Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: A Senior Day Exorcism

I'm late!

Straight to the action:

Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over ASU, wrapping senior day, and looking ahead to Vegas.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs end the home slate with a bang - 

There was a moment in Sunday's game vs Arizona State where I forgot the big picture.  Graduating senior Askia Booker got into it with Gerry Blakes, Herb Sendek, and the rest of the Sun Devils, and my blood started to boil.  Suddenly, with an honestly dramatic and entertaining game unfolding on the court below, the frustrations of a sub-.500 season washed away, and I was left as one with the action.   I desperately wanted to see ASU, so frequently the villain in a conference of upstanding citizens, put to Colorado's sword, and I couldn't have cared less what CU's current record was. Luckily for me and the rest of BuffNation, a story book ending was in the cards, and Colorado capped the home portion of the schedule with a very satisfying 87-81 win.
Ski rose above some early BS to knife the Sun Devils.  From: the BDC
With 168 total points scored, you can tell that defense was mostly optional, but I defy anyone to say that they were not entertained.  53 combined makes from the floor, a speedy pace to the action (although the overall flow was stifled by some overly-aggressive officiating), and an intense finish made for plenty of red meat for the faithful.  CU is still miles away from the defensively forward squad of Coach Boyle's dreams, or anything resembling success, but I sure feel like I got my money's worth with this one.

The story, of course, is all about Booker and his senior day exploits.  The kid was everywhere, engaging the opponent (which earned him an early technical), firing up his teammates, scoring effusively, and otherwise owning the stage.  It was the perfect denouement to Ski's career in Booker, playing the swashbuckling hero to a very appreciative crowd.  He would finish the game with 29 points on 9-16 shooting from the floor.  True to the end, when Booker is on his game, the Buffs excel, and Sunday's affair was no different.

As good ask Ski was, however, the win wouldn't have been possible without a throwback performance from hobbled Colorado center Josh Scott. Grimacing with pain with each step, the junior big soldiered on in a gritty, physical tilt with the ASU front line.  His injured back may not be anywhere near healthy, but Scott can still be effective, and it was up to the Colorado Springs native to put a cap on the evening.  With CU clinging to a 77-76 lead on only a minute left to play, the Sun Devils decided to go right at Josh with sophomore Savon Goodman.  Scott, however, was up to the moment, patiently waited through Goodman's series of post moves, and expertly timed his jump to block the crucial attempt.  He would follow that up with a tip-in off a missed free throw to end all doubt.  All in all, Scott finished with 14/6/3/3, about as good as we've seen him in weeks.
Josh fought through the pain to make some huge plays.  From: the BDC
In the end, it was a happy little evening, fulfilling all my most optimistic projections (and then some).  Booker left the CEC a winner, the Buffs stopped ASU's dastardly plot, and a lot of the negative taste left over from Thursday was flushed away.  Almost none of the lingering evils were absolved, but, for one night at least, there were smiles in Black and Gold.  I'll take it, happily, and look forward to the final road trip to the State of Washington.

Senior Day follow through -

I made a point of leaving last week open for Ski, and Ski alone.  With those pleasantries set aside, however, it's important to recognize the contributions of the remaining 2/3rds of the 2015 senior class: walk-ons Kevin Nelson and Geoffrey Bates.

The role of a traditional walk-on is not easy.  You put in countless hours busting your ass in practice, but get precious few moments under the bright lights.  Generally under-appreciated outside of the program, they work behind the scenes each and every day to make the on-court product better.  In Geoffrey and Kevin, CU was blessed with two tireless workers who lived up to that role. It was especially gratifying to see Geoffrey get some (brief) playing time Sunday, a payoff for his efforts these last few years.

Both came to Boulder late in their careers, and received scant playing time for their troubles.  Both were a part of some of the best times the program has ever known.  Both are Forever Buffs deserving of our respect.

Thank you, Kevin and Geoffrey!

Best games as Buffs - 

Kevin - Grabbed three boards in four minutes of action against Air Force on 11/30/13.  Could've had more games like this if not for a continuing series of injuries.

Geoffrey - The team this season never gave Bates enough of an opportunity to get on the court, but the senior day moment where Geoffrey replaced Askia to a rousing ovation was plenty special.

Pac-12 Tournament scenarios - 

With just one week left in the regular season, very little is set in stone for the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.  While Arizona locked in the league crown with their win in Salt Lake City over the Utah Utes, the other 11 slots are up for grabs.  Yep, even lowly USC isn't guaranteed the 12-seed.  As always, chaos reigns in the craziest conference in America.

Here's how we currently stand:

I can't help but laugh as the 'muddy middle' lives up to its name with four teams hovering around the .500 mark. Much of how we will view those teams will be decided this week, as the spots are finalized.  For those curious, the travel partner matchups are as follows:
  • The ski schools travel to Washington
  • The Arizonas welcome the Bay Area groups
  • The Oregon and Los Angeles schools stay home for rivalry tilts
The teams playing their travel partners are at a slight disadvantage.  Particularly for the Ducks, with only one game to play, much of their ultimate fate rests outside of their control.  They would need a loss from Utah to really have a shot at the #2 seed.  UCLA looks to keep their bye, with Stanford needing an unlikely sweep in the desert and a Bruins loss to USC to steal it away. Beating the Trojans is a must for UCLA to stay in Tournament contention, so I wouldn't expect a surprise.

Elsewhere, I'm interested to see if Stanford can hold onto their 5th spot.  They could easily get swept in Arizona, meaning a OSU win over Oregon (in Corvallis) would shift the balance of power.  Also, should USC manage the upset in Pauley, they could avoid the league basement if the Huskies continue to collapse in the post-Upshaq era (1-9 since beating CU).
Despite the loss to Arizona, Utah looks to keep their #2 seed, thanks to a favorable schedule.
For our Buffs, with a strong week in Washington, the team can finish as high as 7th.  Nothing to really get amped up for, but it would be nice to avoid a double-digit seed, if only for pride's sake. Practically, the Buffs want to stay off the 8/9 lines.  Not only is that the first game played, meaning the Buffs could be out before a large chunk of the road crew hits town, but the winner of that game is dumped into a second round matchup with Arizona.  If there's any hope of an odds-defying run in Sin City, CU needs to avoid the 'Cats as long as possible.  7/10 is probably ideal, but, either way, a day-one win would leave the Buffs with a seemingly impossible test in the quarterfinals.

Beyond all that, I can't wait to see how all this shakes out, and I can barely contain my excitement for the tourney.  While Colorado may not be much of a player in the madness, nothing beats the excitement of college hoops in March.

Happy Tuesday!

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