At the start of the season, there was a lot of hype surrounding the Colorado program. Tad Boyle, in his fourth year in Boulder, and his team certainly lived up to the excitement; they started out their year 10-1 in non-conference play and built up their résumé by defeating No. 6 Kansas and No. 10 Oregon.
When conference play started, the Buffs were in the best position possible. They had been appearing in the rankings for several weeks and climbed as high as No. 15 in the Associated Press poll. Then disaster struck.
During their road trip to Washington at the beginning of January, Colorado's premier point guard Spencer Dinwiddie—one of the best in the country—went down with a season-ending ACL injury in his left knee. The team went through a rough stretch after that, losing four of their next five games.
After that, they started to find their rhythm again. They finished the regular season 8-6 and headed into the postseason with high hopes for the Pac-12 tournament. At that point, they knew they had to make a statement in their conference tournament to solidify a spot for themselves in the coveted Big Dance.
That was exactly what the Buffaloes did. After defeating USC and California in a similar fashion in the first two rounds, they had made a case for their bid in this year's NCAA tournament. Although they fell to Arizona in the semifinals, the NCAA committee granted the Buffs the one thing they had been working towards all season: a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance.
The team headed to Orlando, Florida to face No. 9 seeded Pittsburgh on Thursday for the second round of the tournament. But everything they had been working towards all season fell apart in mere minutes.
In the first five minutes of the game, the Buffs weren't able to get anything going on offense or defense. The Panthers claimed the first 13 points of the half and didn't let the Buffs get on the board until the 14:20 mark when Wesley Gordon hit a three-point jumper.
The Buffs couldn't even get to double digits until the final six minutes of the half, when the score read 33-10. By the end of the half, they were down 46-18.
The second half wasn't much better. The Buffs never managed to gain the momentum and finally fell 77-48 in their worst loss of the season.
The bottom line: Pitt's shots were falling and Colorado's were not. The Panthers finished the game shooting 50.8% whereas the Buffs only made 35.7% of their shots. They lacked the leadership of junior guard Askia Booker, who finished the night with just six points.
Throughout the season, when Booker played well, the team played well. When he didn't, the team didn't. And that was exactly what happened on Thursday. He committed four of Colorado's 17 turnovers, which was more than Pitt's total turnovers (three).
The only Buffs who were able to score in double digits were Xavier Johnson (11) and Josh Scott (14), but even they committed their fair share of turnovers. Pitt was led by Talib Zanna (18), Cameron Wright (11), and Lamar Patterson (10).
Pitt will advance to the round of 32 on Saturday to take on the No. 1 overall seed Florida Gators.