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Colorado All-American Madeline Pisani in action against Oregon

NCAA Rewind: Why Colorado Deserved to Play in the NCAA Tournament

July 1, 2024
Beth Ann Mayer
Cliff Grassmick

Before USA Lacrosse Magazine looks ahead to what’s to come in 2025 — look out for our NCAA Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings later this summer — our team of staff and contributors decided it was worth taking a last look at the 2024 college lacrosse season.

To do that, we’re taking a journey through 30 of the top teams in men’s and women’s lacrosse to see what went right, what went wrong and how we should feel about the season.


USA Lacrosse preseason/final ranking: NR/20
2024 record: 13-6 (5-2 Pac-12)

What went right: Colorado is usually good for a head-turning win or two each year (see 2022’s weeknight upset of Denver in late April). Yet, it rarely holds long-term (though the Buffaloes played in five of the Pac-12’s six conference tournament championship games, including this year). So, while a one-goal February road win at Penn State (10-9) put them on rankings watch, there was some cautious, shall we say, skepticism.

But the Buffaloes didn’t look overmatched in losses to Northwestern (19-14) and Michigan (13-8), who went on to make deep NCAA tournament runs. They routed UC Davis in the Pac-12 quarterfinal to tee up the season’s most significant moment: a semifinal upset of USC, the defending champion and host. With the win, a close call in a three-goal loss to Stanford in the final and a No. 24 RPI, Colorado seemed like it had the resume to become one of the last four teams invited to the 29-team NCAA tournament.

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What went wrong: Let’s start with what the Buffs could control: A nine-goal loss to USC on April 21 wasn’t pretty, even if it was avenged just over a week later in a more prominent spot. They also lost to Stanford in the regular season, forcing the need to play in the quarterfinal — something they ultimately had no problem with that day or the following (beating USC).

Besides Penn State and USC, the Buffaloes lacked wins over ranked opponents, which the NCAA tournament selection committee cited as a reason for Colorado’s omission. Colorado’s RPI was seven spots higher than Duke’s, who, like the Buffaloes, had one win over a team in the NCAA tournament (Virginia). The Buffaloes were largely considered a tournament snub (along with Navy) — and in this case, I agree with the Internet.

Season highlight: Led by senior attacker and eventual honorable mention All-American Madeline Pisani’s four goals, the Buffaloes dethroned USC in a 12-9 Pac-12 semifinal. It came one day after the Buffaloes had to play in a quarterfinal game and also happened on USC’s turf. 

Verdict:  Is it better to be a snub or clearly out? Like many things in life, it depends on who you ask. While the exclusion from the NCAA tournament likely stings either way, the Buffs have no reason to hang their heads after concluding their Pac-12 run with a 5-2 conference mark and runner-up tournament finish. They’ll once again play the role of pioneers as founding members of Big 12 women’s lacrosse in 2025.