This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
There was hope of preseason buzz, a little national attention in the first few weeks and then a challenging (but manageable) conference slate.
And somewhere along the way it fell apart.
No, not the Colorado Buffaloes basketball team.
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies.
While the two squads aren’t part of the NCAA Tournament field of 68, the National Invitational Tournament is still a worthy destination for teams looking to maintain momentum in extremely competitive conferences.
And it’s still very much a part of March Madness betting in Colorado.
So the game is when?!?
As of early Tuesday, the host Buffs were favored by 3.5 points over the Bonnies at most Colorado online sportsbooks.
Weirdly enough, the game tips off (9 p.m. MT, ESPN2) right as the Dark Horse stops slinging burgers.
While it’s always great to have a nationally-televised home game, it does beg the question if the C-Unit will be out in full force if some of them have to trudge up Gamow Tower for a physics colloquium at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Better fire up the potassium, Banana Buffs. Gonna be a long one.
What’s a Bonnie anyway?
As we noted before, this was not the season the St. Bonaventure expected.
The Bonnies entered the season as the defending Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament champions, ranked No. 23 in the nation.
They knocked off the ACC’s Clemson Tigers, frequent March Madness cast member Marquette and slayed the eventual Mountain West Conference champion Boise State Broncos.
But the season then hit a nasty stretch in coach Mark Schmidt’s 14th year at the Olean, N.Y.-based university.
St. Bonny went an entire month without a win after being mauled by UConn and (eventual ACC tournament winner) Virginia Tech.
That stretch included some postponements and cancellations during the holidays as the omicron variant raged.
Nominally Incremental Tournament
The Buffs have a chance to continue growing and moving forward.
The injury bug hit early and often for CU, as standout guard Eli Parquet was unable to make a sizable contribution.
Fan-favorite Evan Battey may be playing his final game Tuesday night, and no doubt the team will miss his winning smile and winning ways. With All-Pac-12 second-team recognition in his pocket this season, Battey’s presence will be missed next year.
The reinforcements are already here.
Sophomore Jabari Walker was a worthy Pac-12 first-teamer this year, but there is a deep fear that he may dip his toe in NBA draft waters.
The youth movement also tilts toward all-conference freshman K.J. Simpson.
The defector from Arizona has been a revelation for the Buffs in 2021-22. Poaching him from Tucson has turned into a game changer for coach Tad Boyle.
Simpson has picked up slack on down nights for the team and nabbed a few weekly honors himself.
So Tuesday will be a test for teams looking to live up to expectations.
Both coaches have tasted conference victories and know how to win.
Next season starts here as the Buffs and Bonnies try to end strong and prove they are more than just “the 69th-best team in the country.”