When Tad Boyle was hired as Colorado's head basketball coach six years ago, he didn't mention the NCAA Tournament during his introductory press conference.

Boyle has often said, however, that his goal at CU has been to build sustained success.

On Sunday, Boyle said he wasn't sure what the measuring stick actually is for sustained success, but said, "I think we're approaching it and we want to continue it."

Given CU's basketball history, it's safe to say Boyle's there.

Consider that in the 48 seasons from 1964-2011, CU reached the dance just three times. With Sunday's invitation to the tournament, the Buffs are now going for the fourth time in the last five years.

"Everyone in the past would talk about us being a football school and say very little about basketball," chancellor Phil DiStefano said. "Since Tad's been here, he's turned that around completely. We're still a football town, but basketball is right on its heels, there's no doubt about it."

Boyle's done such a remarkable job, in fact, that Colorado basketball fans have become a bit spoiled. As the Buffs tied the school record with 21 regular season wins this year, most were thrilled with the success, but there were still those feeling the Buffs underachieved a bit.

Prior to Boyle's arrival, nobody would have scoffed a 21-win season.


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The Buffs know they could have — maybe should have? — finished with 23, 24 or even 25 regular season wins had they finished off a few games they seemingly had in hand.

Any disappointment in CU's record this year, however, is a clear indication that Boyle and the Buffs have raised the bar in Boulder. This is no longer a program that is satisfied with 20-win seasons with getting into the NCAA Tournament.

"We're to the point now where we're not happy just to be in the tournament," Boyle said. "Now we want to advance in the tournament and we want to make some noise."

Despite last year's blip, when they went 16-18 and played in the CBI, the Buffs are now a team that is expected to be here in March. They expect it, their fans expect it, and some of their competitors expect it, too.

"We're starting to get recognized as a tournament team and teams are starting to respect us more," junior Wesley Gordon said. "I see it growing."

Sitting in his living room five years ago expecting an NCAA bid and not getting it, Boyle doesn't take these seasons for granted. Yet, even he knows CU is ready for another step forward.

There are several benchmarks for the Buffs to aim for as they look to take another step.

"In terms of where this program needs to go, it definitely needs to start winning games in the NCAA Tournament," senior Josh Scott said. "That hopefully starts this year."

DiStefano pointed to CU's 2012 Pac-12 Tournament championship and said, "We need to be in contention for the Pac-12 championship every year.

"I think Tad would agree with that and his players would agree with that."

Finishing at or near the top of the Pac-12 would reach Boyle's benchmark for growth — obtaining a higher seed for the tournament. They've been seeded 11th, 10th, eighth and now eighth in their last four NCAA trips. Boyle would like to see CU start getting in the four and five range.

"We want to be playing for seeding rather than for a berth as we move forward," Boyle said. "We were really, really close to that this year. It's a fine line."

That fine line is why Boyle embraces the expectations now on his program. But, it's also why he doesn't forget CU's history.

This is still a program that hasn't had a lot of success over the years, and Boyle doesn't want CU, or its fans, to forget how much fun the past few years have been.

"We want to advance, we want to continue to raise the bar," he said. "That's just part of it. But, I don't want to ever lose perspective."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.