Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: My lawn, get off of it.

The topic du jour on twitter today was student attendance at basketball games.  The conversation was too sprawling to succinctly link, but a perusal of the timelines of @TZiskBuff, @William_Whelan, @RyanKoenigsberg, @CUGoose, @AngryAndy720, and @JGIsland from this afternoon will get you caught up to speed.  To summarize: the student attendance this year is disappointing to the point that a handful of grown men spent a portion of their work day discussing it.

Was there sarcasm?  Oh yes.  Catty generalities?  You betcha!  Allusions to ski slopes and pot smoking?  Indeed. And those were just my tweets!

Having covered this territory last year, I'm disinclined to waste another 1,000 words on the subject, so I'll abbreviate. Suffice to say: kids aren't coming in the ways they used to.  Whole swaths of the south end of the arena were bare over the recent homestand, and it's only getting worse. At a time when the loyal and the passionate are trolling for votes, the empty seats undercut any claims of being the 'Student Section of the Year,' and generally elicit eye rolls.
The students at tip of the Utah game.  It was worse on Sunday.
Are there reasonable excuses for an individual student to not attend a given basketball game?  Of course there are.  Life is a varied, wonderful thing that your average 20-year old would do well to pursue to its fullest.  But how, why 10% of the student body at a flagship university can't be bothered to support a winning basketball program - incidentally, in spite of injuries, off to their best start in 45 years - is beyond me.  Complaints of 'lack of administrative support' and 'reduced incentive to attend' strike me as entitled and soft.  We, as in BuffNation as a whole, should be better than this.

This frustration is not leveled at those who show up.  The 500-1,000 kids who work their butts off in support of the team deserve the traditional kudos.  It's the other 2,000 fans who have decided to spend their hoop nights elsewhere that are raising my temperature.  At the end of the day, on a night when the founding fathers of the C-Unit were being honored, the student section was maybe 1/3 full... for a team with 18 wins in 3rd place in the Pac-12.  Simply inexcusable when compared to where the kids were only a few months ago. The team deserves better.

90% of life continues to be showing up... so, you know... show up.  No excuses, play like a champion.  Also, get off my lawn.


Today in the bag, I'm talking basketball, basketball, and more basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs demolish Huskies -

Well, that was certainly something to appreciate.  Sunday night at the CEC, CU took leads of 10-0 and 20-4 in the opening minutes, and rarely looked back en route to a 91-65 *ahem* rout of the Washington Huskies. With a brutal stretch of seven games on the horizon, the team desperately needed a performance like this.  Despite losing yet another starter (Wes Gordon) on the day of a Washington game, they cruised. From wire-to-wire, Colorado wasn't just the better team, they were the dominant team.
CU swarmed Washington from the tip.  They never had a chance.  From: the BDC
The stats are delicious to look at.  CU shot over 55%, hit nearly 2/3rds of their three-point attempts, out-rebounded the Dawgs by 14, and held their shell-shocked opponents to only 32% from the field.  It was about as perfect as CU has played in a long time, and about as poorly as Washington has played all season. One team's explosive performance is another's embarrassment.  Such is life.

The Buffs were lead, as always, by the high-flying trio of Askia Booker, Josh Scott, and Xavier Johnson. All three scored over 20 points in the blowout, and, combined, the veteran core of the squad combined for 68 points, 23 rebounds, and 12 assists.
Johnson was as good as I've seen Sunday.  From: the BDC
Taking top-scoring honors was Xavier Johnson, who blew the doors off the building with his near-perfect 27/10 performance.  The sophomore from LA hit 10 of 14 shots from the field, including all three of his attempts from deep.  He was essentially unguardable, and returned the favor by helping to mute UW super star CJ Wilcox to only eight points in 10 shots.  If CU gets a performance like that from XJ, they're damn hard to beat.

Continuing the unguardable trend, the Huskies had absolutely no answer for Josh Scott.  Poor Perris Blackwell was tasked with guarding the lanky Colorado Springs native, but simply wasn't up to the task. Scott was too quick, too agile for the Husky forward, and easily put up 21/8/3/3.  After a shaky night earlier in the week against Washington State, Death, Taxes, Josh Scott was back in business.  
Oh my, Josh Scott is back!  From: the BDC
Not to be overlooked.  Booker continued his fantastic run of the past few weeks by playing fast, composed basketball.  He was aggressive in transition, generous in the half-court (seven assists), and generally efficient. There has been a tangible change in the way the sparkplug plays the game of late.  The banzai high-wire act of the Skiball! era is still there, but it's more controlled, focused.  He has averaged 17/5 over the last four weeks, and is playing the best all-around basketball of his career.  Said Coach Boyle after the game, "He's playing with the mentally that, quite frankly, we've wanted him to play with since he got here."  The Buffs are better off for it.

Look, any team is going to look good when the shots are falling, but this was a step beyond a merely strong night of basketball.  After a month of questions initiated by a blow-out loss to these very Huskies, to get the emphatic closure of a 26-point victory was cathartic.
The Huskies left bloodied and bruised for their troubles.  Payback for last month in Seattle.  From: the BDC
The Buffs are now off to their best start in 45 years, matching the 18-6 pace of the '68-'69 squad.  I'd argue it doesn't feel like it, which just underscores how good this team has been/will be in spite of distractions.  For all the roller-coaster of emotion, for all the hand-wringing, CU is still full of talent.  A night like Sunday against Washington reminds us of that.

Going forward - 

Now for the cold water: it's going to be rough from here on out.

CU closes out the season playing five of seven on the road, against some of the best teams the Pac-12 has to offer.  Outside of one game (on the road this coming weekend against USC), I wouldn't even call them a prohibitive favorite in any remaining tilt.  It's certainly possible that the Buffs close 1-6, slapping a dour cap on an otherwise strong season.

The plain truth is that Sunday's win over Washington wasn't unexpected.  Sure, the magnitude opened some eyes as the Huskies are no pushover, but CU matches up well against teams, like UW, who are incapable of clogging up the lane.  Beating, or at least frustrating, Colorado is a simple proposition.  Stuff the paint, stall transition, and make the Buffs work on offense to beat you.  Washington did nothing of the sort, allowing near-unfettered lane access on the dribble-drive, and giving CU plenty of fast-break opportunities.  This is why a team like WSU is much tougher for Colorado to play then the much more talented, yet perimeter-focused teams like UW and Oregon.
Teams like UCLA will make life much tougher on CU
Coming up, CU will be playing teams like UCLA, ASU, and Utah who are much less willing to let CU run their game.  Be honest, is anyone really comfortable saying that CU will play well in these games, matchups that have been nightmares over the last two years?  I'm certainly not.

I think we're over the Spencer hump, so to speak, to the point that we can get back to appreciating the team on their own merit.  If they can find a way to beat expectations over the final month - say, win three of seven to get to 10 Pac-12 wins - it'll be a remarkable accomplishment, one truly worthy of an appearance in the Dance.  Even if they can't, I'll be hard pressed to hold it against them; the schedule gods were highly unkind this year.

Elsewhere in the Pac-12

- Arizona State 74 - Oregon 72

By far, the best game of the weekend was between the Sun Devils and the Ducks.  It came down to the wire, with Oregon playing for the tie after storming back from a 20-point halftime deficit. Needing to go the length of the court in under five seconds, they called a brilliant baseline backcut that would've caught most teams unawares.  The Sun Devils, however, left Pac-12 Player of the Week Jordan Bachynski (*grumble*) protecting the rim, and he cleanly stuffed Joseph Young's reverse layup attempt at the buzzer.  The Ducks needed the win badly, but headed back to Eugene having dropped both games on the desert swing by a combined four points.
Lurch is a pretty good insurance policy on the backcut.

- UCLA 83 - USC 73

The fight'n' DJ Mal-Ski's, for the second game in a row, had a far superior team on the ropes at halftime when they went to the locker room with a six point lead over the cross-town rival Bruins.  Their effort was lead by Byron Wesley, who posted a very strong 27/8/4 night.  It wasn't to be, however, as UCLA roared back against the Trojans, who played much of the second half without injured and foul prone center Omar Oraby.  Colorado could've used the win from USC to move into a second-place tie in the league, but that probably would've only accomplished pissing the Bruins off ahead of Thursday's CU/UCLA tilt.

- Utah 81 - Washington St 63

In a ho-hum affair in SLC, the Utes proved they're still a capable team, if only they could play every game at the Huntsman Center.  For those interested, WSU's DaVonte Lacy stayed hot after his 34 point performance against CU earlier in the week, scoring 22 against Utah.
Look!  Photographic evidence that this game happened!
- Arizona 76 - Oregon St 54

Some felt that Arizona, minus the injured Brandon Ashley, could struggle at home against the athletic Beavers.  I was not one of them.  After a halting start, the 'Cats proved me right by hitting cruise control behind Aaron Gordon's 17 point show.  They play the Devils this week; on Valentine's Day, no less. Appointment television for anyone who anyone who reads this blog.  Your significant other will understand.

Happy Monday!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty obvious over the years that Bohn made it clear that he was enamored of the Student section, particularly the C-Unit. George? Meh, not so much!

You get what you emphasize and George has downgraded AD support for the entire student body, thus this year's lack of support shouldn't be unexpected.

Rick's a smart guy, maybe he'll learn a lesson here.