Buffs try and regroup for date with Ducks

Less than 24 hours after learning they didn't receive a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament, the CU men's basketball team gathered at the Coors Events Center to begin preparation for their trip to Oregon to play the Ducks in the first round of the NIT on Wednesday. The sting from Sunday's snub hadn't yet worn off. But some of the CU players spoke about moving on and focusing on another chance to play.

When asked how it felt not playing in the NCAAs, senior Michel Morandais said, "The way I feel about not getting in the NCAA doesn't matter because we're not in it. The NIT, I guess it's better than not doing anything."

But the more he spoke, the more it became obvious that he and his teammates were full of strong feelings. In an unprecedented move in terms of the Big 12, the NCAA Selection Committee bypassed the fourth-place finisher — Colorado — and extended an invitation to Texas Tech, who finished fifth in the regular season standings. Of course, the Red Raiders beat CU in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 tourney, while playing to a 22-10 overall record, and 9-7 conference mark.

Still, Morandais said to jump past the Buffs and pick Bobby Knight's team showed a lack of respect for the CU program.

"If you put anybody else in that situation — if you put Missouri or Oklahoma or Texas Tech finishing fourth — they're in the tournament," he said.

Earlier in the day, head coach Ricardo Patton wondered if behind the scenes politicking cost CU, which finished 18-10 overall, 10-6 in the Big 12, a ticket to the Dance. Asked what criteria may have worked against CU in the selection process, Patton said, "Probably, Bobby Knight will sell more tickets. His athletic director (Gerald Myers)was on the selection committee, so I'm sure he wasn't in there fighting for Colorado. I guess no one else from the league office was fighting for Colorado and maybe no one from our office was fighting for Colorado. Thus, we were left out.

"When you look at that choice to jump over the fourth best team in the league for the fifth, there certainly is room to wonder why that was done."

Later, Patton said he and his coaching staff would use Monday's practice to move past the snub. And he admitted that his team squandered an opportunity in losing to TTU in Dallas.

"Certainly we'll take some responsibility," Patton said. "We had opportunities where we should have played better. When we got back after the Texas Tech loss in the tournament, we certainly saw on film where we played very selfish basketball and we didn't play good defense. We have to take some responsibility for leaving our plight in someone else's hands."

And the coaching staff will have its work cut out for it in trying to refocus the CU players. Junior center David Harrison declined to talk to the press Monday, and Morandais seemed conflicted about how seriously to take Wednesday's game at Oregon.

When asked if it will be tough for CU to get up for the matchup, Morandais said, "There's two ways to handle it. If we don't (get up for the game), the NCAA will be right for not picking us, but if we do then that's like we accept that our season was not good enough. Whichever way we do it there could be a bad connotation to it."

Senior Blair Wilson had a different perspective. While he characterized the NCAA snub as "devastating," he said trying to prove something to the committee would not come into consideration.

"We're not going to use that as motivation," Wilson said. "We're a good team and we're going to go out and play our games just like we did in the regular season. Unfortunately it will be on a lesser stage and we won't be playing for as much, but winning the NIT and playing in New York (where the NIT finals are held) would be a pretty exciting time for us."


Contrary to rumors, the CU athletic department wanted to host a first round game in the NIT. According to associate athletic director John Meadows, CU put in bids to host each of the first three rounds. Oregon's bid was accepted for the first round matchup between the two schools, but CU could host later rounds should the team advance that far.

As Patton explained, "The NIT is more concerned with those teams hosting that will fill the stands. We expect there to be a packed house at Oregon."

Oregon's McArthur Court holds 9,087 and the Ducks have nearly averaged a sellout crowd at their 12 home games this season, pulling in 9,018 fans an outing. Colorado averaged 5,593 in attendance this year, down from 6,858 last season, on its home court.

If CU wins Wednesday, there's a chance that the Buffs' bid to host a second-round game would be accepted, and CU would play at the Coors Events Center. The Colorado-Oregon winner will play one of four teams — either Tennessee, George Mason, Belmont or Austin Peay.

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