Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Final Four Teaser

This Saturday will see the final chapter of the college basketball season begin in earnest.  Houston, Texas will host the four regional champions in what may be the oddest Final Four in history.  Never before has college basketball seen a slew of seeds this high make it to the national semi-finals, yet here we are.  Southwest #11 Virginia Commonwealth will take on Southeast #8 Butler in the first game Saturday afternoon while East #4 Kentucky will play West #3 Connecticut in the evening.  Here are a couple of my thoughts on each team and where I see Saturday's action going.

Click below for my preview

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Alabama wrap

And just like that it was over.

The best CU team in decades was unable to nurse a 1-point lead across the last 16 seconds of the game, allowing a simple baseline drive to score an easy lay-up before having a last-second shot from star guard Alec Burks clang off the back of the rim.  62-61.  1 Goddamn point.  Season over, and 5 (probably 6) careers over in a matter of seconds.  It's gut-wrenching.  Unlike many other sports, basketball, with its emphasis on tournament play, sees its seasons routinely end in deafening silence.  It's a cruel way for a season to end, but I guess that's just the way it is.
Releford was able to get to the rim in the final seconds, and CU wasn't.  From: the Post

As a fan I want to be frustrated with the final sequence: the poor defense on the final Alabama inbounds play, and the lack-luster "Burks final seconds clear-out play" which never seemed to work during the season.  However, I can't get over the fact that the Buffs had to continually fight just to stay in reach of a team who seemed continually ready to run away and hide.

Alabama shot an incredible 50% for the game, and the Buffs seemed incapable of stopping the Tides interior play.  Star 'Bama forward JaMychal Green had 22 points in only 26 minutes as he was limited by foul trouble, and the Tide combined for a 42-16 points-in-the-paint edge.  True to form, Alabama forced 16 turnovers (+5) and grabbed 11 steals, even without using their press for most of the game.  Combine that turnover advantage with a slight rebounding edge (+1), and Alabama looks very rosy on the stat sheet.  Had Alabama not been an abysmal 4-11 at the free throw line, I don't know how CU would've been able to even have the chance they had in the waning seconds.
CU couldn't stop Alabama inside, and it was the Tide who wound up celebrating Tuesday evening.  From:

And yet, the Buffs seemed to always have an answer in the second half.  After a lack-luster first frame, which saw the team shoot under 30% from 3 en route to a 6 point half-time deficit (which I thought was closer than the first half appeared), CU came out in the second half and began to build and even hold leads against Alabama. Even when the Tide went on a painful 8-0 run to re-take a 3 point lead with just over 3 minutes to go, the Buffs were still able to scratch and claw their way back into the lead.  But it just wasn't to be.

The offensive headlines for the Buffs have to go to Alec Burks, who, in all likelihood, ended his CU career with another 20 point effort in addition to his 6 boards and 4 steals. Seniors Levi Knutson and Cory Higgins also came up big.  The former providing 11 of his 14 points in the second half to spur the Buffs comeback bid, while the latter chipped in 13 points to tie Richard Roby for the all-time CU scoring lead.  I was also impressed by the precious few minutes chipped in by injured point guard Nate Tomlinson.  Fighting through the pain left over from his shoulder separation suffered last week, he spurred the Buffs to an immediate 8-0 run the first time he stepped onto the court, and the offense looked efficient and crisp when he jumped back into the game after halftime.  Had he been able to play his normal compliment of minutes, I bet CU would've won.
Another big night from Al on a big stage, but he and the Buffs came up one shot short.  From: the Post

It's a shame this season has to end.  This was an extremely enjoyable team to watch.  They did themselves and their university proud the way they never said die, and routinely came back from deficits and stings of poor play to somehow continue to meet and exceed expectations.  The story of the season may very well boil down to close but not quite, but that doesn't mean the ride wasn't fun.  In the coming weeks I'll be eulogizing the season in more detail, but for now I'll simply say thanks to the team for kicking as much ass as possible throughout the year, and thanks to everyone who found their way to my quiet corner of the interwebs.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NIT Semi-Final Preview: Alabama

Colorado against Alabama is a matchup that you would usually expect to see on the gridiron; in fact CU has never faced Alabama on the hardwood.  I don't mean to demean either program, but both schools are known more for their football prowess, which may be part of the reason that 2 deserving squads find themselves in the NIT semi-finals rather than the NCAA Tournament.
Traditionally a matchup native to football fields, CU and Alabama find themselves on one of the most hallowed basketball courts in the land this evening.

The Crimson Tide come into tonight's contest having brushed aside their 3 opponents in the NIT.  Like CU, they never had to leave their home campus as they were awarded a #1 seed, and as a result were barely pushed as they won each game by an average of 15 points. All told through the home stretch of their NIT schedule, they've forced over 16 turnovers a game and held their opponents under 40% shooting. They're playing excellent basketball at the right time, and will prove to be the best non-Big XII team that the Buffs will have played all season.

Much like the Tide, the Buffs played great basketball in a 3-game home stretch to start the tournament.  Handling the likes of Texas Southern, Cal, and Kent St to the tune of over 11 points per game, the Buffs gave the large home crowds a pretty good show.  Now that their heads and hearts are past the disappointment of Selection Sunday, the Buffs have only committed 13 turnovers in the past two games, going long stretches of games playing near-flawless offensive basketball.
Coach Boyle has his Buffs playing great basketball at the perfect time.  From: the BDC

Being the first entrant to secure their trip to NYC has its privileges.  Not only have the Buffs had an extra day of rest, which was sorely needed after most of the team came down with the flu prior to the Kent St game, but they were able to secure posh training accommodations at the New York Athletic Club and are staying at the sparkling Marriott Marquis in Times Square.  They're living large right now, which is befitting of the first Buff team in 20 years to have themselves in a position to win a title of any sort.  Hopefully the trappings of living a New York lifestyle for 2 days wont throw the Buffs off, because they'll need to bring their best game to the court if they hope to beat Alabama.
Cory and the Buffs have been treated to some of the best NYC has to offer, now its time to go to work.  From: the BDC

There's a certain danger in approaching a final four of any sort.  It's perceived as an accomplishment just making a semi-finals, yet there still stands two games between you and a title.  The Buffs have proven themselves to be one of the best teams in school history, but, as of yet, their team accomplishments remain relatively minor in scope.  A finish involving anything less than an NIT title is undeserving for this highly-enjoyable squad.  But, before we can think about that, it's all about the Crimson Tide.

