Great Expectations (?)

The tears had yet to be wiped from the face of a disappointed Josh Scott in the CU locker room before the second-guessing began.

Below are some comments from a thread after the 74-67 loss to UConn in the opening round of the NCAA tournament:

– “At what point will being a one-and-done become unacceptable?”;

– “I’m done with ‘glad to be here’ platitudes. That’s for losers. Win some Effing games”;

– “Win a tournament game. Yale did. Love Tad. Hate the excuses”;

– “A, be happy with the best coach for CU or B, want to keep doing better.. I choose B, recruiting tells me the future is not better, I want better…”;

– “Tad deserves a ton of credit for what he has done at CU, but we need to decide if we like just getting there or actually want something more than that in men’s basketball”;

– “Sweet Jesus guys…today was what we did six times this season or we’d have been a four seed…Love Tad but he’s had more benefits than any coach in the history of this program … great facilities etc. … don’t overextend it … he’s been good … Not great at all”.

There were many supportive comments of Tad Boyle and the program in the thread as well, but the question for the Colorado basketball game will linger for another twelve months:

Can the Buffs under Tad Boyle ‘make noise’ in the NCAA tournament, or is earning a bid the ceiling for the program?

The question was the subject in an article earlier this week by columnist Neill Woelk, entitled, appropriately enough, “For Boyle’s Buffs, Next Step Is Tournament Wins“.

“The whole thing at Colorado I talked about six years ago (when he was hired) was to build a program that can have sustained success,” Boyle said on Selection Sunday. “I don’t know where the cutoff in terms of sustaining it, but I think we’re approaching it and we want to continue it.”

But Boyle and athletic department officials also know the program needs to continue building on that foundation — and the next blocks are some tournament wins and higher seeds in the future.

“The next step for us is to win a few games in the tournament,” CU athletic director Rick George said. “We’ve been to the tournament. Tad’s been four times now. It’s great to be there, but now you’ve got to win games”.

I’ve already hit on the numbers outlining the success of Tad Boyle compared to his predecessors in last weekend’s essay, “#RollTad: Enjoy the Ride“,  but I’d like to share one other set of numbers:

1960’s … Average number of wins per season: 15.4 … Twenty-win seasons: 1 … NCAA tournament appearances: 3

1970’s … Average number of wins per season: 10.8 … Twenty-win seasons: 0 … NCAA tournament appearances: 0

1980’s … Average number of wins per season: 11.0 … Twenty-win seasons: 0 … NCAA tournament appearances: 0

1990’s … Average number of wins per season: 14.7 … Twenty-win seasons: 1 … NCAA tournament appearances: 1

2000’s … Average number of wins per season: 14.5 … Twenty-win seasons: 2 … NCAA tournament appearances: 1

2010’s … Average number of wins per season: 21.6 … Twenty-win seasons: 5 … NCAA tournament appearances: 4

It’s not just that Tad Boyle has been successful, he has been off-the-charts, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me successful compared to the program he inherited.

One other statistic will help to shed light on Boyle’s successful run:

Originally posted by “absinthe” at, below is a list of some notable national basketball programs. See if you can guess what they have in common:

Iowa State
Michigan State
North Carolina
Wichita State

Any guesses?

It is the entire list – ten programs in all – of teams which have made the NCAA tournament the past five seasons. Or, put another way, it represents the grand total of programs who have been to the Big Dance more often than has Colorado in the past five years.

To carry the thought one step further, here is a list of programs on par with the Buffs, namely the list of schools which have been a participant in March Madness four of the past five seasons:

New Mexico State
Notre Dame
Ohio State
San Diego State

Not exactly bad company.

Breaking it down even more, Buff fans should take note that Colorado is one of only three Pac-12 schools – with Arizona and Oregon being the others – which has been invited to participate in the Big Dance four of the past five seasons. UCLA does not make the cut, nor does Utah, Stanford, Cal, Washington … or any other Pac-12 school.

Other notable schools who haven’t had the same measure of success as have had the Buffs the past five include: Florida; North Carolina State; Maryland; and Florida State, along with old rivals like Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Missouri.

And, recall, that the Buffs should really be on a streak of five NCAA tournament appearances in six seasons, as the 2010-11 team – Tad Boyle’s first team – which made it to the finals of the Big 12 tournament and had a 21-13 record, was overlooked by the NCAA tournament committee, relegating that team to the NIT.

 The question remains, however … Is that enough?

Is it good enough to just make it to the NCAA tournament on a regular basis? Is it unfair or unrealistic to want Colorado to move past the first round of the NCAA tournament?

“We’re not just happy to be here,” Boyle said earlier this week. “That’s what I want the message to be to our team”.

The Buffs played considerably better against UConn in the first round of the tournament than they did against Pittsburgh two years ago (falling behind 46-18 at halftime, on their way to an embarrassing 77-48 final). Colorado was up by as many as 11 points in the first half against the Huskies, and had a nine-point advantage at halftime … only to see yet another second half lead slip away.

Frustrating? Yes.

Disappointing? Yes.

Do Buff fans want more? Yes.

Do the Colorado coaches and players want more? Yes.

The thing is, the Buffs will have to wait about 364 days for another chance. It will take another long off-season of work, of trying to find a way to live without Josh Scott, and to develop consistent guard play.

It’s not going to be easy to get another chance at an NCAA tournament victory … and that’s really the point.

Colorado fans look at the last decade of results in football, and say, “that’s not us. Ours is a history of success”.

About the first six years under Tad Boyle, you don’t hear Buff fans saying, “that’s not us. Ours is a history of mediocrity”.

It’s right to ask for more. It’s right to want more.

But don’t forget to take a look at the view along the way on the trip to the top. The views from mid-mountain can be pretty spectacular as well.

“We want to advance and it’s not going to be easy”, said Boyle. “But in the big scheme of things, four tournaments in five years is something they can’t take away from us.”

True enough.


3 Replies to “Great Expectations (?)”

  1. It is better than we have seen in quite some time, for basketball it os acceptable. However, wyoming has a kid in the NCAA finals for wresting. CU has the minimum for sports all around. No gymnastics, swimming, wrestling etc, and the saddest part is, they have the money to do it. Hell most of the moutain west schools have more than the minimal allowance, of sports, why cant CU?

  2. love Tad but did we really belong in the dance 3 of the 4 times we have been there? Tad was a guard as a player but Dinwiddie aside our guard play has been mostly dismal hitting rock bottom with Ski. Now that Josh is gone I wouldnt bet much money we get back to the dance next year. If we dont the backsliding will continue with poor recruiting.
    To me the Buffs dont play with the same aggression as many of their opponents and when they do get aggressive many times the confidence isnt there and it results in turnovers or poor shot selection. This also plays out before the end of a lot of games where we disappear.
    I would love Tad a lot more if he would address the tech criticisms thrown at the team’s performance by the press and public instead of making generic excuses. It would give me lot more confidence he is actually doing something in practice to cure the deficiencies. Maybe he thinks that is beneath him to answer to the unwwashed and “uneducated” masses.

  3. Good and fair article. Credit where credit is due. However, work to correct repeated tendencies like poor second half performances (similar to football) needs to be put in. Boyle has brought unprecedented success to CU basketball, now he should improve it (and himself). Looking at his overall and conference records, it is sustained good performance but there has not been that one step forward toward greatness. Just my opinion as I don’t watch basketball as closely as football. I do think that Boyle has brought excitement and winning to Boulder. The win over AZ was great.

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