After months of organizing and planning, the headaches of last-minute roster alterations, and a short but intense training camp, it could all be over for Team Colorado in the 2019 The Basketball Tournament as quickly as Friday night.
Or they can make a run at the $2 million winner-take-all payoff, much like three years ago when the squad of former Colorado basketball players represented CU proudly on a national stage despite ultimately suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the 2016 championship game.
With a three-day training camp now in the rearview mirror, Team Colorado once again is hoping to make a run when its part in The Basketball Tournament begins Friday night with a first round match against Purple and Black (Kansas State alums) in Wichita (7 p.m. MT, ESPN3).
“I just think it’s such a great concept, the TBT tournament,” said former Buffs guard and Team Colorado head coach Nate Tomlinson. “Unfortunately, as a player I wasn’t able to play. With the contracts that I had signed (in Australia), they wouldn’t release me to play. I was really disappointed and wanted to be a part of it (as a player). When the question was asked if I wanted to be involved, it was 100 percent yes.
“I loved competing for this university. It’s kind of a different kind of competing, but I get to represent Colorado and the old guys and the young guys, and bring everybody together. That’s pretty special to me.”
Since squandering a big lead in the 2016 title game, the TBT experience hasn’t been as successful for the former Buffs. Team Colorado reached the Sweet 16 again in 2017 but exited in the second round last year. A victory Friday for the fourth-seeded former Buffs would set up a second-round match Saturday against either the Fort Hood Wounded Warriors or a group of Marquette alums on Golden Eagles, one of TBT’s four No. 1 seeds.
Much of the core group of that 2016 runner-up team is back for one more run, though those same veterans offered the same sentiment last year before the quick exit prompted another reunion. That group includes Marcus Hall, Dominique Coleman, Richard Roby, Chris Copeland, Marcus Relphorde, Shannon Sharpe, and Calvin Williams. This year Team Colorado adds three newcomers in Dom Collier, Tory Miller-Stewart, and Xavier Johnson who have suited up for the Buffs within the past three seasons.
In the summer of 2012, Tomlinson happened to be in Austin with former Buffs teammate and current Oklahoma City guard Andre Roberson when their friends on Team Colorado nearly collected the $2 million payoff. While getting eliminated early isn’t in the game plan, Tomlinson is proud to lead the charge for a group that has helped accelerate the ongoing growth of the CU basketball alumni group that has expanded under CU head coach Tad Boyle.
“We were following them as the tournament went on, and we kind of didn’t want to fly out there to jinx anything. But when they made the final we got on a flight and flew out there,” Tomlinson said. “Cory Higgins was there. Alec (Burks) was there. Andre was there. Coach Boyle was there. That team, they started something pretty special. And we felt like they represented all of us. We felt obligated to be there and support those guys, win, lose or draw.”