Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: Go Home, Pac-12, You're Drunk

Have you been watching Pac-12 basketball recently?  Have you noticed how everyone seems to be capable of beating any other team on any random night (some exclusions may apply)?  Well, then this image from Reddit should come as no surprise to you:

It's only been four weeks, not even halfway through the conference schedule, and we can create a "12 degrees of parity" scale.  The standings themselves are even more confusing - there's currently a six-way tie for 3rd.  While teams like Arizona State and Washington State are clearly behind the rest of the Pac, they've still earned entry in the circle; one large mish-mash of confusing, hilarious sameness.  As we continue to inch closer to the second week of March, and the annual rumble in the MGM Grand, I can only giggle at the idea of a conference with a six-way tie for 3rd place, and no real way to set a bracket.  This is the kind of stuff Doc Brown warned about in Back to the Future II.  Indeed, this is heavy...


Today in the bag, I'm wrapping the split earned in the State of Washington, taking a look at the rest of the 'League of Parity,' and battening down the hatches in advance of the oncoming surge of Super Bowl mania.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs earn split in nonchalant fashion - 

Faced with the damning prospect of getting swept on their 'easiest' road trip of the year, Colorado Basketball swung eastward down I-90, pulled off at US 195, and rolled down the dusty trail towards the league's lone truck-stop: Pullman, WA.  Compared to the breezy track meet of their loss in Seattle, this was a plodding, possession-by-possession affair played to only 69 trips.  But, the Buffs didn't turn the ball over like they did earlier in the week, watched as the Cougars bricked 11 of 27 free throw attempts, and escaped with a 75-70 win that kept them in that absurd tie for 3rd place. All-in-all, I would give this game two shrugs up!

I kid, and there's no reason to look a road-dub in the mouth, but, much like the effort in Palo Alto against Stanford, the final was far from convincing.  CU allowed WSU, objectively the worst team in the Pac-12, to shoot damn near 49% from the field for the game, something that probably shaved a full year off the life of Coach Boyle.  Part of that was the result of an absolute inability to stop Cougar scoring guard Ike Iroegbu. As expected, he was far too fast for any of Colorado's perimeter defenders, and abused them off the edge for 27 points on 12-20 shooting.  If he had pulled an Andrew Andrews, and gone for 33, the Buffs lose by a point, so I guess good job at holding him there?   What wasn't expected, though, was the stellar performance off the bench of JuCo transfer forward Conor Clifford.  With Josh Scott on the bench with two first half fouls, he came in and torched the 'going small' Buffs, setting the table for a big 18/5 night on 8/9 shooting. Behind Clifford and Josh Hawkinson, the Cougars won the battle in the paint, 40-30, something I did not see coming.
Huh.  Conor Clifford. Who knew.  From: the AP
But, wins, particularly those claimed away from home, don't just happen by accident.  Three things keyed the Buffs Saturday night: elimination of turnovers, free throw shooting, and the return of the bench.  Just a game after they coughed up 16 turnovers, 12 in the first half, CU cut that number all the way down to six, just one in the opening frame.  They needed to hold on to the ball, particularly because the offense was struggling. 39% shooting for the game, and only two players in double figures (George King and Josh Scott); a lot of Buffs were struggling out there.  They buoyed those numbers by staying cool and composed at the line. While the Cougars were busy bricking their freebies, CU hit 22-26 free throw attempts for the game, including all eight attempts in the final two minutes.  Finally, the prolific bench that we saw in Boulder against Oregon re-emerged to drop 21/11 against just one turnover. While the Cougar bench eclipsed that number (thanks to Clifford), those 21 proved to be very important points as the team struggled with foul trouble at the end of the first half.

There's not much else to say about it, the Buffs simply got done what needed doing.  It's the sign of a good (but not necessarily great) team to sink their eight-foot putts on the road.  Sure, nothing less should've been expected, but I find it hard to coherently gripe about a bog standard road victory.  They don't have to be pretty, they don't have to set the world a flame, but they do have to get slotted in the left-hand column -- minimum standard achieved.  And so, entering the fifth week of the conference season, the Buffs are still alive in the chase for the Pac-12 crown.  That may not distinguish that from many of their rivals, as a whopping total of 10 teams sit within two games of the top, but it at least means that consequential hoops will continue to be played.
George King: makin' those free throws!  From:
Next up?  Return home visits from Stanford and Cal.  CU will host the Cardinal Wednesday night, with the Golden Bears, less Ty Wallace, hitting town on Sunday.  I'll have my previews up those respective mornings; keep an eye out.

Around the world of Pac-12 Hoops - 

Cal 74 - Arizona 73 -

Let's all welcome back the Golden Bears to the land of the living.  Pronounced dead on the scene when it broke that Ty Wallace, their brilliant senior point guard, was out 4-6 weeks with a hand injury, Cal instead circled the wagons, and scraped up two massive home wins over the weekend.  The final one, this single point win over the 'Cats, was a gritty, personal affair.  The Bears took a nine point lead with 14 minutes to go, but Arizona powered back, thanks to their 40 big points in the paint.  Into the final seconds, Berkeley frosh Jaylen Brown sunk one of two free throws to give them a lead, and then held on as Arizona pushed for the win.  Their final possession game up short, however, and the fans at Haas (and a very excited head coach) flooded the hardwood.
How dare you celebrate a big win!  From: California Golden Blogs
This win doesn't cure all of Cal's ills.  They're in a rough spot without Wallace, and were forced to lean heavily on homecourt advantage over the weekend.  But they still have Jordan Mathews, and the junior was on fire in this one. He dropped 28 points on 10-17 shooting, including six massive three pointers.  They're going to face some struggles over the next month, but Mathews may just have enough in the tank to keep them afloat... oh and don't forget those two freshman studs.  The game in Boulder on Sunday will be a good one.

