Colorado guard Josh Fortune hopes his previous NCAA Tournament experience with Providence will prove beneficial when the Buffs take on UConn in the first
Colorado guard Josh Fortune hopes his previous NCAA Tournament experience with Providence will prove beneficial when the Buffs take on UConn in the first round of the Big Dance on Thursday. (David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer)

On-court experience can be invaluable in the NCAA Tournament.

The Colorado Buffaloes have it to a certain extent. Seniors Josh Scott and Xavier Talton played heavily in the NCAA Tournament during their first two seasons, with Scott grabbing 14 rebounds as a freshman in a 2013 first-round loss against Illinois.

Wesley Gordon started in the Buffs' lopsided first-round loss against Pitt a year later but, with apologies to three players who saw the floor in that disaster against the Panthers — Tre'Shaun Fletcher, Eli Stalzer, and George King — the CU player with the next best NCAA pedigree wasn't even an active member of the team last year.

That would be junior guard Josh Fortune.

A transfer from Providence, Fortune appeared in the Big Dance with the Friars as a true sophomore in 2014. After being relegated to a practice player last year for CU per NCAA transfer rules, Fortune is eager to return.

"It's a great accomplishment for our team for getting here," Fortune said. "It's a great relief to go out there and just keep playing."

Fortune was a starting guard for Providence in the tournament two years ago and was coming off an impressive performance in the Big East Conference tournament as the Friars prepared for their first-round battle against North Carolina.


In Providence's league-tournament opener, Fortune poured in a career-high 24 points to pace a win against St. John's. He went 2-for-5 from long range over the next two games with a total of 19 points as Providence claimed the tournament crown with wins against Seton Hall and Creighton.

But much like his future CU teammates in that 2014 first round, Fortune struggled against the Tar Heels. He finished with just two points on a 1-for-5 showing from the floor, including an 0-for-3 mark from long range.

Given that he soon transferred, that was the final performance Fortune was forced to dwell on for more than a year before finally getting to suit up for the Buffs.

"The main thing in these kinds of games is having extreme focus," Fortune said. "One slip-up and it ends your season. Getting focused and being prepared is the main thing.

"I wasn't really worried about my stats (two years ago). I just wanted to win. I feel I could've helped my team more by making shots. I didn't. Hopefully this time around I'll be better at that."

Though UConn won its fourth NCAA championship just two years ago, only one player (junior center Amida Brimah) on a current Huskies roster comprised largely of transfers contributed to that title run. The Buffs might actually enjoy an experience advantage on college basketball's biggest stage — a factor Talton believes shouldn't be overlooked.

"We're a veteran team and I think that because we've been there before we'll be OK," Talton said. "Any kind of experience in any kind of tournament I feel is really good for you. I think we've been battle-tested this year. We've been in some pretty tough games. And that's what any game in the NCAA Tournament is supposed to be, so I think we'll be OK."

Pat Rooney: or