The winners of the SEC West will be an incredibly tough challenge for CU, and I'll say it right now: the winner of this game will go on to win the NIT title Thursday evening.  Tip-off is set for 7pm at the world-famous Madison Square Garden, and the game can be seen on ESPN2 if you, like me, couldn't convince the boss to let you have 4 days off on short notice.
The home of the Knicks is, if only for an evening, the home of the Buffs.

Bright lights and the big city; no matter the venue let's keep it rolling Buffs!

Click below for my preview

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Grab Bag: Final Fours all around

While I continue to cope with the fact that I won't be able to make it to NYC to watch the Buffs take on Alabama, check out today's bag where I talk hoops, both men's and women's, and look ahead to baseball on Friday.

Click below for this week's bag

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Beer Post: Sweet 16 and Elite 8 of Beer Madness

I hope you've been keeping up with your beer brackets.  DRAFT Magazine's 2011 beer madness tournament has entered it's second weekend, which means voting for the 3rd and 4th rounds is now open!

I was kind of disappointed that Myrcenary, the overly hop-oiled brew from Ft Collins' own Odell Brewing, didn't make it out of the first round, but seeing Fat Tire go down early filled my heart with joy.  Seriously, I can't stand anything New Belgium makes; Moose Drool rules!.  Additionally, I was kind of surprised that a national brand like Sam Adams couldn't even win one round of popular voting.

In terms of advancing to the final four, I really like Stone's Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale.  Not only am I a Stone whore, but their stuff continues to be popular amongst the brewing community, and this is a popularity contest, afterall.  Moose Drool, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and Alaskan's Smoked Porter round out my survivors.  ASP is a dark horse pick for me as it's a style that some people just can't handle, but I just can't get enough of that flavor; it reminds me of a family vacation I took to Alaska over a decade ago where I mostly ate smoked salmon.  Me picking them is the equivalent of picking St Peter's to win in this years Tournament because you think the nickname "Peacock" is "different."
My dark horse entrant for the final four is Alaskan's Smoked Porter

As I passed along last week, by entering a bracket you get entered to win a professionally-built Beer Meister Kegerator, and the competing breweries are donating winnings to charity!  So head on over, and fill out a bracket.  Voting on the final four starts next Tuesday.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Buff Stuff

While I frantically try and find an affordable plan to get to NYC, I thought I'd do a quick roundup of 3 items of interest to Buff Nation.

Alabama beats Miami to advance to NIT semi-finals - We now know that CU will face the tough Alabama Crimson Tide Tuesday evening in NYC.  Last night the Tide pressed a frazzled Miami Hurricanes to death to win comfortably 79-64.  It was an impressive defensive victory as they held Miami to 40% shooting, 13% from behind the arc, and forced 18 big turnovers.  The heavy use of the full-court press allowed Alabama to grab 29 points off of those turnovers, and they kept 'Canes at arms reach all night long.
'Bama just blew past Miami last night, looking comfortable all night long.  From: The Tuscaloosa News
When the NIT brackets were released, I circled Alabama as a difficult hurdle to avoid.  I'll have my preview up next week, but this will be a big challenge for the Buffs.  The Tide have 5 players who average over a steal a game, and they use their press to get a steal on over 14% of opponent possessions.  CU has proven that it can handle the press, at times, this year, but when it has faced teams who rely on it, Mizzou, they haven't also had to face a team so reliant on inside efforts on offense.  From scoring in the paint to offensive rebounding, the Buffs haven't had to face a challenge quite like Alabama this season.  Get ready for a tough game.

Wichita St will play Washington St in the other final.  Should CU slip by Alabama, they could end up playing in another Pac-12 preview game.

Seein' Chauncey in the Garden - When CU is trying to break that press of Alabama, they'll have at least one famous New York resident cheering them on.  Thorburn announced in the Camera today that hoops-father Chauncey Billups will be able to attend the semi-final game, and even the final should CU win Tuesday night.  This is a big boost for the players, as Chauncey had been a visible positive influence on the program when he was playing for the Nuggets and catching games court-side at the CEC.
The Buffs will get to see Chauncey again in NYC
Chauncey is still a big name in professional basketball circles, and just having him mentioned along with CU adds credibility to the program as a whole.  While the Buffs have gone 8-2 since Chauncey was dealt to the Knicks, one has nothing to do with the other, and it'll still be good to see Chauncey cheering on the team.

Naming rights for Folsom - In non-basketball news, one the most interesting development in off-field Buff-stuff was the "leaking" of the possibility of Frontier Airlines purchasing naming rights to Folsom Field.  Starting with a picture taken by Allbuffs poster GoldenBuff that clearly showed one of the jumbotrons in Folsom displaying "Welcome to Frontier Stadium," it was later confirmed by the Camera that CU AD Mike Bohn is actively discussing a naming rights deal.  The Camera speculates that the deal could be worth up to $1 million annually.
It's not often that a message board gets to scoop a daily newspaper.  Congrats GoldenBuff!
I, for one, love this idea.  The athletic department is always in need of cash, and selling naming rights is a quick and painless way to get at some quickly.  Some may balk at the idea of changing the name that has been in place for 67 years, but I can assure you, as someone who had to swallow changing Comiskey Park to US Cellular in 2003, that you do eventually get over it.  I initially bitched and moaned, forcing myself to say "Comiskey" when referring to the ballpark, but now I happily refer to it as "the Cell."  How many Denver-ites, and even the Denver Post, refused to utter the word "Invesco" when the Broncos opened up their new stadium 10 years ago?  Now there is no controversy, and rational people use either name interchangeably.

Additionally, something like "Frontier Stadium" isn't as garish a possibility as some of the newer naming rights deals have been, most notably "Papa John's Cardinal Stadium" in Louisville.  Frontier Airlines is a semi-local company, who has been an advertising partner with CU for a long time, so what I'm saying is it could be worse and it's only a name.  It won't change the heart and character of the stadium, and I don't think Fred Folsom would mind if the money was put back into the program. 

In the words of Steve Miller, "take the money and run."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick-Post: Another basketball commit.

 Nearly lost in the Buffs New York groove last night was the commitment of 6-5 guard Jeremy Adams.  The Mississippi native had signed with Texas A&M out of high school before heading to Navarro Junior College last season.  Adams will have 3 years of remaining eligibility when he arrives in Boulder.  Welcome aboard, Jeremy!

At this point the Buffs are out of scholarships to offer until Burks makes his decision to jump to the NBA.  (It's going to happen). 

Kent State Wrap

"There's nothing you can't do, now you're in New York" - Alicia Keys

70 mph winds, a slew of illnesses, a missing point guard, and a damned tough Kent State team couldn't keep this magical Buffs team from shooting off to New York.  With CU's 81-74 win over the KSU Golden Flashes last night, the Buffs earned their golden ticket to the NIT's final four, and did it in the gritty and determined fashion that they've played with all season.
No, that's not the wind, that's the students celebrating the 18th home victory of the season.  From: the BDC

Minutes into the game I could already tell things were off.  Cory wasn't running with the purpose I've come to expect out of him, nobody could hit a jumper, and interior defensive cohesiveness was lacking.  It's now understood that many of the players were sick with the flu.  That, combined with the absence of point guard Nate Tomlinson, who was sidelined with a separated shoulder, and the opponents star player having a hell of a night, might have spelled loss to a lesser team.  But these guys know how to stare down seemingly impossible odds, and pull a win out of the fire.

They did it last night through another stellar performance from sophomore Alec Burks.  The outstanding guard, who puked in the first half and took an IV during halftime, powered through his illness to fill up the stat sheet.  His final line included 25 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 big steals.  With Kent St punching back like no team had yet in this tournament, CU needed every bit of his performance.
Alec soared high in what was probably his final performance in the CEC.  From: the BDC

Burks performance, outstanding as it was, needed support, and it was provided in the form of Marcus Relphorde's 17 big points, and yet another double-double from freshman Andre Roberson.  However, the whole team had to step up considering the issues they were facing. 
With many of his teammates struggling through illnesses, Marcus Relphorde jumped up with 17 huge points.  From: the BDC

This win wasn't easy by any stretch of the imagination, Kent St made sure of that with 44 points in the paint powered by the 20 points from star forward Justin Greene.  The 6-8 New York native played as well as advertised in his attempt to win a trip home, and seemed to be able to match Burks play-for-play on the evening.  He also showed of a deft touch on interior passing, racking up 6 big assists, and made CU look bad on their off-ball interior defense.  Greene had a hell of a night, and it wasn't til very late in the game before CU could slow him down.

Resilient to the end, the Buffs saw KSU take a lead with 7 minutes left in the second half only to go on a 17-7 run to close out the game. The Buffs just would not be denied last night, and they now head to the Big Apple where they have as good a shot as any to walk away with the title.
High-fives all around.  But, there's still 2 games to go.  From: the BDC

Now if only I can figure out a way to see them in NYC...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NIT game #3 Preview: Kent State

I continue to wonder: if CU wins tonight, do they cut down the nets?  In the Tournament, when a team wins their regional, thus advancing to a Final Four, they cut down the nets.  With a win tonight in the quarterfinals of the NIT, the Buffs will have won the bottom-left "regional" of this years tournament, securing themselves a place in the NIT final four.  So I ask again, would CU cut down the nets this evening after a win?  I doubt it as it seems like such a small accomplishment, winning three home games over lesser opponents in a "forgotten" tournament, but tradition is tradition.  Damn it, I want a ladder, scissors, and some cut-up nets.
It's a ritual that Buff fans have been unable to enjoy in a very long time.
Regardless, whoever wins the NIT championship next Thursday in Madison Square Garden will have certainly earned the right do some net-cutting, and the Buffs are only two quality performances away from playing for that right.  After two convincing wins to start the NIT over Texas Southern and Cal, the Buffs find themselves playing the regular season champs from the MAC: the Golden Flashes of Kent State.  Yes, the program is most famous for producing an NFL star (Chargers TE Anotnio Gates), but it isn't without some recent success, having posted twelve 20+ win seasons in the past 13 years.
Gates is, by far, the most famous player to come out of the KSU basketball program.
Kent State have followed an interesting path to Boulder.  They come into the game having jumped across the country on their way to two consecutive road upsets in the NIT.  First traveling to California, then quickly to Connecticut, and then back across the country to Boulder has to be draining, but young kids recover quickly, and I'm not expecting anything less than the best from the blue and gold version of KSU. 

CU, of course, comes in having, so far, successfully avoided the NIT let-down that has felled so many decent teams in the past (and even some this year).  Seemingly easy victories over the past week have left many Buff fans, myself included, dreaming of a trip to NYC and a shot at the NIT title.  But it's not over yet.  This KSU team can do some damage to CU, and will not be a push over.  The Buffs had better be taking the Flashes seriously if they want to reunite with hoop-father Chauncey Billups in the nation's basketball capital.
'Dre and the Buffs have flown high in their first two NIT games, but there's still 3 games on CU's radar.  From: the BDC
This will be the first time ever that CU has faced off against the Golden Flashes from Kent State, but this is also the 3rd straight year that CU will play a MAC school, having faced Buffalo and Miami(OH) in '09 and '10 respectively (1-1).  Tip-off is set for 7pm this evening, and the game can be seen on the ESPN.
That's right, truly national TV.

I once again renew my plea for Buff Nation to fill the CEC.  We've done a great job supporting the team so far in the NIT, but a lack-luster crowd tonight could kill all the momentum that has been building.  If you're in the area, please, PLEASE, come out.  The students are gone for spring break, and we'll need all the butts in seats we can scrounge up to make the CEC as intimidating an arena as possible.
Cory needs to hear that CEC roar one more time if the Buffs are to make it to NYC.  From: the BDC

Click below for my preview

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

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Beer Post: More Beer Brackets

As it is the season of brackets, I feel its only fitting that I pass along yet another beer-tournament.  DRAFT Magazine (which I score free copies of a work, HA HA!) is not only offering you the opportunity to participate in their Beer Madness tournament, but humbly offers up to one lucky bracketeer a Beer Meister Kegerator.
Now that's a prize worth winning

This beer bracket, unlike the yearly IPA bracket (BTW, won by Big Dog's Dirty Dog IPA), is open to many different styles, which certianly spices up the competition. All you have to do to enter is fill out the bracket and toss them some basic info.  Not too shabby for a shot at a super-sweet beer dispenser.  Each beer/brewery is playing for a charity, so you even get to feel good about yourself for participating.
Brackets and beer, a match made in heaven.
My tipster passes along the names Sexual Chocolate, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and Black Tuesday, but I'm also partial to home-state favorites G'Knight Imperial Red (Oskar Blues), Milk Stout (Lefthand), and Myrcenary (Odells).  If you're looking to kill some time on this lazy, Tournament filled Friday, I suggest you head on over and fill out a bracket.  You have until Tuesday to fill in the first and second rounds.  Maybe you'll be the one to walk away with the kegerator.