Oregon State 85 - USC 70 -

As to USC, the surging darlings of the league... oh boy.  They took double-barreled losing blasts up in the Beaver State, capped by this 15-point walloping in Corvallis.  You'll be surprised to learn the Trojans actually took a lead into the half time locker room, but turnovers came calling. 14 of them in fact, and Oregon State used them to sprint out on quick 7-0 and 9-0 runs to rip away the lead for good.  By the end of the action, OSU was running away and hiding. Winning on the road man... this shit ain't no joke.
Momma, there goes that man again... From: the AP
Gary Payton II was on fire, again, squeezing 22/14/8/4 out of 37 minutes.  Sure, he had five turnovers, but when you have to drag an entire team up and down the court every night, you're allowed a few mistakes. Unlike what we saw in Boulder, however, the Beavs were able to combine a huge game from GPII with solid contributions from others in white and orange.  Freshmen Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks combined for 30/11 to more than provide the needed support.  Payton is a constant, it'shen others are joining him that OSU becomes an interesting team.

Utah 80 - Washington 75 -

Just minutes after Colorado's blowout loss to the Huskies, I flippantly shot off "I'll bet you anything Utah beats them this weekend" to a group of friends.  Sure enough, Poeltl put up 29/10 on 14 shots, Andrew Andrews struggled a bit from the floor (4-10 shooting), and Utah stole one in overtime.  The Huskies have been that team that you expect to turn into a pumpkin at any moment, but one loss doesn't mean they're done, yet.  Still, you have to wonder how they will take to their upcoming trip to Los Angeles.
The Huskies could stop the suddenly rolling Utah machine.  From: the Seattle Times.
For the Utes, don't look now, but they've won four of five.  Given a strong homestand this week against the Bayside duo, and they could be on top of this league.  If you would've told me a few weeks back that would happen, I'd have laughed at you, but it's the Utes who are laughing now.  For Poeltl, he had a huge trip to the Pacific Northwest, hitting 15-25 shots from the floor, scoring 43 total points.  Usually not this explosive, it was his best stretch since early December.  Don't let him get hot, yo.

Oregon 86 - UCLA 72 - 

With the Trojans, Huskies, and Wildcats all dropping games over the weekend, that just leaves Oregon as this week's 'new hotness.'  Their sweep at home of the SoCal schools proved very little, although their win over USC was solidly entertaining, but someone has to lead the charge, and it might as well be the Ducks, who now take pole position in the Pac-12 race. Big performances from Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, and Elgin Cook carried the day for UO, as the trio combined for 60/22/9.
Oregon did Oregon things.  From: the Daily Emerald.
The most interesting thing for me, however, was UCLA.  They haven't really taken a step forward in the 'League of Parity,' yet, and seem to be teetering on the point of falling behind their peers.  I think they should be able to beat Washington on Thursday to stay afloat, but nothing from this crew would surprise after their loss to Washington State. Stay tuned.

Run for your lives, the Broncos fans are coming out of the woodwork - 

*eye roll*

Again?  You idiots let the Broncos into the Super Bowl again?  I have to put up with this garbage for two whole weeks, again?  I would never actually bring myself to root for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots, but I sure as shit will blame them for allowing this to pass.  Do you New England losers have any idea how annoying these people get when they have a winner at their fingertips?  Suddenly orange is everywhere, expats from other areas drop the teams they've followed their entire lives to step in line, and all I hear is a constant refrain of *takes on Colorado accent* 'Go Broncos.' I was counting on you, you Massholes, to save me from this annoyance.  C'mon Tom, your old ass is better than this.  Peyton's in a rocking chair!  His receivers drop everything!  What the hell?!  When you made your pact with Satan, did you forget to ask for an offensive line for the entirety of your career?
Fuck sake, New England, you're worthless.  From: NY Daily News.
I feel I should explain.  I don't 'hate' the Broncos.  I really don't care, hand to God.  What I can't stand, however, is shit-head fanbases, and, outside of Boston, there is no one more shithead than Broncos fans drunk on victory.  I hate it to break it to y'all, but *gasp* not everyone living here bleeds Donkey blood.  I have my own fandom proclivities (#WhiteSoxThoughts), ones that I have no interest in replacing, and I have never been one to go with the 'in' crowd.  Super Bowl week is already annoying enough (last year I played trivial pursuit in the second half), but now I have to go through 16 different rounds of 'the conversation':

Random person: "Aren't you excited? Go Broncos! We're totally going to win because (insert inane reason they picked up from talk radio)"

Me: "No, I don't really care."

RP: "Really? What, are you a Raiders fan?"

Me: "Hell no, I just don't really care."

RP: "You're weird."

Me: "Go Buffs."

The interesting thing is, while I don't care about the Broncos, and I think the Panthers entire existence is hilarious, I do like Cam Newton.  Big fan, have had Cammy-Cam in fantasy football for years.  With him in the big game, could I actually bring myself to 'care' about this Super Bowl, to the point that I actually root for a team, rather than just go through the motions on our national day of football piety?  Hrmm... what an interesting thought...

Happy Tuesday!

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