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As one of the two new members to the PAC-12 Conference, along with Utah, Colorado athletics faced new challenges and competition due to the realignment. After decades in the Big 8 and then Big 12 Conferences, playing schools in the Midwest and cultivating traditional rivalries with schools from Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas, the Buffaloes headed west to join their new peers in California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington.
Having been a CU fan since my early childhood, I was excited at the prospect of the switch, yet hesitant to leave behind storied history with the schools of the Big 12. The state of Colorado has legacies that reflect a combination of the PAC and Big-12 Conferences. The mining history that brought many initial settlers here prior to the Civil War and a landscape that includes miles of pasture and farmland for years tied the state's flagship university to our midwestern colleagues. However, the flourishing ski culture and diverse range of lands and lifestyles contains similarities on the West Coast, not to mention the abundant alumni base residing out west. We are a state at a natural geographical and cultural crossroads, and this resulting flexibility allowed a seamless transition to the PAC-12.
However, departing from rich athletic traditions stripped CU of true rivalries. Utah was promoted as a potential new filler, but besides the geographic proximity, we do not share many animosities with the Utes. I would argue that two schools have emerged as CU's new rivals; two schools that have very similar student bodies, passions, and athletic competitiveness. Arizona and Oregon have each provided games in football and especially basketball that have created true conditions for lasting rivalries. Last year, the Buffs topped Arizona in the PAC-12 Conference Championship game in Los Angeles to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament; this season, Sabatino Chen's game winner in Tucson at the buzzer was questionably overruled, and the Buffs went on to lose in overtime to the then #3 Wildcats. Thursday night's rematch in Boulder has been circled on calendars since the schedule was released, and following an unprecedented buildup, the contest itself certainly did not disappoint.
Coming off a road sweep of the Oregon schools, the game against the #9 Wildcats was a crucial step towards a second consecutive trip to March Madness. Impressively, the Buffaloes dominated the game from the opening tap. Spencer Dinwiddie continued his ascent up NBA draft boards with another 20+ points and a stellar defensive effort against Arizona guard Mark Lyons, Xavier Johnson had the best game of his freshman season, and Andre Roberson shut down one of the PAC-12's top players Solomon Hill.
The C-Unit was absolutely nuts as well. The student section was filled to capacity 75 minutes prior to tipoff, and created a truly special atmosphere for a great evening of college basketball. Noise levels on the court reached 129 decibels, and following a great game including a mass Harlem Shake, a great Rollercoaster, and an inspired effort from the team, the fans emptied onto the court to celebrate the win against a top-ten team. I shot the entire game, including the Rollercoaster, with a GoPro skillfully positioned on my hat, and am looking forward to viewing the footage. Needless to say, it was a great win and a huge step forward in the process of truly amalgating to the PAC-12.
Until next time,