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Snubbed Buffs to play in NIT
Colorado glum
Colorado Buffaloes players react to not being selected for the NCAA Tournament. They have been relegated to the NIT. - photo by The Associated Press

LONGMONT, Colo. — The festive mood at Colorado coach Tad Boyle's watch party Sunday quickly turned sullen after the Buffaloes were left out of the NCAA tournament.

Colorado was hoping to make the tournament for the first time since 2003. Instead, it will host Texas Southern in the NIT on Wednesday night.

Hardly what the team envisioned when Sunday began.

At 21-13 and with three wins over Kansas State, along with victories against Texas and Missouri, the Buffaloes figured to make the field.

But elation turned to devastation after the bracket was revealed.

Boyle, in his first year at Colorado, sat in a recliner in his living room, staring in disbelief at the television, the remote control dangling in his hand.

He hardly knew what to say.

"Shock," Boyle said of his emotions. "In the back of your mind, you feel like your name is going to pop up. When it doesn't, you're extremely shocked and disappointed."

His players were crestfallen as they sat in folding chairs in the middle of the room. They were the center of attention, the cameras trained on them.

Senior Cory Higgins bowed his head, staring at the floor, while sophomore scoring sensation Alec Burks simply squirmed in his seat.

So confident were the Buffaloes of ending their eight-year NCAA drought that Boyle had invited a host of people to his home for the team's party.

Immediately after the Buffs was rebuffed, Boyle took his team to the one quiet place left in his house — the basement. The team stayed down there for quite some time, digesting their plight.

"I haven't felt that way ever in my life," Higgins said in a hushed voice as he grabbed his coat and headed for the door. "We have to get our heads back on straight."

The Buffaloes were far from alone in their amazement at being excluded. Kansas coach Bill Self thought Colorado belonged in the field, especially given the way the team played down the stretch in its final season as part of the Big 12 before leaving for the Pac-10.

"From my standpoint, and I'm a little biased, I think Colorado has reason to gripe as much as anybody," Self said.

CBS Sports college basketball analyst Seth Davis said the Buffs should have been a lock to make the field, considering they beat No. 5 seed Kansas State three times.

"I don't know what else you need to do to get into the NCAA tournament," Davis said.

He added that no other snubbed school was more deserving of an NCAA bid than Colorado.

"It reminds me of what happened to Syracuse a couple of years ago," Davis said. "Nobody thought of Syracuse being a bubble team, and they didn't get in. I didn't even realize that Colorado was out until we saw them, until we saw a shot of them watching, because I didn't even think of them really as a bubble team."

Jay Bilas, an ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke player, ripped the NCAA selection committee for putting UAB and VCU in and leaving Colorado and Virginia Tech out.

Bilas and fellow ESPN analyst Dick Vitale said this shows the committee needs more "basketball people" on the committee.

"These were bad decisions, indefensible," Bilas said.

Gene Smith, the head of the committee, was interviewed by ESPN and mentioned style of play when talking about why Colorado was snubbed.

Yet he didn't elaborate.

Then again, no explanation would ease the sting for Boyle and the Buffs.

"A lot of things you don't have control over in this life," Boyle said. "Being selected to the NCAA tournament is one of those things."

Boyle's former team, Northern Colorado, made the field as a No. 15 seed. But the Bears earned an automatic berth by winning the Big Sky tournament. The Bears played second-seeded San Diego State in their first game.

"I'm happy for those young men," said Boyle, who helped transition Northern Colorado into Division I when he was hired in 2006-07, before leaving for Colorado after last season. "I'm extremely happy for them."

Boyle's replacement at Northern Colorado, B.J. Hill, was stunned that Colorado was left out.

"I sat with (Boyle) last night at the state (5A) tournament, and we both thought there wasn't any question (they would get in)," Hill said. "I can't figure it out."

Neither could Boyle. The Buffs did go through a slump midway through the season in which they lost six of seven games.

But they made an impressive run through the Big 12 tournament, throwing a scare at the Jayhawks in the semifinals, before falling 90-83.

"I'm not going to disrespect any team that got in," Boyle said. "I just feel like the way we're playing right now, we're one of the top 68 teams in the country. I know that. But we're not in the tournament. We have to deal with it and move on. We have to make a statement in the NIT.

"Otherwise, talk's cheap."