Colorado caps improbable run with Pac-12 crown

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There were some big unknowns for Tad Boyle’s Colorado Buffaloes entering the 2011-12 season. First there was the conference switch, as the university moved from the Big 12 to the Pac-10, which would be renamed the Pac-12 to account for the additions of the Buffs and Utah.

And in regards to the product on the floor, Boyle had to account for the loss of 75% of the scoring from a team that went 24-11 last season. Alec Burks and Cory Higgins were definitely the stars, but Colorado also had to account for Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde departing as well. Colorado worked to make up for their departures but few expected them to win a championship this season.

Thanks to some stifling defense the Buffaloes won their fourth game in four days, hanging on to beat Arizona 53-51 in the Pac-12 title game at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Spencer Dinwiddie, who CU needed to be able to step in and contribute from the moment he stepped on campus, knocked down all four of his three-point attempts and scored a game-high 14 points.

Carlon Brown added 13 points and the multidimensional Andre Roberson, who some have argued should have been Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, was all over the stat sheet with ten points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Colorado didn’t shoot well (38%) but they made sure the Wildcats shot worse, limiting Arizona to 37% from the field and 5-for-19 from three.

Colorado ranked second in the conference in both field goal percentage and three-point percentage defense, and the Buffaloes had to rely on that end of the floor down the stretch as they faltered offensively. But they remained disciplined on the other end of the floor, forcing the Wildcats to take challenged shots for much of the evening.

“It wasn’t easy, but we talked about it before this game,” said Boyle after the game. “If you believe in destiny, you believe in the Colorado Buffaloes. What these guys have done in these last four games is what college basketball is all about. I’m just so proud of these guys.”

Arizona likely finds themselves on the outside looking in with regards to the NCAA tournament, and the question now is who the Pac-12 can get into the field along with the Buffaloes. That likely boils down to whether the selection committee values the better overall resume (California) or the team that won the regular season crown (Washington).

It’s been a strange season in the Pac-12, which finds itself hoping for multiple bids. Few people, if any, thought that one of those bids would go to Colorado.