|The Buffs are rising and firing at just the right time.|
It's not exactly a foregone conclusion, however. While, on paper, games against ISU and Nebraska look like wins, basketball never ceases to amaze me. Teams without a hope-in-hell of winning somehow come through with their best games of the season. Tonight especially poses a quirky challenge. ISU may be the worst team in the conference, but the long bus ride to lonely Ames, Iowa has a funny way of messing with teams, and, even with their poor record, their fans show up (drawing over 12,000 per game) and create a loud and raucous atmosphere; the locals call it "Hilton Magic." It would behoove the Buffs to build a lead early, silence the crowd, and move on.
The Buffs enter tonight's contest back in the thick of the chase for one of the few remaining at-large slots in Tournament. A perfect 2-0 week over Lone Star State squads is the cause celebre, and CU has been getting a lot of national, regional, and local attention over the last few days. A loss to ISU, however, would end all of that love in a hurry. It certainly wouldn't be unprecedented; the last time CU won at ISU was 2005, and the Buffs are a paltry 18-47 all-time in Ames.
|Nate and the guys still have work to do to slip into the Tourney. This isn't over yet. From: The BDC|
ISU comes in having caught the previous up-setter of Texas, Nebraska, flatfooted in Hilton Coliseum over the weekend. I hope the Buffs were paying attention, because that same fate awaits them if they don't take this Cyclone team seriously. While ISU has been struggling overall this season, in Ames, backed by their always surprisingly large crowds, they've played some decent basketball. Other than their 2 wins, they've also made Kansas, K-State and Missouri sweat it out late in home games. This is never an easy building to walk out of with a W, and I expect nothing different tonight.
Gametime is set for 5:30, so you may want to get out of work a little earlier than usual to make it home in time for tip-off. The game isn't regularly available on television, but you can find it on the ESPN Full Court premium package and the always reliable ESPN3.com streaming site ("the tres," and it's free-streaming coverage of nearly all Big XII games, is the only thing I'll miss when we're in the Pac-12 next season). For reference, my preview of the first game is here.
Tonight's game will also mark the final time CU and ISU will meet in the regular season. While it's looking very possible that these two teams could meet again next week in KC, I'll take this as my final opportunity to say goodbye to the forgotten middle-child of the Big XII. ISU, while definitely an "Aggie school," has always seemed to be more removed from the rest of the Big XII than even CU. It's a hard school to travel to, and Ames is an easy place to forget... that is unless a goddamn tornado nearly lands on your head
In the fall of '05, a series of tornadoes hit the state of Iowa and the Ames area. I had ventured out to Ames that day to see the last ranked CU football team look to finish the season strong. With the tornadoes hitting the area, they ushered a large part of the crowd into the basketball arena (which is essentially a giant concrete bunker). Imagine that, my only trip to Hilton Coliseum didn't even involve a basketball game. Everyone inside was alright, and the game eventually got started after a lengthy delay. Wide-eyed with shock, I spent the rest of the evening watching a unimpressive ISU squad push around the last decent CU football team I've seen. I blame the storm.
Anyways, they've been essentially a piece of luggage being dragged around by the higher profile (and richer) schools during the whole conference re-alignment tussle. Credit to them, they've kept their heads low, and didn't go crying to the press too much.
Unfortunately, were the Big XII to disintegrate tomorrow (I haven't ruled it out) I honestly believe that they'd end up joining the MAC, and that's just sad. They're nice people and deserve better than that . Of all the fanbases in the Big XII, I hold the least animosity for 'Clones fans, and I hope they find a way to land in a good spot when this is all over.
Click below for my preview
When last we met - CU took Freddy Hoiberg's team back behind the woodshed, and laid a whuppin down. The game was over so early that Coach Boyle was able to begin emptying his bench with nearly 5 minutes left on the clock. The Cyclones kept pace early, using near perfect 3-point shooting to try and stem the tide. But, in the end, CU used massive runs of 17-0, 16-0, 22-3, and 10-0 to keep the 'Clones at bay. It was ISU's worst loss in Boulder in 31 years.
|The Buffs were able to blow through ISU last month.|
In the 26-point CU victory the two teams combined for a ridiculous 22 made 3-pointers on 45% shooting from beyond the arc. Had ISU been able to compete in any other statistical category, they might've had a chance at the upset. As it was, CU dominated the boards (+13), took 11 more free throw attempts than the 'Clones, shot 50% from the field, and had 5 players in double figures. It's hard to lose when you've got those numbers going for you.
What's happened since - ISU has gone 1-5 since in part of a larger stretch of 1-10 basketball. That doesn't mean they haven't come close in a couple of games. At home they've been competitive, and in recent weeks have taken resurgent KSU to the brink (1 point loss) and frustrated Missouri (6 point loss after a 33 point shellacking in Columbia) before beating Nebraska last Saturday.
|ISU was able to surprise the streaking Huskers this past weekend. I hope the Buffs were paying attention.|
Diante Garrett continues to lead the team, having big games like 23 points against KSU and a stat-sheet filling 12 point/6 rebound/10 assist game against Missouri. He's cooled off from behind the arc (he hit 5-5 3-pointers in the first half of last month's game), but is still deadly if he catches fire.
Anything different? - Canadian big-man Jamie Vanderbeken is coming off of missing 3-games due to an ankle sprain. He came back to the lineup in a big way against Nebraska, recording a double-double. The 'Clones are also feeling really good about themselves due to that win over a desperate Nebraska squad.
Additionally, they have freshman forward Calvin Godfrey back, who was suspended the last time these two teams met. Godfrey is a big 6-8, 240 kid who shoots over 50% from the field and averages 5 rebounds/game in slightly limited minutes (under 20/game). All I know is this: if he can put up 11/6 against A&M in 19 minutes after coming off of a suspension, then he could be a problem for the Buffs.
|CU didn't get to see the freshman Godfrey last month, and he could be a problem tonight.|
Prediction - I don't have a good feeling about this one. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to pick ISU to win, but I don't like this set-up. It's just too easy to overlook the worst team in the conference with a possible death-match bout with the hated Corn on the horizon. Coach Boyle was quoted in the Camera today saying he doesn't think this is a trap game, and that he believes his players are ready; I hope he's right. Additionally, there is sure to be an emotional letdown after that epic atmosphere for the UT comeback.
In game terms, the addition of Godfrey could mean big problems in the paint, reducing that rebound advantage that the Buffs enjoyed int he first matchup. Add in the fact that this is a road game, and I expect ISU to keep it closer than any CU fan would hope.
A win, however, is a win, and I think the Buffs will circle the wagons just in time to escape with a win. The dream stays alive, if barely.
CU 78 - ISU 74