Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: So, will the Buffs go bowling?

With game week finally on the horizon, it's straight to the action this afternoon.

Today in the bag, I'm musing on Colorado's hopes for a celebration-inducing bowl bid, gold in men's basketball at the Olympics, and a pair of big wins to start the season for the women's soccer team.

Click below for the bag...

Finding six wins on the football schedule isn't easy - 

This is the year the Buffs will finally break through, and crack the bowl-less drought that's entering its 9th season... or so the narrative would have you believe.  Veteran team, veteran staff, new facilities; the trend lines are up, so the results should follow.  It all makes sense, right?

Well, I'm not so sure.  And the #1 reason I'm not so sure is the damn schedule.  The easiest route for any team to six wins assumes a sweep of their non-conference games, something CU has only managed once in the MacIntyre era -- in 2013, his first season, when they played two FCS teams, thanks to the Great Flood canceling a sure loss against Fresno State. For the Buffs in 2016, this would mean a trio of wins against CSU, FCS Idaho State, and Michigan (in Ann Arbor)... which doesn't sound probable.  Sure, Colorado should beat the Bengals in week two, and I'll never predict a loss in the RMS, but a win in the Big House?  That would take something pretty damn ridiculous, and this program already used their UofM mulligan a few decades ago.  So, assuming the Buffs follow form and reality, and drop at least one of those games, you have to start looking for four, or more, wins against Pac-12 opponents... and that's where it gets tricky.
Damn, that's a lot of bowls that the Buffs haven't been going to. From: the Seattle Times
You can sell me on wins over Oregon State and Washington State at home (#s 1 and 2).  You can even get me to put money down on the Buffs clipping UCLA in Boulder in week 9, as they've come so close in each of the last two years (#3).  But where would the fourth win come from?  Homecoming against Arizona State?  On the road against Arizona?  In Folsom against Utah on the season's final day?  Chances are CU will be touchdown underdogs in each of those contests, and a real gamble for a program that has yet to earn their swagger.  I want to believe, I really do, but a bowl appearance just doesn't make sense to me.

As an aside, there are now projected to be annual opportunities for teams with losing records to get into the bowl season, thanks to the over-proliferation of bowl games.  So, conceivably, a 5-7 Colorado squad, with two wins in non-conference play and the anticipated three wins in-conference, could still be bowl eligible.  This, however, would be an extremely lame way to end the drought; a hollow victory over the specter of a decade of losing.  Yes, it would be cool for the seniors to go out on a post-season high note, but I would not consider that 'Mission Accomplished' for MacIntyre and staff.  For me to consider this season a success, CU need to find at least six wins in the regular season.

USA Basketball remains supreme -

Somewhere between their lackluster finish to group play and the start of the single-elimination medal rounds, the US Men's Basketball Team found their stride at the 2016 Olympics.  After a series of nervy finishes against teams like Australia and Serbia, many, including myself, sensed there may be some blood in the water, and that the collection of NBA superstars could be vulnerable in one-and-done situations.  That, however, was decidedly not the case.
Lil B curse freshly removed, KD is back in the winners column. From: USA Today
Beginning with a 105-78 quarterfinal stroll past an aging Argentina team, they would roll to the gold medal.  Spain, ostensibly the second-best team in the world, did manage to push, though not really threaten, the Americans in a 82-76 semi, but, come the final against Serbia, it was clear the US was going to leave Rio on the front foot.  The championship game started out close, but was blown wide open in the second as a 36-14 tidal wave of play lead to a 52-29 halftime lead for the USA.   From there, it was all academic, leading to a 96-66 final score that makes the game seem closer than it really was.

Finally, after two weeks of play, here was the team we were all promised would hit Rio like a typhoon.  Paced by an all-encompassing performance from Kevin Durant (30 points in the final), they were making the extra pass, clamping down on defense, and putting on an absolute show.  Maybe it was the extra juice of knockout play that had them so focused on quality results, maybe it was just a simple matter of time and familiarity finally translating to execution.  Whatever the reason, the Americans looked like the titans of the sport that they're supposed to be.  It was 40 minutes of brilliant, exhilarating play.  Easily worth the gold medals placed around their necks.

CU Women's Soccer off to nice start - 

Sunday afternoon, under some typically intense Colorado sunshine, I ambled my way up the Boulder Creek Path to Prentup Field for the soccer version of the Rocky Mountain Showdown.  The CU Women's Soccer Team, fresh off a season-opening 2-0 win over Air Force in the Springs, was opening their home account against little sister as part of the annual Colorado Cup series. Happily, the Buffs were up to the task from the opening kick. 

Just seconds into the game, before I could even settle in with my delightfully cold Coors Light, they were racing forward, nearly scoring after mere moments of play.  Through a wild opening seven minutes, they continued to press high into the CSU backfield, eventually finding joy as freshman attacking mid Taylor Kornieck (who looks like a legit talent, btw) benefited from a shaky clearance, and slotted home the game's opening score.  It was a tenacious flurry of activity that kept the Rams on their back foot.  Had CU continued like this, they could've put the game to bed early, without dinner.

Weirdly, however, the squad of Buffaloes, clearly faster and more skilled than their opponents from FoCo, began to sit back, seemingly happy with their early lead.  The Rams, as a result, were finally able to enjoy some extended strings of possession, building towards some quality opportunities of their own.  In some ways, with this shift in tempo and tactics, it was only a matter of time before the lead was surrendered, and it was some 20 minutes after the opening goal.
Buffs off to a quick 2-0 start to the 2016 season.  From:
Not to be deterred, the Buffs kicked back over onto the gas, and started to, once again, pressure the CSU backline with relentless attacks.  In total over the 90 minutes of play, Colorado would put a ridiculous number of shots up (29), 12 of which were on target, peppering the area around the Aggie net with quality opportunities.  Eventually, one of those, off the foot of senior forward Danica Evans, found the net.  She had a beautiful turn in front of the goal, completely losing her defender, coming off, yet another, poor Ram clearance.  With that, all that was left was killing off the clock, which left the score at a satisfying 2-1 for the Black and Gold.

The ladies will next travel out to Lawrence, KS this Friday to take on former conference rival Kansas.  With no televised coverage on that one, your next opportunity to catch the Buffs will be Sunday, when CU heads to Columbia, MO to face the Tigers.  That one's on the SEC Network at 6pm, should you be so inclined.

Happy Tuesday! 

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