Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: 'Final Four' and 'Colorado' in the same sentence

I come to you today from Newark, NJ, of all places, stuck in the relatively benign airport hell of a three hour layover on the East Coast. How and why I came to be here is neither important or interesting.  Suffice it to be said that I can't wait to board the next flight, and get back to beautiful, colorful Colorado.


As a quick aside, there were some unscrupulous bloggers around the intertubes tossing around the notion that the University of Colorado would be well-served by a return to the Big XII.  See, the old conference of UT lackeys is looking to re-expand, and there are a few lost souls out there who are naive enough to think that CU was anything but thankful to be rid of that albatross of a league back in 2011.  Let me assure you all out there in BuffNation, these articles were written by people with no understanding of the factors in play, and no contacts within the Athletic Department.  Colorado is well and clear of that debacle, and never going back.

Further, for the record, I still think CSU's hopes of earning a bid to that league are as laughable as the notion that CU might want back in.  Unless the BigXII has to dip into their third-tier of choices, which I doubt, the Rams will still be on the outside of the Power Five looking in once this dust-up settles.

But, enough of that nonsense. Today in the bag, I'm talking about Team Colorado and The Basketball Tournament, some hoops scheduling notes for the CU Men's team, and My Sox at the end of their road.

Click below for the bag...

Team Colorado makes Final Four of The Basketball Tournament - 

Beau Gamble's initiative to bring together some of the best and brightest from Colorado Basketball's recent past is starting to really pay dividends.  The collection of former stars, now known as 'Team Colorado,' hit the weekend in the Sweet Sixteen of The Basketball Tournament and did not disappoint. Through two gritty, scrappy efforts, the team clipped both 2015 nemesis Team 23 and Pac-12-based rivals Team Utah to advance to the Final Four.  You can argue the quality of the play on the court, you can argue the relative depth of the talent pools available in this field, but you can't argue with success, and Team Colorado is rolling in it right now.

In Friday's regional semifinal against Team 23, the squad that had bounced TC from the dance last summer, the former Buffs entered knowing they were down one of their best,  Richard Roby, the program co-leader in all-time scoring, was sidelined with an MCL injury, and would be unavailable. Not to be dissuaded, Colorado came out with a balanced attack (five players would eventually finish in double-digits), and began to race out to a big lead.  Three pointers rained down (TC was 7-11 from deep in the opening frame), and the good times rolled.  Right before half they were up by 16, and the advantage only stayed steady from there into the early minutes of the second half.  But, as was often the case with the current Buffs this past season, the team started to allow that lead to slip.  Team 23, in fact, stormed back to take a second half lead of their own behind a number of forced turnovers and the sterling play of Frank Gaines. Some beautiful work in getting to the line, however, was enough to save CU, as they grabbed 19 of their 33 points in the final frame from the charity stripe.  Overall, the Buffs shot 77% from the line, a very respectable clip when taking 35 attempts.  It's how good pros close out tough ballgames, and these international veterans with Black and Gold on their chests leveraged it to their advantage in claiming a 78-73 win.

Onto the regional final, the Buffs were paired with Team Utah.  While many of the players on the Team Colorado bench plied their trade in the Big XII days, seeing an alumni group from a fellow Pac-12 hoops power whetted my appetite for some gritty play.  In fact, the familiar name of Dakari Tucker could be spied on the opposing bench, shaking loose some ugly memories from the last few years of CU's series with the Utes.  Tucker didn't disappoint, either, putting up 15 points off the bench.  It wasn't enough, though, to stop Team Colorado, who rolled on even with Richard Roby still unavailable. After looking down and out in the first half, thanks to some loose play and hasty jump shooting, the Buffs were bailed out by some more Marcus Hall brilliance.  The shifty guard would finish with 22 points as he lead Colorado back from as many as 14 points down before the break. Throw in some big second half threes from Austin Dufault, and CU would cruise home to a five point win and the West Regional championship.

The pair of wins sends Team Colorado to the Final Four this weekend in New York, just two more wins away from a sweet prize of $2 million. It's weird, thinking back to just a few weeks ago, that TC was struggling to even make TBT.  The event bases its selections on voting on their website, and the Buffs were nip and tuck throughout the process just to even make the psuedo-Dance.  Make it they did, however, and they've capitalized on the opportunity presented to strut their stuff.

They'll next tip-off this Saturday against Always a Brave, a team made up from Bradley University alumni.  It's a personal matchup for me, as I have some Bradley roots in my family, and have often cheered on the Braves from afar. The game tips off at 3pm MT, and will be televised on ESPN. Should TC win, they'll go up against the winner of City of Gods (featuring former Buff Xavier Silas) and Overseas Elite (last year's tournament champs) on Tuesday.  As promised, I'll write up a full preview for that game, if it happens.

