Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Dance Begins

Back from Las Vegas, I'm still wobbly on my road to recovery.  Looking back on the week, it was a wonderful time, as always, made all the more wonderful by the opportunity to meet so many Buff fans who admitted to reading this space; some who even claimed to like what they find here!  Thank you all for your continued patronage, and here's to many more years of whatever this is.

Of course, this season is not yet over.  As everyone is aware of by now, the Colorado Buffaloes are Dancing for the fourth time in five seasons -- something wholly unprecedented in the history of this program.  With the Madness officially descending this evening (the opening tip-off in Dayton has already commenced, as of the writing of this piece), it's officially March.  Whatever you thought you knew about this season is about to change dramatically, and I can't wait to cover it.  My preview of the first round action against UConn will drop Thursday morning, with hopefully many more to come in the following days and weeks.

But, for now, it's grab bag time!


Today in the bag, I'm talking the drowsy Pac-12 final, my All-Tournament Team and Best Band in Vegas awards, my view of the Buffs' NCAA Tournament seeding, and a shakeup to the Colorado coaching staff.

Click below for the bag...

Ducks blow out Utes in Pac-12 final - 

After all the hype, after all the excitement of a semifinal day gone mad with overtimes and insanity, the Pac-12 final between Oregon and Utah was, well, pretty dull.  The Ducks controlled the action from the opening tip, turning the versatile Utes into a one-note entity in short order.  It was a swarm of flapping birds, throwing activity on both ends at the problem in a way that was never answered, that tilted the table; as impressive a dismantling of a quality opponent as I have ever seen.  In the end, a very entertaining and dramatic Pac-12 campaign petered out in a very undramatic 88-57 stinker.
Elgin Cook and the Ducks were dominating on Saturday.  From:
This is not an indictment of the Ducks and their worthiness as champions.  If there were any doubts here, after they had already cruised to the league crown, they were erased through 40 minutes of dominance.  For the game, they shot over 50% from the floor (exactly 50% from three), looking as effortless on offense as I've seen all season.  They also crashed the glass, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds over a stunned and wilting Utah squad; even the great Jakob Poeltl was helpless to box them out.  On defense, the Ducks, who don't get nearly the defensive credit they should, forced 20 turnovers, turning those into 28 points.  While the Utes made a lot out of the possessions they had (43% shooting from the field, same from three-point range), you can't counteract 28 points off turnovers while also letting the opponent grab whatever offensive rebounds they want.  It was an all-encompassing white-wash; I actually laughed when a fan nearby said at halftime "you have to know Utah has a run in them."  Nope, not even close, as this thing was over by the under-four timeout of the first half.

If you're looking for one star from those in yellow and green, I would caution against that expectation.  This was, above all else, a team victory, indicative of the way the Ducks have played basketball all season.  They share, on both offense and defense, so well, making it very difficult to single out any glaring weaknesses. That said, Tyler Dorsey impressed the hell out of me on Saturday.  The kid was everywhere in the fleeting competitive moments of this contest, grabbing six offensive rebounds (nine total) to go along with 23 points and three assists against zero turnovers. On both ends, Utah simply didn't have an answer for the superlative freshman. It still amazes me that he wasn't awarded the tournament MVP award, as a result (it actually went to Elgin Cook).  His was a slow build up all tournament long, culminating in a declarative effort in the final. Without him, they don't approach three wins in three days -- how do you not reward that?
Poor, poor Utah.  From: the SLTrib
The Utes very simply did not have it on a night when UO - since anointed with a precious 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament - very simply did.  It was disappointing, sure, and it was not the finale we in attendance deserved, but I'm not going to let it spoil my memories of an otherwise excellent regular season and first three days in Las Vegas.  The Pac-12 was the gift that kept on giving this winter, and no amount of Utah not showing up on a random Saturday will keep me from remembering it fondly.

My All-Tournament and Best Band selections - 

I have a number of problems with the All-Tournament and MVP selections made by the assembled media at the MGM Grand.  For one, they picked six damn players, which makes no sense.  Two, they somehow forgot that GP2 owned the first two days of the thing.  And three, Elgin Cook, while impressive against Arizona, was not the best Duck in the arena those three days -- that honor belongs to Dorsey.
Dorsey was my MVP for the Las Vegas tournament.  From: the Daily Emerald
As such, here is my All-Tournament team.  Discuss and disagree as you will.
  • Tyler Dorsey - G - Oregon (also my MVP)
  • Gary Payton II - G - Oregon State
  • Jakob Poeltl - C - Utah
  • Elgin Cook - F - Oregon
  • Ivan Rabb - F - Cal
Additionally, as promised, I've chosen my Best Band in Vegas.  Without the drum-roll or the suspense, let me just say that it was Oregon State; Utah and Oregon were other contenders, with the Utes coming the closest to the upset win.  Oregon, while technically good, routinely had points deducted for stupid stuff like playing the same song twice, or letting their trumpets experiment with their tuning on Championship Saturday. Utah, surprising the hell out of me, was very fun, and brought four tubas with them, which earned them bonus points.  The Beavers, however, were not only technically good, but louder, faster, and more entertaining than anyone else in town (No one even approached their tempos).  I could've used a day or two more of their efforts, which is why they get the crown.

