Basketball gaining steam at Colorado

Basketball gaining steam at Colorado

Success and basketball haven’t always gone hand-in-hand with Colorado.

The school that churned out a Heisman Trophy winner (Rashaan Salaam in 1994) and one of college football’s most memorable plays (Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary to Michael Westbrook at Michigan in 1994) in the last 20 years has not done much in basketball.

That theme, however, might not last long. In Tad Boyle’s third season leading the Buffaloes, he has guided Colorado to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance, which has happened only two other times (1962-63 and 1954-55) in school history.

“Football hasn’t done that well lately, and basketball is kind of taking over, whether it’s the girls’ team or the guys’ team here on campus,”

Colorado guard Askia Booker said Sunday night. “We’re on the rise at the moment, and it’s lovely.”

Rebounding is a big reason why. The Buffaloes average four more rebounds per game than their opponents.

“With Coach Boyle, he really emphasizes defensive rebounding,” Booker said. “He says that if you don’t do that, you’re not going to win because not everyone can shoot a high percentage every night. That’s always instilled every day in practice and in games.”

The Buffaloes feature the nation’s second-leading rebounder in Andre Roberson (11.3), a San Antonio native who will play Friday back in his home state.

“I’m happy for Andre getting to go back to Texas,” Boyle said. “Austin is a great place to go this time of year, (and) heck, any time of year for that matter. We’re very fortunate, and we’re playing a team from one of the toughest conferences in the country.”

Booker — second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points — said he was sitting next to Boyle on Sunday night when the pairings were unveiled.

“He was pretty nervous,” Booker said with a laugh, “and that made me a little more nervous. Everything just starts running through your mind until you see your team’s name up there.”

Colorado has made one Final Four appearance in its program history, albeit 71 years ago during the 1942 tournament when only eight teams competed. But the Buffaloes do have last year’s second-round win against UNLV to rely on, and Booker said he sees similarities from last year’s UNLV team in Illinois.

“I know that they have pretty good guard play, and they’re very athletic,” Booker said. “Other than that, I haven’t seen too much of them. Last year we didn’t have much time to prepare for the tournament. Now we’re going to be able to watch film and have a few more practices. Every day of practice can help at this time of year, especially with an opponent we’re not that familiar with.”