LOS ANGELES -- Tad Boyle will never forget them.

And Colorado's head coach wanted everyone listening to his postgame remarks on Saturday night in the bowels of the Staples Center to know their names.

"Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, Marcus Relphorde," Boyle began.

His voice started to crack as he continued on: "Trent Beckley, Javon Coney and Alec Burks."

One year ago, Boyle hosted an NCAA Tournament selection show party at his home. The event was attended by boosters, athletic department leaders and several television cameramen there to capture the celebration.

The Buffs had finished fifth in the Big 12, made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament and racked up enough quality wins to feel like an at-large berth was a lock.

"Colorado" never appeared on the screen. The Buffs were left out of the March madness, which still angers their head coach.

Boyle sat in stunned silence for a minute before gathering his players -- including the six who were playing their final season of college basketball -- in his basement to sell them on making the most of the NIT experience.

Men's Pac-12 Tournament

Wednesday's games

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. 6 CU 53, No. 11 Utah 41

Thursday's games

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. 6 CU 63, No. 3 Oregon 62

Friday's games

No. 4 Arizona 72, No. 9 Oregon State 61

No. 6 CU 70, No. 2 California 59

Saturday's game

No. 6 CU 53, No. 4 Arizona 51

On the eve of the Saturday's Pac-12 Tournament final, Boyle texted the "snubbed" members of the 24-win 2010-11 squad to let them know that CU was going to win a championship for them.

The Buffs delivered the Hollywood ending with a 53-51 victory over Arizona, the team's fourth win in as many nights, which came with a guaranteed invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

"Other than leaving Northern Colorado and telling my team I was coming to CU, that was my next hardest day in my life as a basketball coach," Boyle said as the memories flooded his eyes. "Because I knew what that team deserved. We got shut out. But this team wasn't going to be denied."

The Buffs (23-11) opened the tournament with a win over Utah on Wednesday night before dismissing the No. 2 seed (Cal), the No. 3 seed (Oregon) and the No. 4 seed (Arizona) from the Staples Center.

The widest smiles in the CU locker room belonged to Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault and Trey Eckloff. The four-year seniors suffered through a 22-loss season as freshmen and a coaching change as sophomores before the run to Madison Square Garden last March.


What went right

Carlon Brown locked up Pac-12 Tournament MVP honors with 13 points and what turned out to be the game-winning slam dunk.

What went wrong

The Buffs tried to squander a 12-point lead down the stretch with miscues and missed free throws, which allowed Kyle Fogg to attempt what would have been a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Star of the game

Brown was clutch again, but freshmen guard Spencer Dinwiddie set the tone early and finished with 14 points and went 4-for-4 from behind the arc.

What's next?

Colorado will be included in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years when the 68-team bracket is released Sunday.

Now they will get to enjoy the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003 after helping deliver CU's first conference championship hardware since the 1968-69 Big Eight title.

"It means everything in the world to me," Tomlinson said. "We had to do it for the seniors this year and the seniors last year that didn't get a chance to go and got robbed.

"They can't take it away from us now."

Boyle will watch the selection show today with this year's seniors on the same couch Higgins, Knutson, Relphorde, Beckley, Coney and Burks sunk into last year when their college hoops dreams were denied.

This time the coach knows the committee isn't allowed to forget about the Buffs.

"It's hard to explain in words what it means," Dufault said. "There have been so many ups and downs for the last four years. But I've treasured every moment at CU."