BOULDER, Colo. – Early in the 8 a.m. ESPNU portion of GameDay, host Rece Davis gestured back to the roughly 2,000 student fans behind the set and said, “Let’s see if we can get the C-Unit involved!”
That was hardly necessary.
Colorado drew an enthusiastic early morning crowd – fueled by free breakfast sandwiches and coffee -- that was roughly comparable to the one UA drew before it played Washington in 2011-12. It was the first time Colorado has ever hosted a basketball GameDay.
Of course, the crowd went nuts anytime they were shown on the ESPNU broadcast, and anytime they were referred to by the crew of Davis, Digger Phelps and Jay Williams. Then, when injured star Spencer Dinwiddie and coach Tad Boyle came out for an interview with Davis, they cheered even louder.
“It’s huge for us, with where we are in our season,” Boyle told Davis about tonight’s game. “Everybody talks about how we aren’t legit without Spencer and I think the team is playing with a chip on its shoulder. We don’t have a signature win without Spencer and this is an opportunity to get it.”
The enthusiasm picked up even more when the show switched over to ESPN at 9 a.m. Fans were told to appear disinterested and read newspapers as the intro showed Cameron Indoor Stadium, but many peeked at the cameras or made noise anyway.
Toward the end of the ESPN broadcast, Davis talked up the controversial nature of the CU-UA rivalry, showing Sabatino Chen's waved-off three-pointer last season and Xavier Johnson's postgame comments at McKale Center last month.
"We were playing the No. 1 team in the country but they weren’t that good," Johnson said. "I don’t like Arizona and they don’t like me.”
Williams, for one, picked Colorado to win, while the crew discussed with Jay Bilas (via remote) if Arizona was still a No. 1 seed.
“You can’t erase all that Arizona has done,” Bilas said. “I’d put Arizona firmly at No. 1 right now.”
Brave UA juniors Corey Benjamin and Sam McGrath sat smack in the middle of the C-Unit section behind the GameDay set, wearing red UA T-shirts while flashing a sign with an "A" logo and one that said, “Why are you staring at us?”
A third sign that read "Boulder is Wildcat Country" was grabbed away from them and pretty much destroyed, but that was the only issue they had with the otherwise good-natured Buffs fans.
"They were actually extremely nice to us," McGrath said.
Both students, who flew up from Tucson on Friday and then grabbed art supplies at a Wal-Mart, also attended GameDay as freshmen at McKale Center two seasons ago. Benjamin said today's crowd was also strong.
"They kept the energy going for both shows," he said.
Naturally some of the signs CU fans waved referenced Arizona. Among them:
“Aaron Gordon has Bieber Fever.”
“Aaron Gordon Wears Jorts.” (Jean shorts)
“Aaron Gordon Hates Puppies.”
“Sean Miller listens to Nickleback.”
“Who’s Your Taddy.”
“Ski Season” (for Askia Booker)
“U of A gave me a full ride. Still chose Colorado.”
Other items related to tonight's game (7 p.m., ESPN, with Bill Walton and Dave Pasch):
-- Josh Scott has been effective against 7-footers such as Kaleb Tarczewski.
-- It's Senior Day for Colorado, the first of three Senior Days that UA will experience this season (their own and Oregon's are the others). The Buffs say Beau Gamble and Ben Mills have added to their team.
Other Pac-12 games today:
Washington at OSU, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks
No. 23 UCLA at Stanford, 4 p.m., ESPN2. A win would help Stanford's NCAA tournament credentials and chances of earning a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.