Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Grab Bag: What a difference a week makes

Seven days ago Buff Nation was reeling from the news that, despite their strong resume, CU was not going to be allowed into the Dance.  Stuck in the middle of the "5 stages of grief," we were all a part of a state-wide therapy session.  Now, with two convincing wins under their belt, CU basketball is on the verge of a nationally televised trip to New York, and Buff Nation is debating the merits of winning multiple games in the NIT against a brief Tournament appearance.

The NIT has proven to be a nice consolation for CU.  Unlike fellow bubble denizens Virginia Tech and Boston College, who lost over the weekend, CU survived the first week, and is one game away from NYC.  The program has gotten to play extra games in front of appreciative, larger than expected crowds, and we've all been allowed to feel good about being Buff fans. That I would trade it all away for even a one-and-done Tournament appearance is besides the point.  This team is getting the chance to prove to themselves and to the nation that they belong, and they're taking advantage of it.

Today in the bag, I'll be talking more about Friday night's win over Cal, the goings on with the Dance, and touch quickly on a setback for my beloved White Sox.

Click below for the weekly grab bag

Win over Cal - It took another strong second half, and the absence of Cal's two best players, but CU put away future conference foe Cal with a convincing 17-point win Friday night in the second round of the NIT.  Once again CU found themselves out-rebounding, out-shooting, and out-defending their opponent en route to victory.  Were it not for 9 missed freethrows and a slew of missed dunks, the Buffs would've laughed their way to the win rather than coast to it.  CU so dominated the second half, that Coach Boyle was able to empty his bench for the final 4 minutes, giving seldom-used players like Ben Mills, Trey Tckloff, Trent Beckley, and Javon Coney extended minutes. 
The Buffs looked supremely confident in their win over the Golden Bears.  From: the BDC
It was good enough for the 23rd victory on the year, which sets an all-time record for most Buff wins in a season.  All-in-all I couldn't think of a better way to "announce our presence with authority" to the basketball wing of the Pac-12.  Considering this season's two blow-out wins over Pac-12 foes (Oregon St and Cal), I would've liked to have seen how CU would've done had they been in the conference a year early.

Records broken and breaking - In a note that will surprise no one at this point, CU was lead by the dynamic duo of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins.  The stellar back-court combo combined for 47 points, and are proving on a semi-national stage that they are every bit the elite players we've known them to be. 
Al did his thing again, dropping over 20 points on a team for the 7th time in 8 games.  If this were NBA Jam, he'd be on permanent fire. From the BDC
Their performances this year have now placed them amongst the all-time elite of CU basketball.  With his 25 points Friday evening, Alec now has 734 points on the year, and he passed Buff legend Cliff Meely's record for the most points in a single season.  Not to be outdone, with his 22 points against Cal, Cory passed Meely into 3rd on the all-time CU scoring list with 1,975 points, only 26 points away from Richard Roby's relatively young 2,001 mark set in 2008.  The pair have meant everything to one of the best teams in school history, and now have to records to prove it.  Congrats to both!
Cory is one more spectacular performance away from the all-time scoring record.  From: the BDC

Buff Nation stepped up - I was overjoyed to walk into the CEC and see a mostly full stadium Friday evening.  Despite the dire predictions of nearly everyone, both the students starting on Spring Break and Buff Nation as a whole showed up to see the Pac-12 preview game with Cal.  The announced crowd was only 7,614, but it looked to me like it was closer to 9k.  Regardless of the actual number, the crowd that showed up was loud and into the game from the start, creating an atmosphere where it'd be tough for CU to lose.
Buff Nation had more fans show up to the second round of the NIT than Virginia Tech or Boston College combined.  From: the BDC
If you had any doubt that home attendance can make-or-break a NIT run, look no further than BC and Virginia Tech.  They combined to have smaller attendance this weekend than CU did; they also combined to lose at home to inferior opponents.  There's no doubt in my mind that without the fan support showing up in droves for the first two rounds that CU would have stumbled at some point.  Buff Nation stepped up, and the team has two wins to show for it. 
Cory, Al, and the gang need you one more time this year.   Get your butt to Boulder!  From: the BDC
We've done our part so far, but we can't let the team down now.  There's only one more game to go, so buy your tickets, and get your ass to the CEC Tuesday night!

Kent State on deck - That final game standing between CU and a trip to NYC is going to be against the Kent St Golden Flashes.  The MAC regular season champions won their second straight NIT road game on Sunday morning, defeating the Fairfield Stags by 4 points on the Stags home court.  KSU will be bringing their road-warrior style to the CEC Tuesday night. 
Kent St grabbed yet another win on the road to earn a game with the Buffs.  From: the Fairfield Citizen
They may not register on the national radar, or be as "sexy" a matchup for the Buffs as St Mary's or CSU would've been, but the Flashes will be a tough challenge for CU.  I'll have my preview up tomorrow, but I doubt KSU will be shoved aside as easily as Cal and Texas Southern were.

Quick thoughts on the first weekend of the Tournament - There were a lot of upsets this weekend, and they were highlighted by the four 10 or higher seeds to make it to the sweet-16.  Overall, there are 6 "upset" teams making it to the second weekend, and it was mostly at the expense of the Big East.  While most everyone expected 3-seeded UCONN to make it to the sweet-16, the only other Big East team to survive was Marquette, and they did it at the expense of fellow Big East member Syracuse.  With 11 teams in the Tournament, the league was doomed to underperform as some teams have to lose, but the speed and impact of the losses are what were surprising to me.
Notre Dame got swarmed by Florida St in what was essentially a home game in Chicago.  From: the Trib
Additionally, props to mid-majors VCU, Butler, and Richmond for making the second weekend.  That right side of the bracket can't be looking to good for anyone right about now; at least my Final Four of OSU, SDSU, KU, and Florida are still alive.... for now.

Jake Peavy sees setback - In news that only I care about, Sox high-priced starter Jake Peavy saw some tendinitis flare up over the weekend.  This will set back his bid to comeback from a muscle displacement in his back, and will probably cause him to miss a few weeks to start the season.  This is not wholly unsurprising, and the Sox were quick to caution everybody when Peavy began taking the mound a month ago.  Still, this has to be frustrating for Jake, who had been buzzing along through his recovery up to this point.
Jake had been way ahead of schedule, but now the Sox need to sit him down to ensure there's no long-term setbacks.  From: the Trib
All is not lost for the Sox.  The team still features 4 quality starters, and will be able to play calendar games over the first few weeks of the season to limit the impact that Peavy's absence will have.  Speaking of which, only 2 more weeks to slog through until opening day...

Happy Monday!


aaron.jordan said...

What do you think of the officiating in the Texas-Arizona game?

And I know I asked this before, but Duke looked pretty shaky against Michigan, I think Texas would have beaten them, and Arizona will, what do you think?

RumblinBuff said...

The 5 second call was bullshit. They give kids 6,7,8,9 seconds all the time, yet in one of the most important games of the season he gets less than 5. As an official myself (baseball/softball), I know the appeal of jumping on a call to prove you're in control, but not in the final seconds of an NCAA tournament game. It was a bad call.

The rest I'm fine with. I thought the foul on Johnson was clearly after the buzzer when I watched it live, and I'm fine with refs not calling soft fouls in the last seconds. Put the ball in the basket and there's no issue.

I continue to like Arizona because of Derrick Williams. As to whether they'll beat Duke, I'm not so sure. I definitely don't think Duke is going to make it out of Anaheim, however. Also, fuck Xavier.