While the Colorado Buffaloes believe they are embracing an opportunity in the NIT, the same certainly can be said of Norfolk State.
When the teams collide at the CU Events Center Monday night (7 p.m., ESPN2) for a second-round battle, it might be the Spartans who carry the bigger chip on their collective shoulders. CU coach Tad Boyle has coached at places like Jacksonville State and Northern Colorado before landing in Boulder. And every time those teams were offered an opportunity to take a shot at a power-conference program, it always added fuel to the motivational fires.
"I know what it's like being on the other side of that, and it's a lot easier getting your guys geared up for these games," Boyle said. "You don't have to say a lot because guys like the challenge. They feel like they have something to prove. Our guys have to meet that and match that. That's going to be the challenge that we have.
"For the most part, our guys this year, they haven't come out flat. They haven't come out taking people lightly. Watching Norfolk State beat Alabama at Alabama opens our guys' eyes and makes them understand, hey we've got to be ready to play."
Before the madness
It's easy to forget the Buffs faced two of the early darlings of the 2019 NCAA Tournament before they became famous.
It was two years ago when CU encountered Central Florida's 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall in the NIT first round in Orlando. Fall helped end the Buffs' season by going 5-for-7 with 10 points and eight rebounds. Earlier that season it was difficult to envision a visiting guard from Wofford named Fletcher Magee eventually becoming the NCAA's all-time leader in made 3-pointers. In a 75-60 CU win at the CU Events Center on Nov. 27, 2016, Magee, then a sophomore, struggled to a 4-for-17 mark overall, though he was 4-for-10 on 3-pointers.
The NIT bid has added to the performance bonuses Boyle has collected down the stretch.
Boyle received $30,000 when CU reached 15 regular-season wins (against Arizona State Feb. 15); $20,000 when CU hit 17 regular-season wins (against Utah March 2); $30,000 when the Buffs reached 19 regular-season wins (against USC March 9); and $75,000 for reaching the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. There also was a $30,000 bonus invoked when the Buffs reached the NIT. There is not another bonus in place unless CU wins the NIT ($75,000).
The figures of those particular bonuses do not change when the terms of Boyle's refurbished contract go into effect this summer.
One way or another, the end of the season is near for the Buffaloes. And unlike last year, Boyle and his staff already have a jump on next season's schedule.
All of the following has been previously reported, but eight of the 12 nonconference foes for 2019-20 already have been settled. The Buffs will visit Colorado State and also host San Diego in the completion of a two-for-one deal with the Toreros. CU also has a rematch scheduled against Dayton on Dec. 21 at the Chicago Legends showcase at the United Center, and will face Arizona State in the Pac-12's annual season-opening game in China in a contest that will be played as a nonconference game (the Arizona schools and Washington schools are the pairs the Buffs play just once next year in league play).
Additionally, the Buffs will play at the MGM Resorts Main Event the week of Thanksgiving, playing two games in Las Vegas against a field set to include Clemson, TCU, and Wyoming in addition to a pair of home games against foes yet to be announced.
The Buffs lost one potential option for the open scholarship still available for 2019-20 late last week when Los Angeles-area guard Ethan Anderson committed to USC. Anderson was offered by CU last year but ultimately chose UNLV, only to re-open his recruiting when Rebels coach Marvin Menzies was fired after the season...Norfolk State's most famous basketball alumnus? That would be Bob Dandridge, who averaged 18.5 points over a 13-year career spent mostly with Milwaukee during the 1970s and early 80s...While it is a stat accumulated in large part due to the extra games the Buffs have been able to play, CU nonetheless is in position to finish the year as one of the highest-scoring clubs in program history in terms of total points. CU's 2,517 points ranks fifth all-time and the Buffs have a good shot of reaching third-place (2,576) against Norfolk State. The two highest-scoring teams in CU history were the NIT Final Four teams of 2010-11 (3,025) and 1990-91 (2,717)...The Buffs are 12-0 all-time against teams from the MEAC (3-0 against Coppin State and Savannah State; 2-0 against Maryland Eastern Shore; and 1-0 against Florida A&M, Hampton, North Carolina AT&T, and Norfolk State).