NIT game #2 preview: Cal

With the move to the Pac-12 on the quickly approaching horizon, there's no time like the present to start getting to know our future conference brethren.  Enter the California Golden Bears with a particularly golden opportunity to taste what lies in store for CU in the new conference.  I'm really excited to see how the Buffs match up against the Bears.  It's second-tier programs like Cal that CU will need to leap-frog if they intend to consistently land in the upper-third of the conference.  Additionally, with CSU and St. Mary's falling in their first round games this week, this date with Cal features the only "name" competition left in CU's "region."
The Buffs will be looking a head to their new conference with their game against Cal this evening.  From: the BDC

The Buffs come in fresh off of their glorified scrimmage against Texas Southern.  Over 60% shooting and more than 50 combined points from Alec and Cory seem nice, but the whole team will need a jump-start in focus and intensity in order to get past Cal this evening.  Cal comes in off of a difficult home win over Ole Miss in their first-round game.  Cal rode the hot hand and 25 points of star guard Jorge Gutierrez to squeak past the Rebels 77-74.

Tip-off is set for 7:30, and the game can be seen on ESPNU (Hey, look!  Television!).  I again beseech all members of Buff Nation to make every effort to attend tonight's game.  We did a decent job Wednesday night, but the Buffs need our help again.  Let's fill the CEC!

Click below for my preview

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Texas Southern wrap

The Buffs did what they needed to do in their 88-74 win over Texas Southern last night in the opening round of the NIT.    The decent-sized crowd that showed up got plenty of show as CU repeated threw down some high-flying alley-oops.  However, the overall performance was a little disjointed.  The Buffs never looked completely "into" the game, and the entire event more-or-less felt like a glorified scrimmage.  Passes weren't as crisp as they sometimes needed to be, and there were plenty of mental errors on both sides of the ball.  But, as always, a win is a win.
It wasn't necessarily a perfectly played game, but the Buffs came through int he end.  From: the BDC

The team shot an incredible 61%, and the offense never really looked challenged by the flailing champions of the SWAC.  Burks and Higgins, again, lead the way to continue their March hot streak.  The duo combined for 52 points, 12 boards, and 6 assists.  To top it off they combined for an unbelievable 80% from the floor.  Alec seemed particularly unchallenged; after shaking off some early-game rust, the superlative sophomore began eviscerating the TSU Tigers with cuts to the rim exemplified by a second half play that saw him pirouette around his defender, drive hard to the basket, and flip up a ridiculous reverse layup that somehow found its way home.  The Tigers had no answer for him last night.
Alec continued his hot streak, and has at least 20 points in his last 4 games.  From: the BDC

Defensively, it seemed as if the Buffs were working some things out.  Late in the second half the Buffs even went extended periods in zone, something they never do, which seemed to be their way of practicing their zone look in a game setting.  Unfortunately, it still looks eminently beatable (which is why CU only play it when desperate).  Overall, CU held the Tigers to under 40% shooting, and under 30% from beyond the arc.

It felt weird to be back in the CEC last night.  Everything seemed just off-center.  From the lack of Tuba Cheer to the listless crowd spending almost the entire game working up the energy to cheer, it wasn't what CU basketball had been these last few months.  At least the Buffs pushed through the strangeness to grab the win in convincing fashion.

With first round action completed in the NIT, CU finds itself in a decent position, facing future conference foe Cal in the second round before potentially hosting either Fairfield or Kent State with a trip to New York on the line.  Cal is no pushover, however, and the Buffs will need a more focused approached then the one put on display last night if they expect to host a third NIT game.  You can excuse the lack of precision due both to the timing of the game and the quality of the opponent, but there is some doubt left in my mind whether the Buffs are over the disappointment of Selection Sunday.  Tomorrow night will be the real test.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NIT game #1 Preview: Texas Southern

If you doubted the fact that it doesn't matter who's the higher seed in the NIT, take a look at the bottom portion of CU's bracket.  Both #2 (St. Mary's) and #3 (CSU) were bumped off at home last night by seemingly weaker foes.  Sure, they lost by a combined 3 points, but a loss is a loss, and the NIT elite eight will now feature either Kent St or Fairfield.  (This is where you would hear the sad trombone sound.)

Last night's NIT upsets are not wholly unsurprising for two reasons.  There were a lot of smaller conference champions who lost in their respective conference tournaments, so the NIT field is filled with stronger than usual lower-league foes.  Additionally, the NIT is never about the quality of the team, but of the level of "gives-a-shit" the team currently possesses.  For reference, look back 5 years to the last time CU got rejected by the selection committee (that time fairly); CU had no "gives-a-shit," less than 3,000 fans showed up, and the Buffs were dominated in the second half by a seemingly worse Old Dominion squad.  CU could be playing essentially anyone tonight; the only thing that matters is how focused the Buffs are on the matter at hand.
This may be one of Coach Boyle's toughest sells: to get the Buffs focused on the Tigers.  From: the BDC

That said, CU comes into tonight's opening NIT tilt fresh off one of the most devastating gut punches a program can take: assuming you're in the Tournament only to not be selected.  They had been playing good basketball, having won 6 of their last 9, but that's not the issue now.  How they rebound tonight will be very telling both about the players themselves and the coaching staff.  The Texas Southern Tigers come in having failed to win their conference tournament, and thus being relegated to the NIT nether-region.  Some consolation prize for a team that went 16-2 in the SWAC.  Tip-off is set for 7pm, and the game can be seen on ESPN3 if you get it.  Again, if you live in the Boulder area, I implore you to attend because this teams needs all the support it can get right now.

Click below for my preview

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bracket Bullshit

Now that I've finally begun calming down after the initial waves of shock and rage filtered through my system, I can start to take a look at the national bracket and fill in my pool sheets.  Painful rebuke of my beloved Colorado Basketball team notwithstanding, I still love brackets.  Nothing will ever change this.  I still feel the NCAA Tournament, with all of it's selection warts, is the second purest expression of competition in the world (second only to the FA cup in England; no selection, and amateur teams have the potential to play, and beat, world-class squads like Man U.). 

Statistically, and I'm taking a risk by trusting Wikipedia on this, there are 147.57 quintillion bracket possibilities in the 68 team field.  Since no one is going to try and pick the first round games this year, the real number is 9.2 quintillion for a 64 team field.  You have a better chance of winning the lottery twice this year than randomly picking a perfect bracket.  Luckily, with a little knowledge, you can make things easier on yourself.  

To be sure, everyone has their own method of selecting teams, but here are a few things I see when looking at this year's field.

