After living in Colorado for seven months, I’ve learned there is only one basketball team in this state – the Nuggets.
This college basketball season, that has changed.
Three division one programs have brought basketball excitement back to the state, and if all the chips fall into place, all three could see the NCAA tournament in March.
Let’s start with Northern Colorado, which may be the most remarkable story. The Bears haven’t made the NCAA tournament in their seven-year history as a division one team. Though they dub themselves ‘the real UNC,’ the Bears have been the laughing-stock of the Big Sky conference.
But not this year.
The Bears are 10-3 in the conference, one half game behind Montana, and looked poised for a championship showdown in the conference tournament. Win the tournament and the Bears will be dancing in March for the first time ever.
Then there is the Colorado State Rams. The Rams have established themselves as a solid number three in a much-improved Mountain West conference – a conference that will likely have two teams get one or two seeds in March.
The Rams had some bad losses early (Sam Houston State, Hampton) but have been extremely good in conference play at 8-3 and 18-7 overall. Their three losses were to New Mexico, BYU and San Diego State. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Colorado State as his first team out right now, but the Rams still have rematches with BYU and San Diego State, which could enhance their resume.
And finally, there’s Colorado. The Buffs are the longshot among the three at 5-6 in the Big 12, but being in the middle of the pack is an improvement for a team accustomed to being at the bottom of the league. The Buffs would likely have to win out to get an at-large bid, but winning the Big 12 tournament would be the more likely way to get in. Either way, it’s a much-improved team.