We're talking about big time college basketball - in a place where football rules the roost, college-wise, 12 months are year. We're talking about Colorado AND Colorado State in the "Big Dance," national TV. Dicky V. We need a T.O. to let this soak in, baby.
Sure, our local Women's hoops programs have been great - the Colorado women are going back to their ‘Dance' again, while the Colorado State women are hosting a first round NIT game. (Those two, along with Denver University's women were all in the NCAA Tourney last season.) But does anyone know where they're making Xerox copies of the Women's NCAA bracket for the company office pool?
Fair or not, the hoops ‘madness' this time of year surrounds the Men's NCAA Tournament. The fact the Colorado and Colorado State are both in the tourney this year is nothing short of remarkable, given the state of the men's game in this state for the past several seasons.
They took different paths - the Buffs with a slow, bumpy march that included home wins over four nationally ranked conference opponents, including Big 12 powers Kansas (a #2 seed in the tourney) and Texas (a top seed. The Rams used a spectacular late season run, which included a road win over nationally ranked Utah and an improbable Mountain West Conference Tournament title win over UNLV on the Rebels home floor. That helped erase the sting of a long conference regular season losing streak.
Okay, so neither team will win the national title. But any win by either at this point is a bonus. The important thing here is that they both got there - and they both now have something very real to build on for the future.
Why can't Colorado be a great college basketball state? We have good, solid high school programs, and the populous enjoys NBA play (when the Nuggets are halfway decent.) There are plenty of Division I prospects that have come out of Colorado high schools, only to leave the state and star for other programs. If CSU's Layer and Buffs head man Ricardo Patton could find a way to keep the Michael Ruffin's and the Pat Garrity's at home - to add to the Brian Greene's and the Blair Wilson's - and this could be a annual thing, this "MMW" (Madness Minus the Wallet).
We could jump start all this with a December pre-season tournament like we had in the late 1980's in Denver, which once featured CU, CSU, North Carolina and U Mass. Just tease us with a little taste of the kind of tourney action we could expect in March (while filling up the Pepsi Center for two or three evenings.) Just a thought.
We've got possibilities here. Don't forget, despite a sub-par season, the Denver University Men pulled off a big first round upset in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, and were only a couple more improbable wins from making it three local teams in ‘the Dance.' CSU proved that such miracles can and do happen.
The even greater thing will be when these are no longer upsets, when the locals are expected to be part of the Big Dance every season. When we are talking about Duke having to face Colorado State, instead of vice versa.