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Buffs Know NCAA Matchup With Hoyas Offers Opportunity For National Respect

Mar 19, 2021

COLORADO GAME NOTES

INDIANAPOLIS — Earlier this week, Colorado coach Tad Boyle noted there are usually two kinds of teams in the NCAA Tournament:

The first, Boyle said, are "those that are just happy to be here. They feel like they've climbed the mountaintop and have arrived."

The second, according to Boyle, are the teams "hungry to advance and not satisfied with just being here."

Boyle's fifth-seeded Buffaloes have a chance to prove they are one of the latter Saturday when they meet 13-12 Georgetown in a 10:15 a.m. game at Hinkle Fieldhouse (CBS).

Saturday's game will mark the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in Boyle's 11 years in Boulder. But thanks to last year's Covid cancelation, the program hasn't been on the tourney dance card since 2016. Also, CU hasn't advanced past the opener since 2012.

The Hoyas, meanwhile, have been one of college basketball's storied programs, boasting 30 NCAA berths, five Final Four appearances and one national title.

But while the Hoyas haven't been on the big stage since 2015, they still carry the mantle of tradition. With former Georgetown and NBA great Patrick Ewing now coaching the Hoyas, who won four straight Big East tourney games to earn their NCAA berth, the storyline has become a national media favorite.

For the Buffaloes, Saturday offers a perfect opportunity to insert themselves into that narrative and earn a measure of respect that goes beyond the hoops junkies who know what Boyle has accomplished in Boulder.

"I think people that know college basketball and follow it closely respect us and understand what's gone on at Colorado recently," said Boyle, who owns eight of Colorado's 12 seasons with at least 20 wins and has all four of the program's top-win seasons. "But really the only way to get that national respect is to beat a team like Georgetown, who's from a really big media center and has great tradition."

But anyone who watched Friday's NCAA games,when upsets by double-digit seeds crashed brackets from coast to coast, knows the Buffs' task against 12th-seed Georgetown won't be easy. The Hoyas have momentum and the kind of game that is built for tournament play — a terrific backcourt guard tandem in Dante Harris and Jahvon Blair and an outstanding big man in Qudus Wahab.

"The more I watch Georgetown the better they get," Boyle said. "They're obviously playing very well right now. I think we're prepared. They've got some really good guards that can shoot the ball and score the ball. We've got our challenges and we know what they are. Now we have to go meet them."

The Buffs will take their own measure of confidence into the game. Standout point guard McKinley Wright IV might be playing his best overall basketball of his career, fellow guard Eli Parquet has turned into a defensive gem and forward Jeriah Horne offers a scoring punch from anywhere on the floor as well as rebounding prowess. CU also has a solid inside duo of Evan Battey and Dallas Walton, and wing D'Shawn Schwartz can play multiple positions and has become a defensive stalwart as well.

There's a reason, Boyle noted, that the Buffs were awarded a No. 5 seed.

The game will be the first NCAA tourney appearance for every CU player — but they don't want to fall into the recent one-and-done group.

 Everyone in the Colorado locker room knows that merely earning an NCAA Tournament berth is no longer enough. The tournament has become a program expectation, not a goal.

Now they have the opportunity to take the program to the next level.

"What we've tried to do at Colorado since we've arrived is to build a consistent, sustainable program that can earn national respect," Boyle said. "We're still in the process of doing that and Saturday is a big step in that process."

BROADCAST: Saturday's game will be televised by CBS with Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas and Ashley Ross. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu