BOULDER – The University of Colorado men’s basketball program takes center stage nationally on Saturday, Feb. 22 when ESPN’s College GameDay Covered by State Farm makes its first visit to the CU campus.
The widely popular telecast will air in advance of that night’s matchup between CU and No. 1 Arizona, offering a rematch of the Jan. 23rd Pac-12 Conference meeting in Tucson won by the Wildcats, 69-57. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. MT (ESPN) in the Coors Events Center.
GameDay’s first hour begins at 8 a.m. on ESPNU, with the program continuing at 9 a.m. on ESPN. A one-hour segment at 6 p.m. on ESPN precedes the Buffaloes-Wildcats tipoff that night (all times MT). The GameDay set will be in the CEC, where the Buffs are 56-8 under fourth-year coach Tad Boyle heading into Saturday’s game against Utah (noon, Pac-12 Network).
Rece Davis serves as host for College GameDay. Other regular participants include analysts Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and Jalen Rose, who collaborate to preview the day’s top games and storylines in college hoops.
CU was selected to host GameDay from two “flex pick” options, with ESPN’s other choice being the UCLA at Stanford contest, which will now air on either ESPN or ESPN2 at 4 p.m. MT. Boyle called CU getting the nod over Stanford “huge for the program (and) great for the University of Colorado. It’s great for Boulder, it’s great for our state. All the eyes in college basketball that day will be focused on Boulder, Colorado.”
Boyle also called the selection “a testament to our players, a testament to our fans, a testament to our coaches and how far this program has come. It’s something we’re really proud of. Now, it’s one thing to have (GameDay) here, we’ve got to play well when they’re here, and have a full house, energy . . . it’s imperative we play well between now and then to make sure our fans have something to get excited about.”
For the first time in men’s program history, CU sold out its season ticket allotment (7,160) in the preseason. The Buffs are 12-1 at home this season, and for those 13 games have averaged 9,597 at the CEC (11,064 capacity).
After a 10-1 start that featured a 10-game winning streak that matched the program’s longest in 52 years, the Buffs climbed to No. 21 in the national rankings. A week later, at 11-2, the Buffs were at No. 20 (AP), and opened Pac-12 play 3-0 before losing junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and freshman wing Tre’Shaun Fletcher to knee injuries in the same game – a 71-54 loss at Washington on Jan. 12. The Buffs were No. 15 before embarking on the Washington trip.
Since Dinwiddie and Fletcher went out, CU has lost four of five games (including the UW defeat) and is now 15-6 overall, 4-4 in the conference and has dropped out of the weekly polls. But Saturday’s game against the Utes opens a three-game home stand – Washington State visits on Wednesday, Feb. 5; Washington on Sunday, Feb. 9 – that Boyle hopes will help right the Buffs.
He’s also hoping the announcement of GameDay’s visit next month provides a “pick-me-up” for his team, which is trying to reestablish its identity after the Dinwiddie-Fletcher losses. “Absolutely,” Boyle said. “It can be one of those things our players can look for and anticipate. It’ll make them feel good. But it’s hard for me to think about that now because we have so much basketball yet to be played. But it’s a huge deal for our program. It’s a milestone and we need to take advantage of it.”
Boyle agreed it is “very hard to measure that kind of exposure,” but added his focus now is on “playing to win the next game. Our focus is on trying to get better each day and compete at a high level. Whether that turns into wins . . .”
Arizona, currently unbeaten (20-0), has been ranked No. 1 for a program-record eight consecutive weeks. The Buffs are 3-4 against the Wildcats since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, but still lead the overall series 11-9. All-time, however, CU is 0-16 against top-ranked teams.
Arizona won two of three meetings with CU last season, including the controversial game in Tucson when Sabatino Chen’s buzzer beater in regulation was disallowed (the Wildcats won 92-83 in OT) and Arizona’s 79-69 win in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals. Still, the series has produced close, competitive games that many view as a budding Pac-12 rivalry.
“Yeah, I think so,” Boyle said before the trip to Tucson earlier this month. “We’ve played them tough; they’ve been great games, whether down there or up here. They’ve been fun games to watch. The game there last year and the way it ended. I don’t know if Arizona considers Colorado a rival, but I know our guys really enjoy the opportunity to play against them. I respect their program; Sean Miller is a heck of a coach. I don’t know if there’s one rival we have, but Arizona has become a fun game.”
GameDay’s visit and the Buffs-Wildcats game won’t be that Saturday’s only featured event on campus. The CU women’s lacrosse team, coached by Ann Elliot, makes its home debut at noon in Folsom Field against Regis. Elliot’s squad opens on Thursday, Feb. 13 against Stetson in DeLand, Fla.
Details for GameDay’s stop in Boulder – including when the CEC will open that morning, procedures for attending, any special offers, etc. – will be announced closer to the date.
GameDay has been to Boulder three times for football, the most recent in September 1996 for the CU-Michigan game.