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CU Buffs men’s basketball NCAA Tournament history

Buffs set for fifth tourney appearance in Tad Boyle era

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle leads the 23rd-ranked Buffaloes into the Pac-12 semifinals Friday night against No. 24 USC.
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle leads the 23rd-ranked Buffaloes into the Pac-12 semifinals Friday night against No. 24 USC.

A look at the NCAA Tournament history for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

1940: In another era, the Buffaloes won the then-more prestigious NIT with wins against DePaul and Duquesne before suffering losses against USC and Rice in the NCAA Tournament. CU finished 17-4 that season and won a third straight Mountain States Conference title behind two-time All-American Jack Harvey.

1942: Again, another era, but this Buffs team reached the Final Four. CU won its fourth Mountain States Conference and posted a two-point NCAA tourney win against Kansas in Kansas City before losing to Stanford in the Western Regional final.

1946: A young Buffs team returned to the NCAA Tournament after posting a 9-3 mark in the Mountain States Conference, but postseason glory eluded CU with a 50-44 loss against Cal in the opening round. In the third and final tourney appearance for coach Forrest B. Cox, the Buffs rebounded to finish the season with a consolation-round win against Baylor.

1954: Talk about a different era: The Burdette Haldorson-led Buffs received an at-large bid when Colorado’s name was drawn out of a hat. CU overcame an 0-7 start to the season to reach the tourney field, but the late-season momentum didn’t translate to the postseason with a first-round loss against Bradley followed by a consolation-round loss against Rice.

1955: The experience of the previous season paid off, as the Buffs won their first outright conference crown in the Big Seven and posted a then-team record 19 wins. CU reached the Final Four with tournament wins against Tulsa and Bradley. The title dreams ended with a national semifinal loss against the Bill Russell-led eventual champs from San Francisco, though the Buffs defeated Iowa in the consolation game.

1962: Coach Sox Walseth guided the Buffs to wins in 14 of the final 15 regular season games. Led by the trio of Ken Charlton, Wilky Gilmore, and Jim Davis, the Buffs matched the team record of 19 wins and defeated Texas Tech in the first round. Like 1955, though, the Buffs were eliminated by the eventual national champs, this time with Cincinnati drubbing CU 73-46.

1963: CU posted an undefeated home record (10-0) and reached No. 10 in the national AP poll. However, it was a familiar and frustrating finish for the Buffs, who topped Oklahoma City in the NCAA first round before once again losing to Cincinnati.

1969: Cliff Meely’s historic debut season in Boulder featured the first 20-win season in program history (21-7). The Buffs won the Big Eight title — still the most recent regular season league title for the CU program — while Meely and Walseth swept the conference’s player and coach of the year honors. The magic ended against a rival, though, as a Buffs team that shot .474 during the regular season struggled to a season-low .300 mark (21-for-70) in an NCAA first-round loss against Colorado State. CU bounced back to top Texas A&M in a consolation game. Meely’s 32 points in that loss to the Rams remains a CU NCAA Tournament record.

1997: In this year’s all-Indiana NCAA Tournament, it might have been fitting had the Buffs been assigned to Assembly Hall at Indiana University instead of Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. It was 24 years ago last week that Chauncey Billups put together one of the most memorable performances in program history, posting 24 points in a first-round win against legendary Hoosiers coach Bobby Knight. The run ended two days later against North Carolina as the Buffs went 3-for-18 on 3-pointers.

2003: Coach Ricardo Patton’s second and final NCAA Tournament team with the Buffs posted the third 20- win season (20-12) in program history, the second under Patton. CU battled against Michigan State in the first round but couldn’t overcome 13 turnovers and a 7-for-17 effort at the free throw line. The Spartans, meanwhile, went 7-for-13 from 3-point range.

2012: After getting snubbed a year earlier, the Buffs of the Tad Boyle era make their tournament debut. Five days after completing a run of four wins in four days to claim the Pac-12 tournament title, CU posted its first NCAA tourney win in 15 years against UNLV behind 16 points and 13 rebounds from Andre Roberson. Baylor eliminated the Buffs in the second round after going 11-for-20 on 3-pointers.

2013: CU’s first back-to-back tourney appearances since 1962-63 ends with an ugly 57-49 first-round loss against Illinois in which the Buffs shot a season-low .333 from the field. The Buffs’ defense was strong, limiting the Illini to a .308 mark, but 15 CU turnovers led to 21 points for Illinois.

2014: An unprecedented consecutive NCAA Tournament team at CU was unable to live up to expectations after guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a torn ACL in January. CU was routed 77-48 by Pitt in the first round, once again committing far too many turnovers (17) while struggling from 3-point range (4-for-16).

2016: After a one-year tournament hiatus, CU’s third consecutive first-round loss was the most frustrating of the bunch. The eighth-seeded Buffs led UConn by nine points at halftime but were outscored 47-31 after the break. The Buffs committed four turnovers in the first nine minutes of the second half and never regained the momentum.