Good luck, Team Colorado!

Colorado Basketball Schedule rounding into shape - 

The Pac-12 finally got around to releasing their travel partner pairings for the upcoming basketball season, dropping them on us this morning.  While finalized dates and times are not available, let's take a look at how the balance of this year's schedule is shaping up:

Dec 28th-Jan 1st - @ Utah
Jan 4th-8th - @ Arizonas
Jan 11th-15th - vs SoCals
Jan 18th-22nd - @ Washingtons
Jan 25th-29th - vs Oregons
Feb 1st-5th - @ NorCals
Feb 8th-12th - vs Washingtons
Feb 15th-19th - @ Oregons
Feb 22nd-26th - vs Utah
Mar 1st-4th - vs NorCals

Right off the bat, the big thing to note are that Colorado does not host the Arizonas and doesn't have to visit LA this winter.  We all knew this in advance, but the reality of the schedule now laid out before the Buffs, starting up with three straight on the road, including that damn trip to McKale in Tucson, is daunting.  Any Sweet 16-caliber squad would struggle with that run, and would be happy to come home with a 1-2 start to conference play.  Backing it up with difficult games against the LA schools, albeit at home, before yet another road trip is the Pac-12's way of testing CU right out of the gate.

Really, Tad Boyle and crew will be behind the 8-ball, scheduling wise, from day one. Combined with a tough non-conference slate, this is a monster of a schedule.  The soft landing of five of seven in Boulder to close the season does little, right now, to assuage my anxiety at seeing that opening road trip.  Did a visit to SLC really need to be paired with the trip to the desert?  Really?

I still project that Colorado will be a good team this year, qualitatively better than they even were in 2015-16 (more on that in the forthcoming Massive Preview).  But I am starting to wonder if it will show in the W/L column, as this schedule is a doozy.  Coach Boyle has done this before, stacking the 2013-14 slate in the Mayor, Spencer Dinwiddie's third campaign.  Untimely injuries upended the Buffs that season.  Now, once again loaded with talent, and set against a requisite challenge on paper, can the program finally live up to their pre-season promise?  Only time will tell.

My Sox need to cut bait and run - 

Oh boy.  The 2016 season for My Chicago White Sox, which had begun with so much promise, has quickly imploded.  Since starting the season 23-10, they have proceeded to go 23-40 (as of Saturday), spiraling out of control on a crash run towards the basement of the AL Central.   A few recent wins aside, with division and Wild Card hopes dashed, they are a flopping fish on the side of the dwindling pond of competitive baseball.

Baseball is a game of ebbs and flows.  You're supposed to think in the macro, while enjoying the micro.  For example, while a single win or loss can be a gripping affair, the knowledge that it's just one of 162, or even viewed as a smaller piece of a 5-year cycle, should temper any immediate reactions.  There comes a point, however, where the tolling of the individual bells adds up, and decisions need to be made.  The simple fact is this franchise, through 32 years of my life, has wound its way to the playoffs just four times.  An individual disappointment, like this year's collapse, could be waved away if not for the reality that the Sox are rarely, if ever, competitive.  They are, indeed, 'mired in mediocrity.'

More acutely, My White Sox have been adrift is a sea of poor long-term planning and a frustrating lack of execution since the start of the decade.  As the last vestiges of the talent that lead them to the 2005 World Series have faded into memory, they were left with a series of strung-along continuance plans; a panicked series of choices meant to squeeze the lingering dollops of toothpaste from the tube.  As fans, we were always told that the goal was to win now, but with no organizational foundation of development, and no ability to spend like the big boys, their efforts always felt like a band aid being put on a gash that needed stitches... or even amputation.  They have had little to no organizational identity since the last days of the previous decade, and no real focus for the future.

My plea then is this: please, stop this madness.  Call a stop to the fight, admit defeat, and move on to something that actually resembles a plan for sustained success.  Stop dicking around and trade the few marketable pieces you have (Chis Sale, Jose Quintana) for all the prospects you and beg, borrow, and steal.  Fire the coaching staff, all of them, the first second you can.  Part ways with VP Kenny Williams, and find out if GM Rick Hahn really knows what he's doing (and I'm not all that tied to the idea of his continuance, either).  Actually build a minor league system capable of producing viable future talent, rather than rushing every prospect that shows any sign of producing. The days of scrapping together something for this year without an eye to the future need to stop.

And, above all else, try not to embarrass the franchise while running out the string...

What's that?  Chris Sale, in a fit of madness and frustration, decided to cut up some commemorative jerseys rather than play in them, earning himself a five game suspension right as the Sox are trying to shop him?  Oh for fuck's sake...

Happy Tuesday! 

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