Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag - Another Fruitless Trip Through the Desert

Does the football team have a DC, yet?  No?  Well then, straight to the action...

Today in the bag, I'm talking the frustrating loss to Arizona State, a surprise suspension for a CU star, and the NFL playoffs.

Click below for the bag...

Punked in the late minutes at ASU - 

Down in the desert, on the tail end of the Road Trip of Death, the Colorado Buffaloes were facing off with their own demons.  Locked in a see-saw battle with the Arizona State Sun Devils, the team had an opportunity to fight through many of the problems that had derailed the season to give themselves new life. Instead of seizing the moment, however, the Buffs folded down the stretch, succumbing to a wave of points from the normally quiet bunch from Tempe.  Allowing the most scoring by ASU against a high major opponent the season, CU lost a tough one, 78-72.

All the old, familiar problems were on display.  Second half defense?  Colorado allowed ASU to shoot 71% from the floor.  From the perimeter?  For the game, the Sun Devils were 10-20 from beyond the arc.  A:T ratio?  Five assists against nine TOs in the opening half.  Bench scoring? Colorado was outscored 23 to 10. Poor closes to halves?  Buffs outscored by a combined nine over the final 10 minutes of each half.  None of that is a recipe for success, and all of it is a familiar tale of woe.
Ouch. From: USA Today
The defensive effort was particularly concerning.  ASU had been one of the worst offensive teams in the Pac-12 until Saturday, but couldn't be stopped over the final 20 minutes of action.  Players like Shaq McKissic were allowed nearly unfettered access to the rim, while others, like Bo Barnes and Jonathan Gilling (whose relative value outside of three pointers is minimal), were allowed to do the one thing that gives them purpose on the court.  Defending on the road is never easy (on the weekend, nonetheless), but the team was markedly less focused on the defensive end than they were a few nights prior in Tucson.

There were some positives.  Jaron Hopkins continued his offensive tear through his home state with a Delon Wright-esque 20/7/5/4.  If he can keep this going whenever it is that the Buffs get their full roster back, CU way finally have a complete starting lineup.  Tre'Shaun Fletcher chipped in a very respectable 10/3, playing with boosted confidence for the first time in a while.  Ski Booker consumed 22 shots and committed four turnovers, but still chipped in 21 points. Those three didn't have enough support, however, and the lack of a team effort in cracking down on defense overshadowed anything gained with the ball.
J-Hop had himself a weekend, but it wasn't enough.
The really frustrating this is that Colorado needed this one. Even without the talents of Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott, the Buffs will struggle to find a better opportunity to win on the road this season than the game with the struggling Sun Devils.  Some strong individual performances aside, team play was lacking, and the execution - on both ends of the court - was far from where it needed to be. More than likely, this loss ends any lingering doubt that the season will end outside of the Dance looking in, but it won't stand alone in blemishing the resume.  Saturday was just the latest in a lengthening line of sour finishes, and it's starting to feel like a slippery slope.

Xavier Johnson suspended - 

As if losing a vital road game at a beatable opponent wasn't bad enough, late Monday BuffNation was treated to the news that injured star forward Xavier Johnson had been sent home early from the recent road trip.  Not to get better treatment, as had been surmised, but because of an as-of-yet unknown off-court incident.  Further, XJ, whether finally healthy or not, will miss Thursday's massive clash with Washington, as he has been suspended for one game.
*Gasp* indeed.
I mean... what the fuckin' hell? What the absolute fuckin' hell?!  I have so many questions, all of them impertinent and snide.  First and foremost: what else, basketball gods, must this team go through this winter? Is this punishment for something?  Anything else in that magical bag of bullshit? I know, I know, I know... why not wreck the plumbing in the CEC, and force the team to play the rest of their home games in Fort Collins?  That be a nice, square kick in the proverbial junk...

Mini-tantrum aside, this has been an unusually noisy year for off-court incidents.  There was the string of suspensions the first week of the season, various rumors (unproven, mind you) of a discordant locker room, and now a star getting gigged at the start of a crucial home stand.  Not what I've come to expect from a Tad Boyle-lead squad. The narrative in recent months has been a lack of leadership, and it's showing.  No wonder the team in 9-8.
It's been a rough campaign for Coach Boyle.  From: USA Today
I talked last week of the desperate need for a speedy recovery for Johnson.  He had been on fire in recent weeks, and playing the most consistent ball of his career.  Now, on the cusp of a defining home game which could mean the difference between the NIT and an early start to the offseason, he's gone and removed himself from the equation.  I don't know any details about the specific incident, but the result is massively disappointing.

I'm ready to wake up from this dream now.

The Super Bowl is set - 

Seattle 28 - Green Bay 22 -

The best game of the weekend - maybe even the last few years of playoffs - decided the NFC title. The Packers, behind a tidal wave of field goals from former Colorado star Mason Crosby, had the Seahawks on the ropes.  Up 12 with the ball and only five minutes to play, it seemed all but written in stone that Green Bay was in line for the win.  Some questionable play calling, a botched onside kick, and some eye popping plays from Seattle, however, had a different idea, and the game was pushed into overtime. Bedlam was on the rise.

In the extra frame, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson, who had only managed to throw for 61 yards and three picks through the first 45 minutes, came alive.  He connected on back-to-back 35-yard pass plays to get his team into the endzone, and complete the improbable comeback.  They may not have 'deserved' it, but the defending champs found a way to get back into the title game.
Wait, what happened?
For the Packers, who had numerous opportunities to secure their ticket to the Super Bowl, it's a massive case of heartbreak.  The most painful moment was probably the botched onside kick recovery, where blocking tight end Brandon Bostick leaped in front of receiver Jordy Nelson, only to have the ball bounce off his facemask.  Bostick wasn't alone in infamy, though, as head coach Mike McCarthy shoulders his share of the blame.  McCarthy seemed to be more concerned with the meaningless number of second half rushing attempts than calling the plays necessary to put the Seahawks away.  His debilitatingly conservative mindset probably cost his team the win, a fact that'll keep Titletown up for the next few months.

New England 45 - Indianapolis 7 -  

Over in the AFC, the Patriots dismantled the Colts in a laugher that is hardly worth mentioning.  If not for another potential case of New England cheating the game, there'd be nothing to talk about from this one. Tom Brady and LeGarrette Blount were fantastic, Andrew Luck and Indy inept, and the game was over more than early enough for me to get a full dog walk in.  There but for the grace of the football gods, right, Bronco fan?

Happy Tuesday!

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