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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- This is too much fun to do once a decade.

Colorado fans flocked here and made it loud and clear at the Pit that the Buffs belong in the NCAA Tournament with other elite programs.

After Colorado's 80-63 loss to Baylor in the third round of the 68-team madness on Saturday night, Tad Boyle promised to do this again.

Soon.

"I couldn't be more excited. I couldn't be more optimistic," the second-year CU head coach said after back-to-back 24-win seasons. "I told the guys in the locker room, 'It's not going to take us nine more years to get back here.' I don't know when it's going to happen. We were fortunate to get here this year.

But I think what this team did these last 10 days, two weeks, is something that has really galvanized our team and our fan base."

CU tied record for wins in a season set last year with Thursday's 68-64 victory over UNLV, the program's first NCAA Tournament win since Chauncey Billups and Co. took down Indiana in 1997.

The Buffs also delivered a Pac-12 Tournament title, the first basketball championship for the program since the 1968-69 Big Eight title.

"I like the projection of where this program is and where it's going," Boyle said. "Couldn't be more proud."

The Un-Bearable Heslip

On paper, the main concern for the Buffs entering Saturday's game was Baylor's sizeable advantage in the post.

But it was sophomore guard Brady Heslip who did most of the damage for the Bears, knocking down nine 3-pointers, two shy of the NCAA Tournament record.

"When they set great screens and they make passes that are on target and on time, it just makes it easy for me," Heslip said of his teammates. "Especially if I'm in rhythm and feeling good shooting. It just makes it even easier."

Baylor finished 11-for-20 (55 percent) behind the arc. Askia Booker went 3-for-3 from 3-point distance for the Buffs, but the rest of the team went 2-for-12.

In the win over UNLV, CU held the Rebels to 9-for-35 (25 percent) shooting from 3-point distance.

Pac-12 pride

Even though CU's loss to the Big 12 Bears knocked the Pac-12 completely out of the NCAA Tournament, Boyle said the program's new conference will compare favorably to the old one in the future. 

"The difference in respect factor is huge. The difference in talent and ability and quality of play is small," Boyle said. "So somewhere there is a disconnect. We have to do a better job of closing that gap between perception and reality."

The Pac-12 learned a valuable lesson this season: It needs to schedule up and step up during non-conference play.

For now, the Big 12 has bragging rights.