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Andre Roberson’s return from illness is a big boost for Colorado on eve of Pac-12 tournament

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(USA Today Sports Images)

Colorado is back in the mix for the Pac-12 Conference tournament title.

The Buffaloes learned Tuesday that star forward Andre Roberson has been cleared to play in the tournament after missing the final two games of the regular season with a viral illness.

The Buffs won the first of those games, beating then-No. 19 Oregon on the day they found out they would be without their leader, but they lost to last-place Oregon State on senior day Saturday. The fifth-seeded Buffs get a rematch with the Beavers in the first round of the tournament Wednesday.

Roberson was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and a first-team all-conference selection by the league's coaches this week. He is also the nation's leading rebounder, averaging nearly 12 rebounds a game.

"Our guys obviously know how important Andre is to us," coach Tad Boyle told the Daily Camera newspaper Tuesday "And they know how good of a player he is on the floor."

Colorado missed Roberson's rebounding a defense in the loss to the Beavers. The Buffs should have more success defending Oregon State around the basket with Roberson on the court. If Colorado can beat the Beavers with Roberson back in the lineup, it should be solidly in the NCAA tournament regardless of what it does in the conference tournament beyond that game. A second straight loss to the Beavers would be damaging, but it still might not be enough to prevent the Buffs from an at-large berth because of good RPI and strength of schedule numbers.

Regardless, the Buffs go into the Pac-12 tournament feeling better about themselves and their chances than they otherwise would have. Colorado won four games in four days last year to capture the Pac-12 tournament title and its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2003.

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