  • Two teams, Ohio State and Kansas, jump out at me.  They're not only quality basketball teams, faring well in all statistical measures, but they've also avoided random losses throughout the season.  They seem to be a step above the rest of the field and like '05, when Illinois played UNC, and '08, when Kansas played Memphis, they seemed primed to roll through the Tournament.  In all of my brackets I've placed Kansas and Ohio State in the final.
  • The rest of my Final Four is up in the air.  I think the Southeast will be a disaster this year, and upsets will be frequent.  Pitt couldn't even win one game in the Big East tourney, so I'm going to look elsewhere. Florida is regionally protected, so, even though I think their team is crap, I'll go with them. That only leaves the West.  The defending National Champions Duke get shuttled all the way out to Anaheim for the sweet-sixteen and elite eight rounds.  Should SDSU make it there, that could make things difficult for the Dukies.  My wild card pick in this region is, however, UCONN.  Kemba Walker is incredible, and, as long as he's not too tired from winning 5 games in 5 days in the Big East Tournament, the Huskies could go far.  I actually ended up picking them to reach the Final Four.
  • For "second-round" upsets I've targeted Richmond over Vandy, Utah St over KSU, Belmont over Wisconsin, and Gonzaga over St John's.  For "Cinderellas" (low seeded teams who make the sweet sixteen) I could see a team like Xavier or Utah St slipping past higher-seeded teams.
  • High seeds I would avoid advancing too far are Texas, BYU and Louisville.  I think teams have begun to figure out Texas, as they've gone 4-4 over their last 8. Louisville isn't necessarily weak, but I really like Richmond, and if they play in the "third round," the Spiders could push them.
It hurts not being able to slide CU past a BYU or Syracuse into the sweet sixteen, but by Thursday morning I'll be fully enthralled by brackets in all of their majesty.  If you've got your own picks, sleeper or otherwise, I'd love to hear them.  Just don't tell me you picked St Peter's because you think the Peacock mascot is "different."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Grab Bag: All dressed up and no one to dance with

Bubbles are made to burst.  Some teams, deserving as they might be, are always going to be left on the sidelines; it's the nature of selection.  Someone has to be picked over someone else; it sucks, but that's how it is.  Obviously, there is a powerful argument to be made for CU's exclusion; they were on the bubble for a reason, afterall.

All of those reasoned, half-hearted excuses aside, CU got jobbed.  Today in the bag I'll discuss missing out on the Tournament in much greater detail.  I'll pine around for scapegoats, and emotionally lash out a bit.  There is some lingering good news from Buff Nation, but I'll mostly be talking basketball.

If you're looking for spring football discussion, go somewhere else.  I'm in mourning, people.

Click below for this edition of the bag

Friday, March 11, 2011

Site News: No Live-Blog Today

So good news and bad news.  Bad news: no live-blog today.  The CU/KU semi-final game is after I leave work, and I'm not going to even try to write while I celebrate (read: drink a lot of beer at a sports bar) the Buffs first ever Big XII semi-final appearance.  The good news (at least for me): no live-blog today.  That shit's exhausting, and I miss a lot while trying to keep up with the flow of the game. 

I will have a full wrap-up and finals preview up tonight/tomorrow morning, and I'll have some abbreviated coverage Sunday for the Tournament selection.  Speaking of the Tournament, I was listening to 87.7 this morning, and, contrary to conventional wisdom, this guy thinks CU needs a win today against KU to even make the Tournament.  While I'm not as sure as Lunardi that CU will get a 1st-round bye, I think, at minimum, CU is headed for Dayton regardless of today's outcome. 

It would take a whole lot of bubble nonsense at this point to keep the Buffs out.  Talk about the non-con schedule and 3 bad losses all you want, but those losses were all on the road, and CU has won 5 of it's last 6 games.  I know from years past that the committee weighs your final few games higher than games earlier in the season, and a loss at San Francisco in November shouldn't keep the Buffs from playing in March.

Anyways, for good luck today I'm wearing my Chris Copeland '05-'06 game-worn jersey.  It's even got the Sox Walseth memorial patch on it; I'm sure Sox is looking down with pride at his Buffs right now.

Go get 'em guys, you've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

Friday Beer Post: The Guv and 3.2 beer

Warning: semi-political. If you'd rather not concern yourself with such matters, feel free to move on.

Governor Hickenlooper kicked up a storm this week over the redefining of the rules related to 3.2 beer testing.  A law has been in place that requires that no beer sold in restaurants bars and liquor stores may contain less than 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4% by volume.  Sales of these beers were reserved for convenience stores and supermarkets. A law passed last year was aimed at reinforcing the existing law with a rules process requiring testing to ensure that beer sold in these business complied with the old law.

The rules process that had been worked on for months placed the onus of testing on the brewer, and for the breweries to pass the test results onto the state.  The Colorado Brewers Guild complained to the Governor's office that the law was intrusive, and was essentially an surtax on them for producing quality beer.  In response, the Governor changed the rules, shortening and simplifying them to, instead of requiring testing on the brewers end, allow the Division of Liquor Enforcement to test any suspect beer.

It's a simple shift of the onus of testing from the brewer to the state.  Since, as Governor Hickenlooper would point out, the old rule disproportionally penalizes small breweries in requiring them to expensively test the product, the rules, which had been intended as a protection for the status quo, had become a punitive surtax on small business to the benefit of giant convenience and supermarket conglomerates (most of whom are from anywhere but Colorado).

The fact is, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Republican mind you, signed off on Democratic Governor Hickenlooper's reassessment of the rules; that his shortening of the testing rules from 7 pages to 1 paragraph still complied with the law as passed.  This is what executives do; they define the enforcement of the laws, and even the opposition party Attorney General gave the move a pass. The Legislature may huff and puff all they want, but it's perfectly legal.  Maybe not politically tactful, since it's a sensitive political topic right now, but still legal.

While this story didn't get a whole lot of attention over the past week, I noted it for a couple of reasons: just like I expected (and, not-for-nothing, voted for) the Governor is going to be very brewer, small business, and liquor store friendly, and he's not afraid to take action to support those groups.

Overall, I'm thrilled with this action.  I want Colorado to be the state with the friendliest craft brewer laws in the country.  It's part of the reason I supported Hick for Governor, and the thriving craft brewing culture in this state is a large part of the reason why I love living here.  The more Colorado can do to support the small business concerns of craft breweries and liquor stores, even at the expense of big-chain supermarkets and convenience stores, the better in my opinion.

I guarantee you that, were big chains to gain the ability to sell full strength beer, the craft industry in Colorado, supported by the numerous small liquor stores, would shrink in size dramatically. Whatever the Governor needs to do, legally of course, to prevent that is fine by me.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Big XII Tournament Day #3 Preview

It feels damn good to be a Buff fan right now.  The basketball team has ridden the bubble safely into the Tournament, and Buffs can rest assured that they will hear their name read on Sunday when the NCAA Tournament field is announced.  This is because, with a shiny new 87-75 3rd win of the season over the seemingly unstoppable Kansas State Wildcats (now 8-2 since the beginning of February), there can be no doubt that the Buffs belong in the Dance.  Conversation over; Joe Lunardi can move on to other topics.

