During the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday night, it was noted how the Colorado Buffaloes will need to do their homework on their opponent for the first tourney appearance in the program's four-year history.
During finals week, that will be easy enough. Especially since the Buffs already picked up a big win against the opponent in question a few months ago.
The gradual ascension that has occurred since the Buffs first hit the field in 2014 took another significant step Sunday night as CU finally learned its destination for its first appearance in the national tournament. The Buffs will travel to Penn to take on UMass on Friday, with the winner playing either the host Quakers or Navy in the second round on Sunday.
The Buffs posted an 11-7 win at UMass in the second game of the season on Feb. 17. The start time for Friday's first-round battle likely will be determined on Monday.
"To finally make the NCAA Tournament, our girls were really excited for tonight and to see where we'd be going and who we'd be playing," CU coach Ann Elliott said. "It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, and I think it's just an exciting time for us to enjoy it and see what's in store for us."
While the Buffs, who have been ranked among the top 10 of all three national polls for the bulk of the season, expected an invitation to the 26-team field, they remained on the bubble for a possible early-round home date that ultimately didn't come to fruition. The top eight seeds received home dates, with the top six of those teams receiving first-round byes.
Maryland earned the top overall seed, and the Buffs can also claim a road victory earlier this year against the No. 4 seed, Penn State. USC, which defeated the Buffs in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship match a week ago and handed CU two of its three losses this year, also didn't get a home date and instead will travel to third-seeded Florida for a first-round date against Jacksonville.
Penn, CU's potential second-round foe, received the seventh seed.
"I don't think there were too many surprises from what we thought going in," Elliott said. "The teams this weekend pretty much did what they needed to do to secure their spots in the tournament. You don't really know what's going to happen until you see the bracket come out, but I don't think there were too many surprises."
CU's victory against UMass in February was part of an impressive opening burst by the Buffs that set the tone for the season, with CU posting the program's first victories against ranked foes in the first two games against Northwestern and UMass on the road. While the matchup brings a level of familiarity to the first-round showdown, the Buffs are well aware whatever occurred in late winter has little bearing on their potential success in the late spring.
"The advantage is that we've at least watched them before, and by not playing this weekend we got a chance to watch all the different conferences still playing games, knowing that we could go anywhere to play anyone," Elliott said. "But what happens in February doesn't really make a difference in what happens in May. We know it's a clean slate for everyone."