After a 76-64 victory over LMU and a 7-0 start to the college basketball season, it’s easy to be excited about the Colorado Buffaloes chances of making the NCAA Championships this year.  The Buffs brought back practically the entire roster from 2018-19, including two First-Team All-Pac 12 selections in McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey, as well as D’Shawn Schwartz, Lucas Siewert, Evan Battey, and Shane Gatling.

But let me tell you a little story.  The year was 2011, and the family gathered around the television to watch Selection Saturday and the 64 teams that would be invited to the Big Dance.  The Colorado Buffaloes had just come off a great season in which they finished 24-14, including wins over fifth-ranked Texas and ninth-ranked Missouri.  The Buffs leading scorer was Alec Burks, the senior leader was Cory Higgins, and the top freshman was Andre Roberson.  All three players would go on to the NBA.

After making it to the championship game of the Big 12 tournament, Colorado would fall to the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks by seven points, in Lawrence.  As the names of teams were called, I assumed the Buffs would maybe be a nine-seed, eleven-seed at worst.  CBS provided a live shot of the Colorado coaches and players waiting for their name to be called.  But it never came.

Here are ten things that need to happen for the Buffs to go dancing this March.

  • KEEP IT CLOSE AGAINST KANSAS – No one expects the Buffs to go into Lawrence on Saturday and beat the number two team in the country, but they need to earn a little respect from the selection committee that they can play with anyone. While playing Kansas, at their house, will undoubtedly help Colorado’s strength of schedule, a bad loss will simply put them in the same category of Monmouth, Chaminade, and the other cupcakes on the Jayhawks schedule.
  • FINISH NO WORSE THAN FOURTH IN THE PAC 12 – And preferably no worse than third. The Buffs went 10-8 in the Pac 12 last season and finished tied for fourth in a struggling conference.  Oregon, Washington, and Arizona are currently ranked and should be decent.  But there won’t be five teams making the tournament from the Pac 12.  This isn’t the Big Ten.
  • STAY RANKED IN THE TOP 25 – The Buffs are undefeated, won their early season tourney with a win over Clemson, and yet they are only ranked number twenty. A top-25 end of season ranking will help the committee differentiate between a better team in the Pac 12, a powerhouse in the Sun Belt Conference, and the eighth best team in the ACC.
  • WIN 24 GAMES – With teams like Sacramento State and Wyoming on their schedule, Tad Boyle’s crew will need to win 24 games as well as 12 in the conference in order to make the NCAA Tournament without winning an automatic bid. That’s 17 more and counting.
  • QUALITY WINS – Every year, Joe Lunardi talks about the quality wins that teams on the bubble have on their resume. That means that unless Clemson goes on to win the ACC, the Buffs will need at least one or two wins over Oregon, Washington, Arizona, or possibly Dayton.
  • AVOID BAD LOSSES – Another subject the committee loves to discuss. It’s okay to slip up on the road against an ASU or lose a buzzer-beater to Iona, but you can’t have a loss to Oregon State or Prairie View A&M on the resume.
  • THE PAC 12 NEEDS TO STEP UP – Beating a team like Arizona State means nothing if the Sun Devils end up losing 20 games and are ranked 193rd in the country. The Buffs would like nothing more than ASU, USC, UCLA and others to go out and beat every top-ranked team out there, after they lose to us.
  • MCKINLEY WRIGHT IV NEEDS A BREAKOUT GAME – Tad Boyle doesn’t need to see Wright IV go for 30 points and 10 assists, especially in his team-oriented style of play, but the rest of the country and possibly the committee do. The old adage that it’s not the name on the back of the uniform that matters, it’s the name on the front…not sure the committee or the dollars agree with that statement.
  • IONA, DAYTON, KANSAS, CLEMSON, AND NORTHERN IOWA NEED TO HAVE GOOD SEASONS – Not just for Colorado’s strength of schedule rating. But if they don’t, the committee will look at our out-of-conference schedule and simply see Sacramento State.
  • SOME TOURNAMENT LUCK – Every year a team like Saint Mary’s (22-11) wins a conference tournament and an automatic ticket to the dance that takes away from others more deserving. It would be a shame if the committee had to choose between two bubble teams like Colorado and Michigan, all because of an upset in the Horizon League.


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Alan Tapley is an educator, author, and blogger who has lived just outside of Boulder for the last twenty years.  His published work includes two novels, two children’s books, a series of cartoons in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and multiple sports related articles. His love for family and the state of Colorado is only matched by one thing, his passion for sports.  The first baseball game he ever attended was at Wrigley Field, before there were lights.  At the final Bronco game at the old Mile High, he allegedly cut out a piece of his seat in the South stands.  But regardless of being here for the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup, the Rockies only World Series appearance, and all the Broncos’ Super Bowl Victories, his wife never fails to remind him that he wasn’t at the University of Colorado in 1990, like she was.  The year the Buffs football team won the National Championship.