University of Northern Colorado Bears, Devon Beitzel punch Big Dance ticket via Montana win

They did it. The University of Northern Colorado Bears received their Big Dance invite before the CU Buffs thanks to a solid 65-60 win over Montana in last night's Big Sky championship.

And UNC may be a tougher first-round out than most experts believe for one big reason: Devon Beitzel.

The man who makes the Bears go, Beitzel has a lot of the qualities that's made Jimmer Fredette the darling of the NCAA basketball world: poise, a deadly shooting touch and impeccable timing. During the last five minutes of the game, he poured in thirteen points, ending the contest with 27 -- damn near half his team's total -- and a well-deserved MVP award. He also wound up on the all-tournament team alongside two of his teammates, forwards Chris Kaba and Mike Proctor.

Unlike Fredette, Beitzel is a barely known quantity beyond Colorado's borders, and that's a tremendous advantage in the tournament.

Will CU be enjoying March Madness along with UNC. If the Buffs beat Kansas State this afternoon, the answer is "yes" -- and even if they don't, there's still a possibility. But there's no waiting for the Bears. As an ESPN anchor said last night while reporting about the victory: Alert the bookstore in Greeley to get those T-shirts on display.

Look below to see a video showing the end of the game, as well as a fan-shot clip capturing the mayhem as boosters rushed the court.

More from our Sports archive: "CU Buffs cheerleaders photo gallery: Can they make the Big 12 tournament feel like home?"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts