Last week, ESPN announced that its wildly popular program, College GameDay Covered by State Farm, will visit Boulder for the first time in the program's history on Saturday, Feb. 22 to feature the Colorado men's basketball game against No. 2 Arizona.
The Buffaloes had been contending for this primetime television spot for some time now, and were chosen over the Stanford-California game on the same night. It will be the second meeting this season between the two teams.
Sophomore forward Xavier Johnson sees this exposure as a big opportunity for the team.
"It means that our team in on the rise, that we're just a local team that's getting recognized nationally for what we've accomplished so far," Johnson said.
Junior guard Askia Booker, however, sees their upcoming primetime matchup as just another game.
"Whenever the time comes, we'll be prepared for whoever we play that day," Booker said.
For the first 14 weeks of the regular season, the Wildcats remained undefeated after taking down teams like Duke, UCLA, and Colorado. This earned them the No. 1 spot in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls in week six, where they remained for the next eight weeks--that is, until last week.
Last Saturday, the Wildcats picked up their first loss of the season in a crazy game at California. With the score tied at 58, Cal's Justin Cobbs hit a long two-point jumper with 0.09 seconds left on the clock to win the game.
After falling out of the trifecta of undefeated teams (Syracuse, Wichita State, and Arizona), Syracuse took over at No. 1 this week for the first time this year. Arizona's loss at Cal came on the cusp of losing sophomore forward Brandon Ashley from the starting lineup after a foot injury at Cal sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Since then, the Wildcats have fallen off their A game. They picked up their first loss against Cal and, five days later, they barely beat the Oregon Ducks at home, 67-65. From the beginning of Pac-12 play, the Ducks haven't been playing very well with a 3-7 conference record.
Of course, the Buffaloes have also been fighting to redefine their identity as a team after losing both Spencer Dinwiddie and Tre'Shaun Fletcher in their Jan. 12 game at Washington. In a five-game stretch starting with Washington, the team lost four games including their matchup at Arizona.
They returned home last week and took down Utah in a 79-75 overtime win, during which five players scored in double-digits. Four days later, they defeated the Washington State Huskies in a close one, 68-63, after Booker and Johnson scored 26 and 20 points respectively.
It looks like the Buffaloes may be starting to rediscover their identity as a new team without Dinwiddie and Fletcher over their recent home stretch.
With Arizona coming to town in two weeks, the Buffs will look to redeem themselves after losing 69-57 to the Wildcats in Tucson earlier this season. Additionally, after the controversial game in Tucson last year--when the Buffs lost in overtime after Sabatino Chen's buzzer-beater in regulation was overturned--there has been a growing conference rivalry between the two schools.
Now that the Buffaloes have reinvented themselves and with Brandon Ashley out until next season, the playing field will be a little more level. This year, the Buffaloes are boasting a near-perfect record at home, with only one loss against UCLA. And with their fans behind them on their home court, the Buffs may just give the Wildcats a run for their money come game day.
"If we come in here and do what we're supposed to do and beat Arizona, then it should be a good experience for us and for everybody else," Johnson said, adding that, "I'm very excited. Just knowing that they're the No. 2 team in the nation and that we're on the rise. The comeback is in us."
On the 22, the GameDay festivities are set to start at 8:00 a.m. on ESPNU and will switch over to ESPN at 9:00 a.m. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN.