Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Hey, who left this scholarship just laying around?

I'd like to thank everyone who read my piece on Spencer Dinwiddie's departure.  It's the #1 most-viewed non-Top Gear post in the history of this blog (Note to self: more Top Gear posts).  It probably helped that the Mayor himself gave it a shout, to which I am both humbled and grateful.  For those who have just recently discovered this little corner of the interwebs, welcome!  I hope you find something that encourages you to stick around.  For those who are regulars, your patronage, as always, is greatly appreciated.


Today in the bag, I'm talking scholarship math, lacrosse, and the NBA playoffs.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Attrition Files: Spencer Dinwiddie

What we've all expected for some time has come to pass.  Hizzoner the Mayor of Buffaloes, Spencer Dinwiddie, has declared his intention to forego his final year of collegiate eligibility, and enter the NBA Draft.

Before we go any farther, let me say that this is the right choice.  Even with the injury and the resulting questions, Spencer will still be drafted, probably much higher than any doubter is expecting.  With that in mind, going pro is wise.  Another year in college, burdened by expectations that would easily outpace reality, is destined to come off as a disappointment, even as successful as it would be.  If teams are telling Dinwidde they are interested, which I assume they are, then the NBA makes far more sense than another year in Boulder.

But what if the NBA increases their age limit for next year, lightening the 2015 draft class?  Doesn't matter. This isn't about money (well, it is, but... you know what I mean), this is about progression in his career. Another year in college beating up on the same people he's punked for the last three years won't help him develop past the whole 'well, he's healthy' thing.  Best to start the professional phase of his career, rather than hold out hope for a weak draft class and a little extra folding cash.  This is a long-term choice, not just one about his first paycheck.

Last year, his father doubted his son's maturity in relation to his pro prospects.  I would argue that this is now the mature choice.  It's a tough pill to swallow, going lower in the draft that you probably could/should go, but Dinwiddie is still going after his dream, rather than coming back to college with an 'I'll show you' chip on his shoulder.  He's done his time at this level, has gotten as much out of it as could be expected.  Now it's time to move on.  It's the natural progression.

Of course, that means that BuffNation is forced to say goodbye to one of the more special talents to ever grace the hardwood at the University of Colorado.  Dinwiddie is, without a doubt, the best all-around basketball player I have watched play in Black and Gold since moving to Boulder in 2002.  Alec Burks may have been a better scorer, and Andre Roberson may have been a better defender, but Spencer has the entire package. He is a stat-stuffer, an all-encompassing hardwood badass.  Over 86 games in his career, he averaged a solid 13/3/3, but his numbers always seemed to belie his importance to his team.  Whenever his squad needed a lift, there was Spencer.  When they needed a big shot, or a drive to the rim, there was Spencer. When they needed a big defensive stop, there was Spencer.  It's hard imagining the program without him over the last few years, and it will be near impossible to replace him.

I knew when Spencer committed in 2010 that Colorado was getting a good player, I just didn't realize how great this kid would become.  A wiry, probably undersized, guard from California, he was dwarfed by flashier talent in his age group. But, once on campus, he flew past his peers.  The word on him then was exactly what it would be if I were scouting him for a game tomorrow: an incredibly smart player who may not make the top-10 highlight, but has a knack of making the right play.  The kind of player you want to build around, which is exactly what Coach Boyle did.
Even in high school, the 'stache was there.  From: AllBuffs
People are quick to forget, but Dinwiddie was 'the Mayor' before even stepping on campus.  The Allbuffs crew popularized the nickname on the basketball recruiting forums for seemingly knowing everyone in AAU ball, and proving more than willing to try and sway them over to Colorado.  The name stuck once in Boulder, as it became obvious that Spencer was a star in the making, one comfortable with the spotlight that followed the success earned through victory after victory.  My first memory of Dinwiddie came when he showboated after making a three in a meaningless pre-season scrimmage in front of maybe 500 fans.  That was the kid to a 'T' - always confident and comfortable, and always eager to make sure everyone knew it.

His freshman season was one of the most successful in program history, and he played a huge roll in working with veterans like Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault and Carlon Brown to scratch and claw to a conference title, the program's first in over 40 years.  He performed with poise and stature that surpassed his age, and it surprised no one when he lead the team in scoring during the Pac-12 title game, going 4-for-4 from behind the arc in his hometown.

By the time his sophomore campaign rolled along, it was de facto his team.  While senior Sabatino Chen was the elder statesman and Andre Roberson was closing in on his own trip to the NBA draft, it was Dinwiddie who ran the offense, and was at the top every scouting report.  He was no longer just a budding star, he was a legitimate member of the conference elite, signified by his inclusion on the 2013 All-Pac-12 First Team.

Spencer's 2012-13 was so good that he thought of jumping pro last spring. While the public openly debated the pros and cons of Andre Roberson's draft status, Dinwiddie quietly sat behind the scenes pondering his future.  With the help of his father, he eventually decided to return for his junior season, with a plan to build up to a statement making collegiate conclusion.  He did the summer rounds, playing at Adidas Nations and the World University Games for Team USA, before headlining the media blitz headed into '13-'14.  He was no longer just a local star, he was a national curiosity.  If you wanted to sound smart about the sport, you had to know the name Spencer Dinwiddie, no matter where you were.

In true Mayor fashion, Spencer was leading the way for CU this season.  In charge of a youthful supporting cast, along with running mate Askia Booker, he was the show in Boulder, in clear command of the team from behind the scenes to the hardwood.   Headed into conference play, it seemed like a perfect culmination of his amateur career.

Then, that awful thing happened.  A season, and, now, a collegiate career cut short in a matter of seconds. It's a brutal and harsh reality.

Even in his absence in uniform, Spencer was a visible part of the program.  When College GameDay came to town, he was the player interviewed with Coach Boyle on national television.  He remains the face of the program to this day, injury and professional status be damned.

Is there a tinge of regret behind my words?  Yes, of course there is.  That fateful afternoon in Seattle deprived BuffNation and the rest of the basketball loving world of a final dose of Pac-12 play from the Mayor.  It's also a shame, much like with Andre Roberson last season, who missed his final home game due to illness, that the CEC never got a chance to send Dinwiddie out with his ears ringing.  But that's life. Sometimes goodbyes aren't what you expect.  That's what makes college ball so appealing to me.  The joy gained from watching is fleeting.  What is here today will be different tomorrow, which underscores how important it is to enjoy success at face value.
What a joy it was to watch Spencer play the last few years.
At the end of the day, I had a blast cheering for Spencer over the past three seasons.  He is not only one of the all-time CU greats, but the foundation upon which the current transformative era of CU hoops was built, and anyone who has ever cared about Colorado Basketball owes him a debt.  This program wouldn't be nearly in the condition it is today without his efforts, and for that he will always be one of my favorite Buffs.

Thank you, Spencer!  Good luck in the NBA.  We will always #CountOnTheMayor


Best remembered for - 

Kicking the shit out of CSU.  His three games against little brother speak for themselves:

2011: 16/8/1, 6-10 from the floor, leading scorer as a freshman in Moby
2012: 29/2/3, 8-10 from the floor, 5-7 from 3-pt range
2013: 28/2/4, 8-14 from the floor, 11-11 from the line

The games against the Rams may not be the biggest on the calendar, but Spencer seemed to enjoy them the most.  He lived to troll the wearers of green and gold, and, in true Mayor fashion, could back up his mouth with his play.

As an extension, I don't think a player ever enjoyed being the public face of CU athletics more than Spencer Dinwiddie.  He was a lively twitter follow, openly played with teammates, opponents and fellow students on social media, and was one of the best, most open quotes the media could turn to.  That he could walk-the-walk to back it up only increased his legend.

... also, the 'stache.

Best aspect of his game - 

His ability to get to the line.  Always one of the more efficient players in all of basketball, he was served well by his ability to draw contact and get to the line  With his 6-6 frame, Dinwiddie was able to fight through traffic and stay strong through abuse.  By the time he was a junior, he was getting the star treatment, and could buy a call from the refs almost by looking at a defender.

Best game as a Buff - 

This is a tough one, as there are a slew of reasonable options that would headline the career of almost any other player.  There's his ring-winning performance against Arizona as a freshman, his perfecto against Oregon St, his evisceration of the Wildcats, again, during the Valentine's Day Massacre, his home finale against Oregon, and the little brother game against the Rams.

In the end, however, I was swayed by another of his efforts against State. His 2013 effort against the Rams takes the cake.  On the road, in front of a frothing CSU student section that was out for his blood, Spencer single-handedly willed the Buffs to victory.  He didn't miss a free throw, didn't commit a foul, and didn't turn the ball over in 36 minutes of play, all while dumping 19 of his game-high 28 on the hapless Rams in the second half.  Dinwiddie was, at his best, a cold-blooded game-winning machine, and his effort last December 3rd against CSU was the epitome of that.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Playoffs?!

Not for nothing, but why do the NBA Playoffs have to take up two entire months?  Series are dragged out as long as possible, depriving them of any rhythm and energy.  For example, My Bulls played their first game against Washington yesterday afternoon, but wouldn't play a potential game seven until May 3rd.  Some series could potentially be even longer, with the Nets and Raptors starting Saturday the 19th, and potentially going until May 4th.  That's over a fortnight!  To play an opening round series!

It happens every year.  Right around the time I forget which teams are even playing, the NBA sticks them back up on the calendar, leaving me to ask, 'wait, what game is it, again?' The end result is that the entirety of an NBA Season takes up nine months.  NINE!  And you though baseball was needlessly verbose...

Of course, the answer is money.  The Association and their television partners figure the best way to squeeze as much water from this stone as possible is to drag the proceedings out, giving the consumer a slow-drip of games each night.  But this artificially-lengthened schedule does a disservice to the game, the fans, and the players.  We really couldn't get this thing done in a month and a half?  Get serious.


Today in the bag, I'm talking decision week for the Mayor before taking a look at select series from the NBA and NHL playoffs.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: A busy week

I don't know if you noticed, but this has been a huge week for sports.  We saw champions crowned in college basketball, the wrapping up of the regular season in hockey (congrats to the Avs), ramping up of baseball action across MLB, a little thing called the Masters, and spring games throughout the college football landscape.  Not too shabby for a random week in April.  Oh, and I turned 30 on Friday. Yeah, I'd say there's a little bit going on.

Today in the bag, I've managed to condense all that action into a few quick blurbs on UConn's double, CU's Spring Game and stadium expansion, and the Masters.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: A champion will be crowned

No time for idle chit-chat.  Straight onto today's bag...

Today I'm talking Final Four, Championship Monday, and the baseball series that has me missing the final.

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