Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 3

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 14th --

In the end, Colorado won the game that mattered.  Less than a week after dropping a coulda', shoulda' affair in Berkeley, they were back on the court against the Cal Bears in search of a berth in the Pac-12 semifinals. Behind another strong performance from junior guard Askia Booker, they earned just that, holding on for a 59-56 win that sent them to their third conference final four in the brief existence of the #RollTad era.  Never have I been so happy to tear up a betting slip.
The Buffs were getting after it yesterday.  From: the BDC
What a difference a day makes.  Wednesday, it was a struggle to get over the USC hump, with the Buffs playing down to the level of their opponent.  Yesterday, it was a much better showing from CU, with the team proving why are tournament caliber.  CU was invested from the opening tip, and it showed in their body language.  No more lethargy, they were intense throughout.  Two games, two identical 59-56 results, two completely different outlooks.  It's a funny game, basketball.

Continuing the trend from the opening round game against the Trojans, Booker lead the team in scoring, dropping 17 on the Bears while shooting over 50% from the field.  Unlike the USC game, however, Ski was supported by a solid, aggressive performance from Josh Scott, who chipped in 11/6.  Not his best game, but he looked much better than he did on Wednesday. The Xaviers, Johnson and Talton, also recorded double-digit points, chipping in 10 and 13, respectively.  CU needed everything those four could give, as Cal's Justin Cobbs had his own monster game, going for 21/4/5.
Ski has been having a great tournament.  From: the BDC
Unfortunately, for their efforts, the Buffs have been awarded a date with the Giant Death Robot that is the Arizona Wildcats, who disposed of the woefully disappointing Utah Utes 71-39 in the day's first quarter-final.  I have never seen a team so thoroughly beaten as Utah was, failing to even crack the 40-point barrier against the nation's best defense.  Even the most optimistic CU fan must be apprehensive heading into tonight's game after witnessing that beat-down.

The evening session was another string of blowouts.  Both UCLA and Stanford rode tidal waves of second half scoring to coast into Friday.  For UCLA, they steamrolled Oregon behind a 20-2 run that stretched from the last vestiges of the first half into the final frame, flipping a three point Duck lead on its head.  From there, Oregon just spent time hucking up hasty three pointers to shoot themselves out of Vegas.  The Cardinal took advantage of a nearly silent Jahii Carson to play +18 ball after halftime.  I've yet to see Stanford look as good as they did yesterday evening, and they impressed the hell out of me by throwing a generally strong ASU squad into complete disarray.

In all honesty, other than CU's thrilling win over Cal, Quarterfinal Day at the Pac-12 tournament was a bust. The other three games were decided by a total of 72 points, and none were competitive after halftime.  I think everyone here is a little stunned, as the assumed theme was that the league that produced a five-way tie for third place was capable of some zaniness.  Hopefully, Friday has some more interesting fare in store for us.


Today's Action

- #1 Arizona vs #5 Colorado - 7pm MT - Pac-12 Networks - 

There's just no scenario I can concoct that has CU even competing with the 'Cats today.  I've seen this matchup twice now, and Arizona is so distantly superior in talent and execution that I question the need for even playing this evening.  While Colorado may save themselves the embarrassment incurred by Utah, behind an arena 3/4ths-full of Arizona red, the Wildcats should have no trouble with our Buffs.

Vegas has CU getting 9.5 points.  I'm fully willing to plop down plenty of straight-cash-homey on the 'Zona side of that.

- #2 UCLA vs #6 Stanford - 9:30pm MT - Fox Sports 1 - 

I continue to like UCLA a lot more than their aging fanbase does (seriously, I've yet to see a Bruins fan in town that is under the age of 45).  They've got all the pieces, and aren't hindered by the need to rely on a single wellspring of talent to survive.  While the Cardinal played about as well as they possibly could've last night, I'm not going to get caught up in the rush, and throw money their way. The Bruins are favored by three, which is a number I am comfortable giving.  Give me UCLA/Arizona in the final.


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