For the first time in their 15 years in the league, the Buffs have played their way into the Big XII semi-finals, and they got there riding the wave of 3 outstanding individual performances.

Alec Burks was doing his Alec Burks thing again.  He filled up nearly every corner of the statsheet, going for 24 points, 6 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals.  He was even perfect from the line (8-8) to sweeten the pot.  So far this tournament, he's sporting an incredible line of 53/21/11/5.  You hear that noise?  That's the sound of NBA GM's getting out their checkbooks.
Burks has been out of this world awesome in the last two games.  From: the BDC

Even better against KSU was the performance of Cory Higgins.  The California native has been the rock that this current CU squad is built upon, and he chose a perfect time to remind everyone how blazingly hot he can get when left open.  With Jacob Pullen shifting to guard Burks in the 2nd half, Cory was allowed to score 19 of his game-high 28 in the final frame.  Sweet jumpers kept falling, and, as Cory elevated over defender after defender, the Buffs kept putting more and more pressure on the 'Cats until they broke.

Not to be outdone by either Burks or Higgins, Andre Roberson has been becoming a man in front of our eyes.  He went 11/14 with 3 blocks against KSU, and for the tournament, hes got an outstanding 20/29 line.  With his held, CU has beaten ISU and KSU by a combined 18 on the boards.  He's been fantastic, and has gotten better with every minute he's been on the court.
'Dre has been a rock in the paint for the Buffs.  From: The BDC

Because of their combined efforts, and those of their teammates in gritty supporting roles, KSU, which had been one of the hottest teams in the country, will now watch the rest of the Big XII championship from home. Suck it.
Always nice to see the bench happy.  From: the BDC

With that out of the way theres only one thing left to do: win the whole fucking thing.

Click below for my third KU preview, and the rest of day 3's action

Buffs vs KSU live-blog

Throughout the game I'll be throwing updates onto this post as the game requires.  All you need to do to keep up with the latest goings-on is simply hit refresh.

Here's yesterday's version for reference. 

Click below for today's live-blog

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Big XII Tournament Day #2 Preview

Whew, that was too close.  By beating ISU 77-75 earlier today, the Buffs stay in Tournament discussion, and move on to face Kansas State tomorrow.  The Buffs have been winning a lot of close ball games over the past month, going 4-1 in games decided by 3 points or less since the beginning of February.  It's enough to strain my cardiovascular system to the limit.
It hurt a little bit, but the Buffs powered past ISU in first-round action.  From: the BDC

This particular heart-stopping game featured one of the most cold-blooded, "I refuse to lose," performances I've ever seen a Buffalo produce.  With the season's success on the line, super-sophomore Alec Burks heaved the Buffs on his back, and dragged them kicking a screaming into victory.  Al finished with 29 points, 25 of which came in the second half, a career-high 15 boards, and 6 assists.  He got contact when he needed it, hit some huge jumpers, and made some ridiculous off-balance shots in the lane; it was the kind of game you expect from a premier talent in the month of March.  As fantastic as his performance against Texas was, this was even better.  It mattered more, and it was more dominant.
Burks was triumphant today.  When it mattered the most, there he was taking the game over.  From: the BDC

Additionally, freshman Andre Roberson had another fantastic game.  Grabbing a career high 15 rebounds, the lanky Texan shut down the Cyclones inside, helping the Buffs finish with a +12 rebounding margin.  That rebounding margin wasn't the only stat to be proud of.  As a team, CU held the streaky shooting 'Clones to under 40% shooting.  This, combined with Burks' performance and the rebounding edge, should've been enough to spell victory. However, CU committed a nearly back-breaking 15 turnovers.  They seemed to come constantly out of nowhere to stall the offense.
'Dre and the Buffs shored up that defense, and mostly kept Godfrey and the non-Anderson 'Clones off the board.  From: the BDC.

On the other side, ISU featured the seemingly unstoppable Jake Anderson.  It felt like every ISU possession in the second half had Anderson driving right to the rack and getting a lay-up.  33 points on 13-20 shooting. It was painful to watch, especially since CU was determined prior to the game to stop ISU from penetrating.  It was a performance that, without Burks refusing to quit, should've meant a CU loss.
Anderson almost killed CU's season.  Almost.  From: the BDC

But, it didn't.

A win is a win.  It's what I always say, and I'm sticking by it.  It doesn't matter how ugly that first half was, or how discombobulated the offense looked before Burks took over, the point is the Buffs survived, and will at least be in the conversation come Selection Sunday.  20 wins is a mile-post number, and it looks a whole hell of a lot better than 19, but it's yet to be determined if 20 will get CU into the Tournament.  Better win a 21st just to be sure...
It was nerve-wracking, but the Buffs survived and will advance in their final Big XII tournament.  From: the BDC
Click below for my 3rd KSU preview and the rest of Day 2's action...

Buffs vs ISU live-blog

Throughout the game I'll be throwing updates onto this post as the game requires.  All you need to do to keep up with the latest goings-on is simply hit refresh.

Here's last year's version for reference.

Click Below for today's live-blog

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Big XII Tournament Day #1 Preview

So here's the plan for the next few days.  I'll be previewing each day of tournament action.  As long as the Buffs are still in it, those previews are going to be a little more focused.  I will also "live-blog" to the best of my abilities each Buffs game.

#5 Colorado vs #12 Iowa St. - 1pm - While the Buffs aren't the first game of the day, where else could I begin? It's almost theatrically dramatic that CU gets another shot at the Cyclones.  It was only 6 days ago that ISU put the Buffs backs up against the NIT wall, and beat CU in Ames 95-90.  Considering the hard work that the Buffs put into setting themselves up on the bubble, to have had it all seemingly taken away over the course of 40 minutes in a back-water Iowa hamlet must have been excruciating.  It's that memory that the Buffs take into the game tomorrow.  The team has one chance to erase that memory, and possibly play themselves into the Tournament; I hope-to-God they're ready.
It's do-or-die time for Higgins and the Buffs.  From: The BDC

Last week, it certainly wasn't a lack of offensive output that doomed the Buffs. ISU was able to use a stellar performance from freshman Calvin Godfrey (23/11 in only 23 minutes, 10-11 shooting), who was suspended for the first meeting, and 70% second-half shooting to blow past the Buffs porous defense.  In order to beat the 'Clones this time, that defense has to be shored up. 
Godfrey and the 'Clones offensive explosion smacked the Buffs in the face last week.  How will Burks and the Buffs respond?

