UConn Huskies At A Glance
RECORD: 24-10, 11-7 in American Athletic Conference.
GAME TIME: 11:30 a.m. MDT, Thursday, Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa.
COACH: Kevin Ollie, fourth season.
LEADERS: Scoring — F Shonn Miller, Sr., 12.8 ppg; Rebounding: G/F Daniel Hamilton, So., 8.9 rpg; Assists: Hamilton, 4.8 apg.
NOTABLE: The Huskies finished sixth in the American Athletic Conference but enjoyed a stellar run through the league tournament, winning an epic four-overtime thriller against Cincinnati in their opener before defeating Memphis in the title game Sunday...Ollie played for legendary UConn coach Jim Calhoun in the 1990s before taking over for Calhoun before the 2012-13 season...The Huskies are making their 33rd NCAA Tournament appearance and have won four national titles.
Roughly 48 hours of waiting and wondering came to a merciful and exciting conclusion for the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday afternoon.
Seeing their name appear on-screen early during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, the CU men's basketball team finally was rewarded for its 22-win season with a No. 8 seed in the South Region of the annual Big Dance and a date with UConn in the first round.
CU, which has never faced a UConn squad with a rich program history, will square off against the Huskies on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. MDT at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The game will be broadcast on TNT.
The winner will get a likely date against top-seeded Kansas, the alma mater of CU head coach Tad Boyle. It is an unprecedented fourth NCAA Tournament berth for the Buffs in five seasons.
Overall, seven Pac-12 teams reached the 68-team tournament field, with regular season and conference tournament champ Oregon receiving the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
"It's a difficult tournament to get into, especially as an at-large team," Boyle said. "I look back to our first year six years ago, our first team, and how talented that team was with five top-25 wins. I'll never forget that experience and that feeling we had of being left out...and how good a team we had and we didn't get in. I'll always remember that.
"Days like this, it makes you appreciate it all the more. Going to the tournament four out of five years is pretty special. We're at the point now where we're not happy just to be in the tournament. Now we want to advance in the tournament. We want to make some noise. It's a very challenging thing to do in the eight-nine game, and we found that out two years ago in Florida when we got smacked (by Pitt). We know if we're not ready to go, we'll get rolled."
The NCAA bid continues Boyle's long-term commitment to making CU a perennial basketball power, as his first Buffs team of 2010-11 reached the NIT semifinals before a run of three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. That streak ended last year in a down 16-18 campaign, making this season's run all the more memorable.
"It means a lot because I've never experienced a situation like this," sophomore point guard Dom Collier said. "We're looking forward to playing Thursday and the matchup with UConn."
Boyle reiterated to his players Sunday his desire to make CU more than just a one-and-done regular in the Big Dance. The first Boyle-led CU club to reach the tournament occurred in 2012 on the heels of a stellar four-wins-in-four-days run to the Pac-12 Conference tournament title. The Buffs were able to continue the momentum that season, posting the program's first NCAA Tournament win since 1997 with a first-round victory against UNLV before bowing out against Baylor.
The next two seasons, however, proved more trying for the Buffs. CU suffered a first-round loss against Illinois in 2013 and in 2014 when, after struggling down the stretch without injured star Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs were routed by 29 points in an eight-nine matchup against Pittsburgh.
Now that CU has elevated its program to the level of perennial NCAA contender, the Buffs are eager to take the next step. That challenge begins Thursday.
"I value the fact that a lot of players don't get to be part of one (tournament)," star senior Josh Scott said. "It's great to our program and our team back on track. I don't really think about that (Pitt) game, but I think it probably will be a motivator for all of us that were part of that game. We're going to remember it and I think it might give us an added edge because we've made it to the tournament and not done well the last time."