Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Offseason Begins

I've been slightly ticked to see the reaction to Thursday's on-court mess in the NCAA Tournament.  All of a sudden, fans who wouldn't know a pick-and-roll from a hole in their head are questioning Coach Boyle, and offering their 'insight' on what's needed to 'fix' the team (Josh should take more jump shots, that'll end the double-teams -- LOL).

I guess this comes with the territory, especially in a state with citizens as obsessed with their own righteousness as Colorado.  CU Basketball is now a headline grabbing attraction, so their pratfalls will necessarily attract comments from the peanut gallery. As I've said often this year, we're now a basketball school stuck with a football fanbase.  At the very least, it's going to be interesting to see how BuffNation deals with the transition to life with an actual basketball power.

Regardless, let me assure the huddled masses that the program you've all just discovered is in good hands. Remember, it was only four years ago that CU was all offense, no defense with Cory and Alec running the show.  Granted a little health, the potential of a lucky attrition break, and the oncoming infusion of freshman talent, the Buffs should be back to their winning ways in 2015.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the quick exit from the Dance, the Sweet Sixteen, and the women progressing through the NIT.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs lay an egg in Orlando - 

I knew it was likely that CU would lose to Pittsburgh in their second round game of the NCAA Tournament, I had readied myself for that eventuality.  What I was decidedly not ready for was how completely unprepared the Buffs were for the stage.  From the opening tip you could tell the team was just happy to be there, and at no point throughout the 40 minutes of 'action' were they even slightly competitive.  And so, a season of interrupted promise came to an end in far off Orlando, Florida by an incomprehensible 77-48 spread. The Buffs were out of the Dance before the fashionably late even know what was happening.
The Buffs got worked last week.  From: the BDC
If you didn't watch, it's hard for me to convey exactly how throttled Colorado was.  Not only did they never hold a lead, they didn't even threaten for one.  It was 13-0 before CU would finally get on the board with a Wes Gordon three-pointer, 30-7 before Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker finally found the stat sheet, and 46-18 by halftime.  If there was ever a time for a rage-quit reset, it was last Thursday.

The Panthers swarmed, pouring on bucket after bucket, while not allowing a single moment of offensive competence to blossom out of CU's abbreviated sets.  Pitt ripped 12 steals out of 17 Colorado turnovers, turning the lot into 24 quick points.  They also dominated the paint, leading the Buffs 44-14 in interior scoring.  As thoroughly as they were beaten on the margins, it almost doesn't matter that CU struggled from the floor (36% for the game), or that they left the sieve open on defense (51%).  Almost.

The questions are natural, childish, and insolent.  Where were the adjustments to the double-teams in the paint we all knew were coming?  Where was the rotation and ball movement?  Why did the defense disappear, again, when it was needed more than ever?  Why did this team look completely unprepared for the stage in this, their third consecutive trip to the Dance?  The answers come far less freely, especially considering the caliber of talent across the Colorado bench.
This is not the way this season was supposed to end...  From: the BDC
It's just hard to consume - after all, it's not like CU was coming into the game playing bad basketball.  In fact they had a pretty solid tournament in Vegas before succumbing to reality in the second half against Arizona. Yes, absolutely, Pittsburgh is a great team, and they played a fantastic game, but I just never felt that CU was ready or willing to put in the effort required to counter the talent they were faced with... which is... weird. I know this team is better than what they showed.  I know Coach Boyle is a better game manager than he showed.  Colorado is talented too, damnit, and I refuse to believe that this team is 29 points worse than an also-ran ACC squad.

In that light, it's going to be a long, rough summer at the CEC.  The program will have to sit on this one for quite a while, and I'm very interested to see what kind of squad emerges when practices kick up in late October.

Looking at the Sweet Sixteen -

Well, how's your bracket doing?  Since you didn't ask, mine is doing quite well, and I'm in with a shot of winning my office pool.  Not a billion dollars, but it'll do in a pinch...

As to the reality of the Tournament, however, I can't remember the first two rounds being this action-packed in quite a while. It's has been awesome!  Good basketball, too.  A real Renaissance for the sport, with Madness reigning, and chalk being resigned to the dustbins.
I see you, Cardinal! From:
A big winner over the past week was our own Pac-12.  Three teams - Arizona (duh), UCLA (also duh), and Stanford (!!!!) - made it into the Sweet Sixteen, with Oregon coming within a few minutes of doing the same. Other than the odorous performance from CU and ASU's face palm collapse at the buzzer against Texas, it has been all roses for the Conference of Champions.

Conversely, it was a rough weekend for some of the sport's biggest names.  Coaches Boeheim, Krzyzewski, Self, and Williams will all be starting their vacations a little early, which is astonishing in the month of March, where coaching 'names' are usually good for mindless advancement.  Respectively, they were upset by relative unknowns from Dayton, Mercer, Stanford, and Iowa State, each lead by a young(er) coach desperate to make a statement.  Thinking on it, though, I'm all for it. It gets boring when you see the same names in the second weekend each year, and a little madness in the Madness makes for entertaining television.
Duke, what happened?
Looking ahead, March appears to only be getting weirder.  We've already lost a #1 (Wichita State), and at least one double-digit seed is guaranteed to make the Elite Eight.  I hope this whole thing goes to pot this weekend, and we get some wacky Final Four combo like Stanford, Tennessee, Baylor, and UConn.  We don't need no water, let this mother fucker burn!

Women into the NIT's Sweet Sixteen - 

It's not the Sweet Sixteen they were hoping for back in December, but the women have rebounded from a disastrous conference campaign to make the third round of the Women's NIT.

The run started with a mid-week victory over TCU.  It wasn't easy, however.  The Horned Frogs lead after the game's opening six minutes, and CU looked rusty through those first few possessions.  Thankfully, the Buffs would respond and go on a 32-11 run to close the half.  While the visitors would fight to close the gap in the second frame, CU was able to ride that +21 wave home.

Following up on their beatdown of the Horned Frogs, it was expected that CU would be playing little sister, but the Rams failed to hold up their end of the bargain.  Thus came the opportunity to beat a surprisingly tough Southern Utah squad.   Behind stifling defense that held the Thunderbirds to under 35% shooting, the Buffs powered through a high scoring second half (98 points combined) to survive and advance.
Roberson was magnificent this week.  From:
The big star over the past week was Arielle Roberson, who posted 33/16 in the two victories.  Playing in the 'Not In Tournament' tournament can throw many seasoned players for a loop, and the trick to succeeding is bringing focus and tenacity to the table. Roberson admittedly fell into the trap of 'just going through the motions' in the first half of Saturday's win over SUU.  A few choice words from coach Jonas Chatterton, however, seems to be all that was needed to reverse that course, as Arielle burst out of the locker room to spur a decisive 17-5 run to start the second half.

Now that the home double has seen the Buffs through, and they'll face UTEP, who defeated St Mary's last night, later this week.  After enjoying two home games to start the tournament, CU will now have to take their show on the road, as the Miners have been selected to host this round.  Good luck, ladies!

Happy Tuesday!

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