Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: Into the top-15

You may notice that this grab bag is being posted on Tuesday, rather than in the traditional Monday afternoon time slot. I do apologize for the abrupt scheduling change, but it was necessary.  One of the reasons I wanted to push back the bag this week was to include the national title game.  It seems simpler for me to do it in a bag format then to make a separate post simply for the purpose of wrapping up the game. Look for that at the tail end of today's post.

The other reason I wanted to push it back, however, was schedule crunch.  Between work, alumni band, and actually following basketball, I had fallen a little behind, and didn't have enough prepared to put together a quality post.  Never wanting to put up substandard product, and rather than press, I just gave myself an extra day - the benefits of not having to answer to anyone!

As tired as I am, it has all been for a good cause.  Over the past two games, the alums and I have been helping out with the basketball band in the hopes of keeping the sound amped up through the last vestiges of winter break.  If you've been at the games, I hope you enjoyed the performance emanating from the south end of the stadium. I think the eclectic mix of alums and current members made for a good group.
Yep, that's me.  H/T to @JGIsland for snapping the pic!
Of course, alumni band season is not over yet.  We'll be playing for the two women's games this week against Cal and Stanford.  They are huge games for the ladies, and the team deserves a full stadium's worth of support.  If you can, I highly suggest you make the effort to head up to the CEC.  The women play Cal Friday night, and Stanford Sunday afternoon.  I hope to see you there!


Today in the bag, I'm talking the men's win over Oregon, the women's inconsistent trip to SoCal, the national title game, and baseball's hall of fame.

Click below for the bag...

Duck a l'Boulder - 

Sometimes I head to the arena dreading the product that's about to be on display.  Such was the case Thursday night against Oregon St, when the Beavers were going to do everything in their power to turn the game into a 40 minute slog.  Then there are times when I head up to the CEC licking my chops in anticipation of an exhibition of the beautiful game, the version of basketball I see in my head as I fall asleep. Such was the case Sunday night when the Buffs and Ducks combined for 191 points in a see-saw offensive explosion that should've carried even casual observers' attention from tip-to-horn.  Remember when these two teams played to a 48-47 snooze-fest last season?  Nope, neither do I... Boom, CU 100, Oregon 91. How does that taste?

While the final looks slightly lopsided, you have to remember that there were nine lead changes and six tie scores throughout proceedings.  Both teams, in fact, held second half leads of 10+ points.  This was a roller coaster of offensive brilliance, one that kept everyone guessing til the end.  Seriously, how fun was that? Two capable offensive teams lobbing hay-makers at each other for two halves with reckless abandon.  If you didn't find that entertaining, you need to find some other sport to follow.
The Buffs are getting hot at a pretty good time.  From: the BDC
For the #20 Buffaloes, knocking off the #10 Ducks at home was only an upset if you don't know what you're watching.  I cringed when the students started chanting 'O-VER-RA-TED' at the end, because it's Colorado who is underrated, or at least under-appreciated by the country at large.  Hopefully, those un-invested parties who found themselves tuning in on Sunday got a good look and found something they liked, because what we saw at the CEC is only a taste of the things to come from this still-developing team.

I said before the game that a key to victory for Colorado would be attacking the paint.  Oregon simply doesn't have the interior size to match up against the Buffs, and it showed as CU scored 40 points in the paint, and another 33 from the free throw line on 39 attempts.  While Oregon tried to halt the attacking Buffaloes with some zone out of halftime, CU eventually got their act together, and broke the Ducks inside.
Get to the line; rinse, repeat.  From: the BDC
Leading the way for Colorado was the dynamic guard duo of Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie.  The pair combined for 50 points, 32 in the second half, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and 2 steals. Ski's individual line alone is highly impressive, overflowing with a 27/7/4 exclamation point against zero turnovers.  It's amazing how good this team is when Ski is on his game, a fact that everyone has been a party to over the last month or so.  Also starring was Josh Scott.  Quiet as ever, the double-double machine recorded his 5th straight by posting 15/14 with 4 blocks.  Scott is destined to be under appreciated in his time, but, damn if he isn't fun to watch.  The Young Fundamental is nigh un-guardable on the block right now.
Ski and Spencer were magnificent. From: the BDC
Off the cuff, you would expect a defensive performance that saw Colorado give up 91 points would be less that fulfilling. While I'm sure Coach Boyle will cringe at that number, it's actually not all that bad.  This was a high possession game played against the best offensive team in the country.  To expect CU to hold Oregon to 60-70 points was a pipe dream.  In that light, I actually thought the defensive effort was OK-ish.  The Ducks only shot a tick over 42% from the field, which is borderline acceptable.  The only problem was the 19 offensive rebounds allowed, way too many for a CU team that was once best in the nation in defensive rebounding rate.  Still, Oregon only turned those 19 into nine second-chance points, mitigating any potential damage.

Looking forward, the Buffs now head on the road for a double-dip in Washington.  While we all know how good CU is at the CEC, the road still remains a question mark in 2013-14. The expectation is that the #15 team in the country can go on the road to two of the worst teams in the league and earn a sweep, now the Buffs just have to live up to that mandate.  If they score the ball like they did on Sunday, they should have no problem.