A note here: while the game of basketball is very objective (score more than your opponent, hurrrrrrr), judging bands is very subjective.  The things I look for in a performance - bright, springy tempos; a good volume; entertaining and diverse song selections; the de-emphasizing of woodwinds - may not be your cup of tea.  And that's OK!  If you liked a particular band more than I did, that's great!  At the end of the day, if a band is getting you to tap your feet and enjoy the interstitial moments during the games, then they did their job, and should be applauded.  This is just my opinion, and is as flawed as anything else you'll find on this website.

Rumblin-tology - 

Unless you've been living under a rock, or exclusively listening to Denver sports talk radio (which I think is still hammering down on Super Bowl talk), the Buffs drew an 8-seed in the South Region of the 2016 NCAA Tournament. For their return appearance to the Dance after a year's hiatus, they have been paired with a feisty UConn team in the same regional bracket as Kansas.  Their opening game, hopefully the first of many, will take place in Des Moines, IA, and tip off Thursday morning at 11:30am.

For this team, an eight seed is entirely appropriate.  They had their chances to improve, that much is a certain (*cough* SMU, Utah x2, Oregon State, USC *cough*), but, on Selection Sunday, their profile screamed 'I'm an 8!' more than anything else, and I get it. While I would've liked to have seen the scenarios that had the Buffs in the more favorable position of a seven in a geographic location other than the middle of nowhere, it's impossible to argue with how the Selection Committee handled Colorado. However, when you take a step back, and see Oregon State - a team with fewer than 20 wins and who (subjectively) was not nearly the quality of CU on the court - get blessed with a seven-seed, it becomes a head-scratcher.  The Beavers absolutely deserve to be in this bracket, but not rated higher than Colorado.  It was one of a number of dubious decisions from the Committee, albeit not their worst (Hi, Tulsa!).
Getting paired with UConn is better than alternatives like this VCU team the Beavers have to play.  From
That said, I wouldn't trade spots with OSU for anything.  The Beavs have been tasked with playing Virginia Commonwealth and their HAVOC defense in the first round.  If the Buffs were in that spot, it would, almost assuredly, have resulted in damn near 30 turnovers from the Black and Gold, and another blowout Tournament loss. While the potential of a second round matchup with the Jayhawks, just hours from Lawrence, is less than idea, Colorado can at least entertain those thoughts.  Had they drawn VCU, their Dance would've been over before it began.

As it is, I low-key like the matchup with UConn.  You're never going to see an 'easy' pairing at this level, so any team you aren't a complete miss-match against is a blessing.  While the Huskies are undoubtedly good, and just a few years removed from a National Championship, this does not project to be the second coming of that disaster with Pitt.  I'll have more on the game Thursday, but for now, let me just say that anyone moving CU forward to the second round in their bracket is not doing so simply out of homeristic furor.

Rodney Billups to take head coaching job at DU - 

The news broke Friday night in Las Vegas, filtering throughout the crowd at the MGM: Rodney Billups was leaving the CU bench to take the head coaching job at DU.  Made official this week, the Colorado assistant who has been with the program since 2010 was called up to replace the fired Joe Scott for the Pios, becoming the first of Tad Boyle's coaching tree to take on a head job elsewhere.

With a gun to my head, I would've never thought that Billups would be the first of the staff in Boulder to get a head position.  Nothing against Rodney, but the resumes of Jean Prioleau and Mike Rohn have shouted "hire me!" for years, whereas I had always perceived the younger assistant as still developing.  And that's really the only surprise here; not that the job was offered, but that it was offered now.  Billups is certainly a captivating hire for the Pioneers, inspired in many ways.  He brings local gravitas and campus stature to his alma mater, and is probably the direction they needed to go in.  Joe Scott, for all his wins at the school, was choking the life out of the place with an unwatchable brand of basketball.  Rodney, a DU legend, will chuck that crap into the nether regions, infusing that program with life, vitality, and an aggressive style on both the court and the recruiting trail that will jump-start them in the competitive Summit League.  While maybe a few years ahead of its time, the decision to hire Rodney will be a bonanza for Denver, almost assuredly making that program relevant for the first time in years.
Rodney Billups leaves CU for DU.  From: the BDC
Of course, the hiring alone wasn't the only curveball thrown at the press conference this week.  Billups also announced that he was bringing former Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton back to the Front Range to serve as an assistant on his staff.  In another fantastic move for the Denver program, Patton's return to the state's hardwood should help out immediately.  Buff fans may have a sour taste in their mouths, but, prior to Coach Boyle coming in and shredding records, Patton's legacy was what amounted to modern hoops success in Boulder.  He took the team to two NCAA Tournaments and posted 20+ win seasons three times. More importantly, I had fun watching his teams, and he was a big part of the reason that I came to love this program.  To see him coming back to the area is both shocking (due to the timbre of his exit) and gratifying. I'm happy to see him still teaching the game he loves, and to be doing so in Colorado.

For the Buffs, this move is going to hurt on the recruiting trail.  Billups was the lead recruiter for CU on a number of big 'gets' over the past few years (particularly Dom Collier), and was instrumental in building the team that will take the court in Des Moines this week.  That his recruiting skills will be just down I-25, and no longer in Boulder, is less than ideal.  Not that I think he will 'steal' recruiting targets from the Buffs, or anything like that (few are the talented kids who would pick the Summit League over the Pac-12), but CU could use his chops as they look to build what will be an essential 2017 recruiting class. However, I have no doubt that Coach Boyle will be efficient in building his coaching roster back up.  Believe me, this is not a negative -- the reach of Colorado Basketball only got longer and stronger with this move.

Good luck, Rodney, and I hope to see your Pios back in the CEC in the near future!

Happy Tuesday!

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