ever, which was win four games in four days. That is precisely what they did. They vanquished Utah on Wednesday night and then came back on Thursday night to upset the Cal Bears. They continued their assault on Nature's creatures on Friday night when they defeated the Ducks of Oregon. Saturday when they captured the conference title in their very first attempt the road kill du jour were the Wildcats of Arizona.

When I attended CU a quarter-century ago the hoops team was historically bad. It is almost mind-boggling to me how little time it took - once the school did something it tried very hard not to do for a long, long time, which was hire a top-notch coach for that coach to turn the Buffs into a winning team. Coach Tad Boyle made the short trek south on I-25 after the 2010 season from Greeley (where he coached the University of Northern Colorado) to Boulder. In the two seasons he has been on the CU bench the Buffs have won 47 games. It is the best two-year period in school history.

Last season the Buffs were among the teams for whom an invitation to the Big Dance never arrived. Coach Boyle thought his kids had earned one and in anticipation of its arrival he had his squad gathered at his home to watch the NCAA field get filled. When CU's name was never called, it put a bit of a damper on the Sunday afternoon party. This past weekend as his team was preparing to play in the conference finals against Arizona, Coach Boyle sent a text message to the half-dozen players who graduated (or in the case of Alec Burks left school for the NBA) off of his 2010-11 team to tell him that this year's team intended to win the tournament title for them.

I know not how long the Buffs shall be among the teams actually competing for this year's National Championship. They are the #11 seed in the South Region and will play #6 seed UNLV on Thursday night in New Mexico. I simply intend to enjoy the ride for however long it lasts be it forty minutes, six games or something in between.

And I hope like Hell that Coach Boyle's stay in Boulder lasts for a number of seasons beyond this one. A school that wandered about aimlessly looking far and wide for a leader for its basketball program found that man - finally - less than one hour from its front doorstep. Now that he is there how about we try to get him to stick around for a while?

Shoulder to Shoulder Baby! Shoulder to Shoulder!


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