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Season to continue as CU Buffs set to host Dayton in NIT first round

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle addresses his players and fans after a win over USC on March 9.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle addresses his players and fans after a win over USC on March 9.

It’s official. The season indeed will continue for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

The Buffaloes on Sunday received an invitation to the NIT, earning a No. 4 seed and a first-round date Tuesday night against Dayton (9 p.m., ESPN2). It is the 11th NIT bid in program history and the third in nine seasons under head coach Tad Boyle.

The Buffs also went to the NIT at the end of Boyle’s first season in 2011, putting together a run to the Final Four that proved to be a springboard to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances and four in five seasons the following years. CU also ended a disappointing 2016-17 season with a first-round NIT loss at Central Florida.

It will be the 26th postseason appearance all-time for the CU program and the eighth in Boyle’s nine years, though that run includes a 2015 appearance in the third-tier CBI tournament that Boyle has said the past two years he would not do again.

For this year’s young Buffs, which ended the season on a 10-3 run, the opportunity to keep competing in a tournament setting could provide a similar springboard as the 2011 team for a club that expects to return in its entirety.

The winner will play the winner between eighth-seeded Norfolk State and Alabama, one of the field’s four No. 1 seeds alongside UNC-Greensboro, Indiana, and TCU.

“With a bunch of young guys, it gives us postseason experience,” Boyle said. “People have no idea how good the NIT is, or how it is to even make it in the NIT. Going into (the Washington game) we were 68 in NET, whatever that means. The RPI, nobody even talks about that anymore. But all these statistical analysis, the bottom line is we’re a team that’s a heck of a lot better today than we were certainly in November in December, or even late January when we lost to Oregon State at home.

“This team is one that would represent well in postseason. I want our players to get postseason experience, and the NIT is a great springboard for young teams to gain valuable experience and hopefully take it forward with us into next year.”

Dayton finished 21-11 overall and 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, finishing third in the regular season before losing in the league quarterfinals against St. Louis. CU and Dayton have met three times, most recently in the opening game of the Charleston Classic early in the 2012-13 season.

CU point guard McKinley Wright originally was a Dayton signee two years ago, but when former Flyers coach Archie Miller took the job at Indiana, Wright re-opened his recruiting and Boyle lured him to Boulder. The Buffs and Dayton already are scheduled to play Dec. 21 of next season in the Chicago Legends Classic at the United Center.

CU is the only Pac-12 team to land a berth in the 32-team NIT field. Earlier on Sunday, three Pac-12 teams landed berths in the 68-team NCAA Tournament, led by regular-season champ Washington landing a No. 9 seed and a first-round date in Columbus, Ohio against eighth-seeded Utah State.

Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon earned a No. 12 seed and will play fifth-seeded Wisconsin in San Jose. For the second straight year, Arizona State will play in the tournament-opening First Four, this time against St. John’s.

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