Walking into Seattle University's Connolly Center last March, it just didn't feel right for the Colorado men's basketball team to be there.

This was a Buffaloes team that had been to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and yet here they were playing in what felt like a high school gym in the third-tier College Basketball Invitational.

It didn't feel right for CU, and it certainly didn't feel right when the Buffs walked out of there with a 72-65 loss.

Nearly a year later, the Buffs are preparing for a return to the NCAA Tournament, and they believe that trip to the CBI made a lasting impact on this year's team.

"Absolutely it did," head coach Tad Boyle said. "There's no question. All in all, it was a great experience. I don't know if I'll ever do it again — and hopefully not — but I just felt it was the right thing for that team at that time to play in that tournament."

When accepting the invite to the CBI, Boyle said he wanted to get a jump-start on this season. With then-senior Askia Booker bowing out, it gave the rest of the Buffs — most of whom returned this year — a chance to play a little more together.

It wasn't so much the two extra games that helped the Buffs, though. Being humbled to even be in the CBI was enough.


"I don't know if that tournament did (help)," senior Josh Scott said. "I think last season did help this team, as messed up as it sounds. I think when you go through so much adversity like we did last year, it teaches you from all the things you did wrong how to do stuff right.

"In terms of the CBI, it showed us what it felt like when you don't win games. Kind of miserable. So we didn't want to experience that this time around."

CU was the only major conference team to play in the CBI last year, and on paper probably had the most talent in the field.

The 2014-15 Buffs were a mess, though. They knew it early in the year and it never really got better.

"It was just one of those years where we realized that we needed to get better," Scott said.

Truth is, last year's Buffs probably needed the season to end sooner rather than later, because playing Gardner-Webb, Seattle or anybody else in the CBI field,wasn't going to make them better in the moment.

The CBI, however, provided the Buffs with valuable lessons that have carried into this year.

It taught that Buffs that they can't just show up, regardless of the size of the venue, and expect to win.

"To go to a place like the CBI and not win it, I think is a testament to our players that there are good teams out there," Boyle aid. "That experience was really good for us."

It also taught the Buffs to appreciate the effort needed to get to the NCAA Tournament.

"I think guys, based off our history, thought we were just going to be given stuff," junior Wesley Gordon said. "That really opened our eyes that we needed to work hard."

Perhaps the best eye opener, though, was losing that game to Seattle.

CU probably had the talent to win the CBI, but would winning that tournament have taught the Buffs the lessons they needed? Maybe not. Losing to Seattle may have been the best way to wrap up that disappointing season.

Gordon thought about it for a few seconds and then said, "Yeah, I think it was good losing. It humbled us a little bit, but it also showed that anybody can still beat us. No matter how we play or how we feel about playing, we still have to go out and perform.

"It put us at the bottom, where we needed to be."

It wasn't fun for the Buffs to go through the 2014-15 season, and it certainly wasn't fun to walk away from Connolly Center with their tails between their legs.

In retrospect, however, playing in the CBI may have been exactly what the Colorado program needed. It made the Buffs humble, it made them hungry and, a year later, it has helped to make them better.

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