The Pain of Being left Out

I feel like I’ve been lied to.

Coming into Sunday’s selection show on CBS, experts at the major sports agencies had told Buffs fans that the years of pain they had endured would finally pay off: That we would get to see the Black and Gold at the Big Dance.

Like many other fans, I had a nervous anticipation on Sunday. We were on the bubble, meaning that there was a chance we wouldn’t get in, but that couldn’t happen; not after beating Kansas State three times and scoring a massive upset over then-No. 5 Texas.

Sitting in front of the TV, I watched as team names were called out. As more and more spots were filled, I felt like it was just a matter of time until the Buffs name was called and I could celebrate. CBS even showed a clip of the team waiting in Head Coach Tad Boyle’s living room, which surely meant we were in.

When the final team was called and Colorado wasn’t in the field, I couldn’t do anything but stare at the screen.

One of my friends was the first to say anything.

“Isn’t there another bracket?” he asked. “That can’t be it.”

It was at this moment that it really sunk in. All the hard work and pain of rebuilding was supposed to come to an end Sunday night, but instead the faithful Buffs got a slap in the face.

Freshman guard Shannon Sharpe said it best.

“I can’t even lie that s*** hurt,” Sharpe said on his Twitter account Sunday night. “Like my girl broke up with me or something.”

Switching the TV over the ESPN, all that could be heard were several analysts blasting the selection committee over the fact that the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Virginian Commonwealth University had been selected ahead of the Buffs and other teams like Virginia Tech. Similar thoughts popped up all over Twitter, and Buffs fans showed their dismay at the snub.

As much as being denied a spot in the Tournament hurt the fans, it probably hurt the players even more. They were the ones that put their bodies on the line. They were the ones who worked hard on and off the court to make this season special. They were the ones that made Buffs Nation believe they had done enough to earn a place in the Big Dance.

In his interview with ESPN, Boyle said he felt most sorry for his seniors, and the fact that they will never have an opportunity to play in a NCAA tournament. Sure, Trent Beckley and Javon Coney have had limited roles, but Cory Higgins, Marcus Relphorde and Levi Knutson have become stars, and deserve a chance to show their talents on the highest stage.

Higgins is the standout of this group. He’s been one of the team leaders this season, and has started in all four seasons he has been in Boulder. After losing to Kansas in Boulder two years ago, a friend and I wondered if he ever felt regret for coming here, passing some bigger programs in order to help the Buffs rebuild.

Higgins certainly was happier the next year, playing alongside Alec Burks, who won Big 12 rookie of the year last season, and looking more competitive in the Big 12.

Seeing Higgins’ reaction after the announcement in a video by the Daily Camera, with his head down in his lap, almost brought tears to my eyes. He has been the soul of this team, he probably wanted a Tournament berth as badly as anyone in the country. The fact that it never happened for him will weigh on his mind for some time to come.

Despite the disappointment of Sunday, we can’t change a thing now. The Buffs have a top seed in the NIT and will be looking to win it all and cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden, maybe showing the NCAA Selection Committee what they left out.

Winning the NIT may say to the rest of the country that the Buffs were only the 69th best team, but for CU and its fans, it will be a small reward for everything we have been a part of this season.

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