Women struggle to earn split in SoCal - 

As free-flowing as the action was in Boulder over the weekend, it was a mighty struggle for the women on their conference-opening road trip to southern California.
There was no reason to be slipping against a team like USC, who was 6-5 coming into conference play.
Friday night in University Park, they simply didn't look ready to play, missing 16 of their first 17 shots to dig themselves a big hole.  While they would scramble back to take a few leads in the second frame, CU finished on a four-minute scoreless run, and stumbled home to a ugly 55-45 loss at the hands of a middling USC squad.

Two nights later against UCLA, the unsightly story almost repeated itself.  The Buffs played well enough in the first half, but struggled out of the locker room in the second to slip behind the Bruins by as many as nine points.  Not willing to go home without a conference win, however, the ladies rallied to go on a 20-9 run down the stretch to claim a two point lead with the clock running out.  A few desperation heaves from UCLA were little too close for comfort, but, ultimately, off the mark, and Colorado escaped with a 61-59 win, and a split on the trip.
CU rallied to claim a split in LA.
While in LA, the women shot a paltry 32%, including only 7-29 from beyond the arc. With key players like Arielle Roberson (4-17) and Lexy Kresl (4-12) laying bricks on the trip, it could've been much worse.   Luckily for the Buffs, the defense was still good, as they held the Trojans and Bruins to a similarly awful 33% from the floor. Overall, some really bad basketball being played in the City of Angels over the weekend.

As a result of their less-than-stellar run, the women slipped from 12th to 17th in the latest AP poll.  I'm almost surprised it wasn't a steeper slope, as it has been a rough few weeks for the ladies. After their first non-conference loss since the Jurassic period on Dec 21st in Louisville, they returned home for a distracted post-holiday performance against Southern Utah.  Add in the LA trip, and they haven't played their best basketball in nearly a month.  They need to find the gas pedal, and quick, with Cal and Stanford coming to town.  The execution they've shown recently simply won't cut it against the league's best.

Florida State wins the national title - 

In the final BCS Championship ever to be played, chaos reigned as the series conspired to go out in a blaze of glory.  It was ugly to start, with Auburn controlling much of the first half, but Florida State, by far the best team in the country during the regular season, closed strong before halftime, and carried that momentum into the final 30 minutes.  Down the stretch there was big play after big play, with explosiveness breaking the game wide open.  In the end, a dramatic 80-yard touchdown drive from FSU with less than 80 seconds to play sealed the win, and the Semioles claimed a 34-31 win, and the national championship.
A deserving champion.
I was falling asleep just before halftime, as Auburn had completely shut down the high powered Florida State attack to take a 21-3 lead.  With a blowout threatening and the first half dying, FSU pulled out a fake punt to spur a pride-saving 66-yard touchdown drive.  A sign of life!  At 21-10, it still seemed like Auburn's game to lose, but at least now the 'Noles were in it.

The Tigers had multiple chances to regain their strangle hold on the game in the third quarter, but failed to take advantage.  Left to the football gods, the game went full HAM once the fourth quarter started.  Florida State got the action going by turning a Nick Marshall interception into a 56-yard touchdown drive. A suspect unsportsmanlike conduct call kept Auburn in the lead, which they increased to four with a grind-it-out field goal drive.  The ensuing kickoff, however, blew everything up. Seminole kick returner Levonte Whitfield streaked down the sideline for 100 yards and FSU's first lead since 3-0.
*poof*, he's gone.
Take a deep breath, because there's still four minutes of game left.

Not to be outdone, the Tigers would respond with a sterling 75-yard touchdown drive of their own.  The next great thing in rushing, Tre Mason, broke a 37-yard score to give Auburn the lead, but that only set the table for Heisman winner Jameis Winston to claim his crown.  The key play was a 49-yard pass to Rashad Greene.  He slipped between two would-be tacklers into daylight to turn a five yard gain into a championship-defining play. Suddenly, a Florida State title a fait acomplii.  From there, aided by a blatant pass interference, FSU took six plays to go 23 yards, culminating in a two-yard touchdown pass from Winston to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.  Confetti, t-shirts, etc...

It's both a shame and a blessing that the SEC, a league that so dominated the format, goes out losers as the BCS dies.  Maybe it's even fitting.  I'm sure the conference will play a major factor in the new playoff format, but, Monday's game ended an era in more ways than one.  As Brent Musberger said, a perfect end to an imperfect system.

My hypothetical Hall of Fame ballot - 

Baseball will announce Hall of Fame class of 2014 tomorrow afternoon.  Always a topic of heated discussion, the voting usually demonstrates the worst aspects of baseball at a time that they are trying to honor the best.  Since I think the BBWAA is dominated by a bunch of old windbags who have long since stopped serving any purpose to the modern world, I've decided to post my hypothetical ballot.  For the record, steroid implications are only considered when I believe there is a reasonable chance that their worthiness is only a result of 'enhancements.'

  • Frank Thomas
  • Greg Maddux
  • Tom Glavine
  • Barry Bonds
  • Tim Raines
  • Mike Piazza
  • Craig Biggio
  • Roger Clemens
  • Jack Morris

Note: if you disagree, you are wrong.  Further note: if Frank doesn't get in tomorrow, I quit baseball.

Happy MondayTuesday!

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