This group believed Colorado's magic March ride was headed to Atlanta for the South Regional semifinals.
Instead of celebrating the program's first trip to the Sweet 16 in 43 years, No. 11 CU suffered a sour 80-63 loss to No. 3 Baylor on Saturday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Buffs (24-12) - who entered the postseason stuck on 19 wins and coming off humbling losses to Oregon and Oregon State - matched the school record for wins in a season, cut down the nets at the Pac-12 Tournament, and advanced in the Big Dance for the first time since 1997.
What went right
The Buffs played at a high level for 30 minutes and led 57-54 on a 3-pointer by Askia Booker with 10:30 remaining.
What went wrong
Brady Heslip hit nine 3-pointers, including two during a 14-0 run, to lead Baylor to the Sweet 16.
Star of the game
Heslip scored all 27 of his points from 3-point distance.
The Buffs' season is over after matching the program record for wins (24) and advancing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the Chuancey Billups era.
What started with four wins over four nights in Los Angles continued with a 68-64 victory over No. 6 UNLV in the second round on Thursday night.
For 30 minutes, it appeared that the madness was destined to continue for CU.
And then Bears, a talented and determined old Big 12 rival, went on a deflating 14-0 run in crunch time.
Brady Heslip, a sophomore from Burlington, Ontario, summoned his inner Steve Nash, knocking down nine 3-pointers to spoil the Big Dance party for CU.
The Buffs trailed 61-60 with 7:47 remaining after a basket by Dufault. Heslip made his eighth and ninth baskets behind the arc during Baylor's decisive spurt.
Pierre Jackson also connected from NBA range, and Anthony Jones' triple from the corner made the score 75-60 with 4:20 left.
"I thought we did the best we could. Obviously, it wasn't good enough," Carlon Brown said of CU's perimeter defense. "Once (Heslip) got going, it was almost impossible to stop."
The Bears (29-7) scored the first six points of the second half to seize an eight-point lead.
And then Brown delivered another classic postseason dunk on a lob pass from 6-11 center Shane Harris-Tunks to turn the tide.
After a three-point play by Askia Booker, which was also assisted by Harris-Tunks, the Buffs were within 47-44 with 15:06 left.
A 3-pointer from Booker tied the score 49-49 and had the C-Unit at full volume.
A put-back by Brown completed an 18-8 run and gave CU its first lead (53-51) since 7-5 3:13 into the game.
"The fight and determination and the grit these guys have shown over the last 10 to 12 days is inspiring to me," Boyle said. "I'm just very proud of our four seniors and the way they've handled themselves all year."
A powerful dunk by Quincy Acy, an acrobatic layup by Jackson and deep ball from Heslip gave the Bears control and they never gave it back.
Heslip finished 9-for-13 from the field and scored all 27 of his points from behind the arc (9-for-12). Jackson added 15 points and 10 assists.
Baylor, led by Acy's 10 boards, out-rebounded CU 41-28.
The Bears fans - perhaps forgetting that the leaders of their favorite university lobbied to get Baylor into the Pac-12 at CU's expense - chanted "Big 12 rejects" at the Buffs faithful when the game was no longer in doubt.
To his credit, Scott Drew was a little more classy after his team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
"I have so much respect for them in how they won that (Pac-12) tournament and were able to come in here and win a game," the Baylor head coach said. "They've done an outstanding job and have a lot of toughness. They're going to be very successful in the future."
Even though Heslip made six 3-pointers in the first half, CU only trailed 37-35 at the break.
And Brown's three-quarter court shot at the buzzer nearly went in.
Andre Roberson scored five quick points to get the Buffs off to a solid beginning. The 6-7 sophomore finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Nate Tomlinson picked up his second foul before the first media timeout, and after a video review the officials ruled the senior point guard's hack on Quincy Miller was of the flagrant variety.
Baylor surged ahead 16-10 after the call, but then CU's bench came through as Jeremy Adams scored on a strong drive and Harris-Tunks got a hook shot to rattle home in the paint.
After Heslip's third make from behind the arc and an and-one by Perry Jones III, the Bears had a 24-16 advantage.
Brown stopped the run with his first points of the game and got up from a nasty fall moments later.
Roberson hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to pull CU within 24-23.
Baylor had a 20-12 edge on the glass and outscored CU 12-2 in second-chance points before the intermission.
The Buffs stayed close by shooting 56.5 percent in the first half, but Baylor switched to a zone defense and CU made only 10-of-28 shots (35.7) after that.
"You can tell by the way we shot the ball in the second half and the way we shot free throws that our legs went," Boyle said. "I pushed these guys. I was going to ride them until the end and I did and we came up a little short. The gas tank kind of ran out offensively.
"But these last two weeks have been really special."
Eventually, the pain will subside and the 2011-12 CU team will feel nothing but pride for delivering a championship season.
Athletic director Mike Bohn plans to honor the group with Pac-12 Tournament championship rings and a banner in the Coors Events Center.
CU men's basketball schedule
Nov. 11 - Ft. Lewis 57, CU 85
Nov. 17 - Wichita State 67, CU 58
Nov. 18 - Maryland 78, CU 71
Nov. 20 - CU 81, W. Michigan 76
Nov. 23 - Air Force 73, CU 76, OT
Nov. 28 - CU 70, Georgia 68
Nov. 30 - CU 64, Colorado State 65
Dec. 7 - CU 71, Fresno State 64
Dec. 9 - Wyoming 65, CU 54
Dec. 19 - CU 70, CSU Bakersfield 64
Dec. 22 - CU 56, Texas Southern 51
Dec. 28 - CU 92, New Orleans 34
Dec. 31 - CU 73, Utah 33
Jan. 5 - CU 87, Washington 69
Jan. 7 - CU 71, Washington State 60
Jan. 12 - Cal 57, CU 50
Jan. 14 - Stanford 84, CU 64
Jan. 19 - CU 69, Arizona State 54
Jan. 21 - CU 64, Arizona 63
Jan. 26 - CU 74, USC 50
Jan. 28 - UCLA 77, CU 60
Feb. 2 - CU 83, Oregon State 57
Feb. 4 - CU 72, Oregon 71
Feb. 9 - Arizona 71, CU 57
Feb. 11 - CU 63, Arizona State 49
Feb. 18 - CU 55, Utah 48
Feb. 23 - Stanford 74, CU 50
Feb. 26 - CU 70, California 57
Mar. 1 - Oregon 90, CU 81
Mar. 3 - Oregon State 83, CU 69
March 7 - Pac-12: CU 53, No. 11 Utah 41
March 8 - Pac-12: CU 63, Oregon 62
March 9 - Pac-12: CU 70, California 59
March 10 - Pac-12: CU 53, Arizona 51
March 15 - NCAA Tournament: CU 68, UNLV 64
March 17 - NCAA Tournament: Baylor 80, CU 63