While 70% is an outlier, as Thorburn would point out, it's not exactly unprecedented for CU to have a defensive letdown over a half.  CU's defense has allowed at least one half of over 50% shooting from their conference opponents on 11 occasions, and in those games they are 4-7.  If the 'Clones are able to shoot over 50% in either half tomorrow, the Buffs are putting their Tournament hopes on very shaky ground.  This, more than anything else, is what I'll be paying attention to tomorrow afternoon.
The defense needs to be much better if CU is to survive.

For reference my first two previews are here and here.

In the end, I expect this final meeting between CU and ISU to be high scoring.  In each of the two previous games this season, the winner has dropped 95 on the loser.  Continuing that theme, I expect CU to win by flat outscoring the 'Clones.  The defense holds just enough, and CU stays inside the bubble for one more day.

CU 95 - ISU 83.



Other first day action in KC

#8 Nebraska vs #9 Oklahoma St - 10:30 am - In the first of two "bubble" games that CU fans should pay attention to, the Huskers are clinging to Tournament hopes.  In all reality, Nebraska would have to at least appear in the final to potentially claim an at-large bid.  The Cowboys have some battle-tested talent (Marshall Moses, Keiton Page) that could challenge the Huskers.  In the teams previous meeting this season, the Huskers got a 9 point win in Lincoln.  I think it could be closer than that this time around, but Nebraska should still win. 

#7 Baylor vs # 10 Oklahoma - 5 pm - The other "bubble" game involves the Baylor Bears.  Baylor crashed down the ranks of Tournament contention down the stretch, losing 4 of their final 5 games.  They're now on the outside looking in, and look to be out of gas.  They still feature the Big XII's leading scorer in the form of LaceDarius Dunn, and could challenge Texas if they slip by OU.  The Sooners are still waiting for next year.  I like Baylor to win by more than 10 points.

#6 Missouri vs #11 Texas tech - 7:30 pm - This game would've been a lot more interesting had Tech not just fired Pat Knight.  Sure he's still there, but there was always the chance that the Raider players could've played tough "for their coach."  As of now I expect them to go through the motions, and for Mizzou to win easily.  Speaking of the Tigers, I am thinking of picking them over A&M should they beat the Raiders...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Grab Bag: "We're not done yet"

The Buffs basketball team held serve this past weekend, beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the final Big XII regular season game either team will ever play.  NCAA Tournament hopes still alive, the Buffs will head to KC buoyed by a pretty strong performance against a pesky team.  This week in the bag I'll recap the game, look ahead to the Big XII tournament, and quickly touch on some teams that only I care about.

Click below for the bag...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Quick Post: Boyle lands another 2012 instate recruit

While Coach Boyle and the Buffs were beating Nebraska Saturday evening, yet another lanky forward from Colorado Springs was committing to join the Buffs in 2012.  6-7 swing forward Wesley Gordon from Sierra High committed to the Black and Gold, joining area rival Josh Scott who committed late last week.  In the span of one week Coach Boyle has locked up half his 2012 class, and added some local size and athleticism in the process.  Congrats go to Coach and his staff, and welcome aboard Wesley!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday Beer Post: How to pour 56 beers in a minute.

There have been many developments in the beer world that have raised eyebrows.  Innovations in the way beer is stored, transported, and consumed have made beer culture more accessible around the globe.  Walk through the aisles of the GABF this fall and you'll see numerous new ideas (many of them crap), intended to better your beer experience.  Innovators and entrepreneurs continually try to change the way we think of beer consumption, and, while many are gimmick based, some actually have a kernel of genius to them.

One of the more interesting ideas I've seen has a little of both.  The BottomsUp beer dispenser looks to find a way to rapidly dispense beer to shorten wait times in large-crowd situations.  The device uses specially designed cups that affix onto the top of a placement-mounted spigot.  Beer flows through the bottom of the cup, quickly filling it with beer, and avoiding too much head.  A plastic disk over a hole in the bottom of the cup both allows the pour system to work and keep the beer in the cup. It's astonishing to watch for the first time. 

The system is now utilized in over 25 venues across the country, and inventor Josh Springer believe that this is a game-changing design that will eliminate the need to wait in long lines for beer at sporting events. (I thought that's what beer-men are for).

Unfortunately, at least in my mind, the system is tainted by it's association with Budweiser.  As this reviewer notes, a Bud Light poured from this invention still " tastes like ass unless you’ve already had copious amounts of Bud Light."  But at least there's no "bullshit foam rip-off."

Should I come across this invention while out and about, I'll certainly give it a real life try.  I'm interested to see how well that disk on the bottom holds as you drink more and more of the beer.  I still think it's more on the gimmick side, but it at least seems to perform as advretised.

Happy Friday!

Nebraska Basketball Preview #2

CU vs Nebraska.  One last time.  It all comes down to this.  Having tasted defeat in my final trip to Lincoln, I desperately want to see one last win over the Huskers. The women held up their part of the bargain, finding victory as the last Buffalo squad to ever visit the "shit-hole of the plains" (that's Lincoln's official nickname, right?).  Now it's up to the men to complete a series-ending sweep of the Huskers; fading Tournament hopes be damned, this is for blood.
Cory has one last shot at the Corn, and looks to end the home portion of his CU career on a high-note Saturday evening.  From: the BDC

I talked at great length back in November about what the rivalry means to me.  I won't spoil that declaration of hate with more garbled language, but, suffice to say, I'd rather lose a thousand games to ISU than take one on the chin in the final match with the Huskers.  Both teams could be winless in conference, and I wouldn't care; for one last dance with the Red Menace I'd walk through fire.

The Buffs come in fresh off of face-planting into the wall that is the ISU Cyclones.  For all of 3 days, the Tournament was a real possibility, now Buff Nation is back to taking what it can get.  A final win over the Corn on senior day would do nicely.  Besides the final date with the Huskers, Saturday will serve as the final home game for seniors Cory Higgins, Marcus Relphorde, Levi Knutson, Javon Coney and Trent Beckley. Additionally, CU can still land in 5th place for the Big XII tournament, setting up a rematch with ISU.  I bet the boys would want a shot at quick revenge next Tuesday.
I know Levi wouldn't mind another crack at ISU; to get it, CU will need a win Saturday along with some help from Mizzou and Baylor.  From: the BDC

Nebraska comes in with their own Tournament hopes in critical condition.  Their story these past few weeks has closely mirrored that of our Buffs.  Having beaten Texas at home, Nebraska fans were talking Tournament (It's worth pointing out that they're the only Big XII squad without a Tournament appearance in the Big XII era, and have never won a Tournament game), only to see the team crash and burn in Ames.  Their road to the Dance is probably even longer than CU's, and would certainly require a win in Boulder.

