Coach Tad Boyle and his team provided the University of Colorado with its most high-profile feel-good moment in athletics in more than a decade Saturday by winning the Pac-12 Conference men's basketball tournament and securing a berth in the NCAA bracket.
When was the last time this school had something of this magnitude to celebrate? Unless you count the switch in conference affiliation nearly two years ago, you have to go all the way back to 2001 and that 62-36 victory over No. 1 Nebraska on the football field.
The Buffs learned a lesson from their 1-3 slog to the finish of the regular season and recommitted themselves to playing defense and playing for each other, and it paid off in not having to rely on a tournament selection committee this time around as they did last year when they were left at the altar.
Men's Pac-12 Tournament
No. 9 Oregon State 69, No. 8 Washington State 64
No. 5 UCLA 55, No. 12 USC 40
No. 7 Stanford 85, No. 10 Arizona State 65
No. 9 Oregon St. 86, No. 1 Washington 84
No. 4 Arizona 66, No. 5 UCLA 58
No. 2 California 77, No. 7 Stanford 71
No. 4 Arizona 72, No. 9 Oregon State 61
There won't be any sad faces today as players and coaches gather to watch the selection show to see where they are seeded and whom they will face Thursday or Friday in their first dose of March Madness since 2003.
Considering they weren't going to be in the Tournament unless they won the conference title, it seems logical they will end up seeded somewhere between a No. 9 or No. 12. And given the low opinion of the Pac-12 as whole this year, it could even be a No. 13 seed.
Anyone who doesn't give them a decent chance to win a first-round game and maybe even extend this run into the Sweet 16 would be foolish. The Buffs are one of those teams you see every year in the tournament, they're peaking at the right time and playing with truckloads of confidence.
None of the other coaches in the Tournament are going to be happy to see the Buffs in their way.
There are a lot of people who deserve credit for rebuilding this program and earning a spot in the 68-team field.
None of them deserve more credit than the players.
Fate was smiling on Boyle the day Andre Roberson's name first came to his attention in the spring two years ago. Boyle was looking for an athletic big man at the time he found Roberson in a San Antonio High School somehow being overlooked by almost everyone else.
Roberson has worked tirelessly in his two years in the program and isn't far from becoming the program's next first-round draft pick. He needs another year, but there is every reason to believe he will get there.
What got in to Carlon Brown?
We were all asking the same question two weeks ago but from an opposite point of view. At the time he said he was going through the worst slump of his life on the court. He regrouped and became, at times, unguardable in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Seniors Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault seem to be playing the best basketball of their careers all of a sudden. Anyone who wanted to see the face of an athlete who cares about his craft and doesn't want his college career to end without achieving something meaningful, saw plenty of that from both young men over the past four days.
In the final moments of the championship game as Arizona desperately looked for a game-winning or game-tying shot, you hoped they wouldn't find the bottom of the net just so Dufault wouldn't have to live forever with the memory of his two missed free throws just before that.
Junior Jeremy Adams seemed to be a forgotten man at times this season and some fans questioned whether CU coaches might have missed when evaluating his talent in recruiting. He suddenly is earning significant minutes in big games and making plays.
Of course, Boyle and his assistants deserved all those hugs and high-fives they received on the floor of the Staples Center as they cut down the nets Saturday evening. What a job they've done leading those players to a conference title, an NCAA Tournament and the first back-to-back 20 win seasons in the program's history. The Buffs won 24 games last year, the most in CU history. They're one win away from matching that total this season.
I asked Boyle back in early January if he was aware the program had never achieved consecutive 20-wins seasons. He wasn't at the time.
"We're going to make that happen," Boyle said. "I don't know if it will be this year, but we're going to do that before I leave here."
Don't take that quote wrong. He's not looking to leave, but you can bet other schools are going to want to talk to him again this offseason.
There is another group of people who deserve credit for getting the ball rolling six years ago toward Saturday's accomplishment.
In the fall of 2006 when former coach Ricardo Patton announced he was stepping down at the end of the 2006-07 season, athletic director Mike Bohn and former senior associate AD Tom McGrath vowed to invest in both the men's and women's basketball programs and give them what they needed to be competitive each and every year.
Chancellor Phil DiStefano, several presidents, including Bruce Benson, and the Board of Regents, aided those efforts at every point along the way. They have supported multiple facilities improvements for the programs, including the new practice facility, a new locker room, construction of a weight room in the basketball arena, new video and ribbon boards, a new playing surface and providing exclusive areas for season-ticket holders to gather before and during games.
They also aided and encouraged growth and experiments from the student section that has been so vital to the program's success at home and this week in Los Angeles.
For years I have said that Colorado basketball could one day become a huge success if the program could manage to do one thing: Produce two consecutive postseason appearances and have enough in the arsenal to make fans believe the team could do it again the third year.
With a top-20 recruiting class waiting in the wings and players like Roberson, Adams, Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker returning from a championship team, along with one of the finest up-and-coming coaches in the nation, that day is finally here.