I hope everyone reading this can make the game Saturday, it should be a great atmosphere, and the departing seniors deserve as great of a send-off as we can muster.  Tip-off is set for 7pm.  If you're hoping for television coverage, I can't help you, but audio coverage will be aired on 850 KOA for those who can't attend.  That's right, for the first time since before I was born, Buffs basketball is on the region's largest radio station.  For reference, my preview of the first game is here.
If you're going to watch senior Marcus Relphorde play his final home game, you'll have to be in the gym.  From: the BDC

As this is the final regular season meeting with the Huskers, it also marks my final opportunity to say fare-poorly to the other school departing the Big XII.  Really, at this point, I don't have anything left to level at the Corn.  I'll cede my remaining time to Mr James Van Der Beek; I hear he has a final message for the Huskers.  Take it away James:


Poetic in its simplicity.

Click below for my preview.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick-Post: First 2012 Basketball recruit

One of the primary concerns for Colorado basketball the past few years has been interior play.  While they've done well enough with a bevy of athletic swingmen, there hasn't been enough size in the paint to defend the other team's bigs, grab big-time rebounds, or get easy looks at the basket to stop opponent's runs.  It's a problem area in desperate need of addressing.  Slowly, but surely, Coach Boyle has been doing just that.

Having already signed the 6-7, wide-bodied Damiene Cain to the 2011 class, Coach Boyle has continued to go after post players to round out his roster.  As a result, Coach Boyle has received his first commitment to the CU class of 2012 in the form of Josh Scott.  A 6-9 Power Forward from Colorado Springs, Scott also marks the first in-state player to commit to play for CU under the Boyle regime (the 3 players in the 2011 class are all from California).  Scott has performed well for Lewis-Palmer High, providing 21/11 per game, and had, according to rivals, been receiving interest from schools like Stanford, Wake Forest and CSU.

I'm not sure if transfer guard Sabatino Chen is currently on scholarship or not (my bad), but the Buffs should be able to spend at least 4 total scholarships on players in the 2012 class with Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault, Carlon Brown, and Trey Eckloff scheduled to graduate after next season.  Spending one of those 4 on a local power forward seems like a great idea.  Way to go Coach Boyle, and welcome aboard Josh!

Quick-Post: CU kicks me while I'm down

Season football renewals came out today.  Great, not only am I still grieving over last night's loss to ISU, but now I have to watch money fly out of my bank account. The good news is that total prices are down, but, unless you sit in the cheap seats or section 220, that's mostly due to there being one fewer game on the schedule.

On the bright side, while it does hurt to pay cash money right now, my decision to renew isn't as difficult as it was last March.  Even if the Buffs-4-Life coaching crew can't spin immediate voodoo, things should at least be interesting to watch this fall.

ISU wrap

Ouch, that one hurt.  Last night's 95-90 CU loss to ISU essentially eliminates the Buffs from Tournament competition.  It's days like this, after painfully tough losses, that I drastically change up my morning routine.  I wake up bright and early, don't listen to any sports-talk on the radio, and I avoid the newspapers like the plague.  It's as if, by avoiding any mention of the loss, that the outcome will magically change; that if I never hear about it again, then it never really happened.

Unfortunately, it did happen, and it was those old Achilles Heels of defense and rebounding that did the Buffs season in.  ISU was able to shoot over 70% in the second half, and 57% for the game, while out-rebounding the Buffs by 8.  Additionally, ISU had 5 players in double figures, and two (Calvin Godfrey and Jamie Vanderbeken) had double-doubles.  It would take a damn miracle to win on the road against numbers like that.

While it was a overall team blitz by the Cyclones, the presence of Calvin Godfrey, who missed the first game, was the key difference.  The freshman had a career night, going 23/11 in only 23 minutes of play.  I fretted in my column yesterday that Godfrey might gash the Buffs, but I never imagined him having that level of impact.  CU just didn't have an answer for him, and paid the price in the end.

Godfrey destroyed CU last night.  From: the Ames Tribune

On the positive side for the Buffs, there was a lot of offensive highlights (which is to be expected when you drop 90 on a team).  Alec Burks had another big night,  nearly posting his own double-double while providing 24/9/4.  Marcus Relphorde also had a big impact, chipping-in 21/7 while shooting 5-10 from 3.  Had he not had some big 3-pointers in the second half, the Buffs would've lost by much more.  Levi had a near-perfect night again, going 4-4 from 3 on his way to 16 points.  CU battled offensively all night long, and put up some pretty impressive numbers, but just couldn't keep up with the night ISU was having.


Yesterday, when finishing up my preview, I looked past all of the sign-posts (road game, the return of Godfrey, trap game, etc) and picked the Buffs to win anyway.  I just couldn't bring myself to admit that CU was going to lose last night; but lose they did.  It wasn't lack of effort (outside of a few defensive letdowns, they played their asses off last night) but fate that doomed CU.  It just wasn't going to happen last night.

So what does CU have left to play for?  Well, for one, the seniors;  Higgins, Relphorde, and Knutson deserve a proper send off Saturday evening.  There is also that probable NIT berth on the horizon.  The last time the Buffs found themselves in the NIT (2006), the team didn't take the "not-in-Tournament" tournament seriously, and the Buffs got blown out at home by the vaunted Old Dominion Monarchs from the Colonial Athletic Association; I'd sure everyone would like to avoid a repeat of that performance if possible.  Finally, there's always pride.  This is a good team.  Sure, it has its flaws, but you don't just wake up one day and start beating Missouri, Texas, and K-State twice.  The Tournament may not be in CU's future, but they're still an exciting team to watch, and I'll be there loud-and-proud Saturday evening to cheer them on against the hated Corn.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quick Post: Nebraska game sold out

There was a time when CU basketball would sell out maybe one game of the year, and even then it would be mostly visiting fans.  This season has put that old reality on its head.  Saturday will mark the 5th sellout of the season; that's a record.  In fact the CEC has been sold out the last 3 games, and all without the benefit of those KU fans that I hope I never see again. 

Way to go Buff Nation!  This has been a great season both in terms of play on the court and support in the stands.  I can't wait to get back into that packed gym Saturday evening!

Iowa State Basketball Preview #2

It's a good time to be playing your best basketball.  With last Saturday's stunning comeback against #5 Texas, CU has now won 3 of it's last 4 contests, with the lone loss being against the fired-up Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.  That's not to say things haven't been close.  If you take away that KU debacle, over the last 3 weeks CU has only been separated from their opponents by an average of 2.5 points.  The Buffs have been finding a way to win, and now stand a week of good basketball away from a 20-win season and a decent shot at making the Tournament.
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 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.

Fare-the-well, Bird-in-a-blender.

Click below for my preview