Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: Team Colorado Comes Up Short in TBT Finale

Just when I though the post-TBT landscape would be a doom of non-basketball sporting entertainment, here comes the Olympics, ready and willing to slake my thirst.  I've been watching the Team USA blowouts, both men's and women's, from tip to final horn, not caring the slightest that barely any of the action has been the least bit competitive.  If you, too, find yourself jonesing for some hoops, please, bypass the tired old gymnastics and swimming garbage and give the tournament a try. 


Today in the bag, I'm talking The Basketball Tournament final, a fresh new look for the CEC, and the start of fall camp for the football team.

Click below for the bag...

Team Colorado drops first half lead; loses to Overseas Elite in Tournament final - 

Last week, with $2 million in cold hard cash on the line, a collection of recent CU basketball greats, known as Team Colorado, took on a juggernaut called Overseas Elite in The Basketball Tournament's finale.  That the team of Forever Buffs had even made it this far was a wonder, coming back from a one-and-done performance a year ago, and entered historic Rose Hill Gym in the Bronx as big underdogs.  Unconcerned with prognostications, however, and focused on their goal, they stormed out of the locker room, and controlled the game from the opening tip.  Ultimately opening up a first half lead of as many as 20 points in the opening frame, they stunned their opponents, and thrilled Buff fans across the globe.

But, just as they had done in their Final Four match with City of Gods, the Overseas Elite circled their wagons, and began to chip away at the advantage prior to halftime.  Slowly but surely, they clawed back into the action, throwing defensive pressure at TC in an effort to unnerve the Colorado crew. These were the defending TBT champs, after all, and they were not going to go away quietly. They were helped, in their efforts, by a quick whistle on two of Team Colorado's best guards, Marcus Hall and Dominique Coleman, which sent the pair to the bench early.  Combined, the two were called for seven fouls in the opening frame (a player was disqualified after six in this tournament), some of them legit, some of them questionable.  And so, with the backcourt punch sitting on the sideline, the TC lead was down to only four points by the time the halftime whistle blew, and even the announcers were predicting doom for the Forever Buffs in the second half.
Team Colorado were rolling early in the TBT final.  From: Vice Sports
But Hall is made of sterner stuff than most.  Just as he had lead the team throughout the tournament this summer, he began to lead the Buffs in an attempt to stave off the collapse.  He was hitting impossible fadeaway jumpers, he was slipping past would be defenders, and he was pouring in just enough points to keep Colorado in position to win late into the proceedings.  Hall would eventually finish with 24 points on 10-17 shooting from the floor.  Combined with some ice-cold shooting from Austin Dufault, and a couple of key threes from Levi Knutson, it was nearly enough to earn the team the win and the money.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  With Johndre Jefferson grabbing key offensive rebounds, DJ Kennedy making winning plays with the ball, and Josh Fogg icing it at the line, OE began to push ahead late.  They were deep, experienced, and very talented.  Late in the game, the Elite owned the glass (overall, 40-32 in total boards), and forced some key mistakes from Colorado, including a block (shoulda-been goaltend) on a Hall breakaway that would've kept momentum in Black and Gold's corner late. Eventually, a huge bucket in the lane from Kennedy flipped the scoreboard, seemingly for good, and all of BuffNation began to see the writing on the wall.

But, there was to be one last glimmer of hope.  Down three with just seconds to play, a bizarrely ill-advised inbounds pass from OE bounded off a flashing Marcus Relphorde and back into the hands of TC. Suddenly, improbably, the former Buffs had a frantic, last-ditch chance.  Marcus Hall worked for his shot in the left corner, and gained separation.  The look was clean, albeit slightly rushed... and just back-rimmed.  Colorado would corral the offensive board, but Knutson couldn't get another shot off. From there, sealing free throws were hit, the clock was allowed to hit zero, and the run was over. TC had lead for over 30 minutes, but the Overseas Elite wound up with the check, and the Buffs went home with nothing but pride.  77-72, final.
Coach Boyle: just as bummed as the rest of BuffNation.  From: @JennBerg
It was a cheap gut-shot of pain.  The team deserved so much more in practicality than what they got from this run. The collection of recent CU greats had fought so damn hard, overcome so much to even get to the final, yet came up just short at the end; and, in this setting, second place earned them exactly nothing in their bank accounts.  Yet, I really doubt that a 77-72 loss in the championship will be the ultimate epitaph of this team.  No, these former Buffs, who played for program pride and the chance to run out just one more time as much as they did for the pot of gold at the end of the bracket-shaped rainbow, will go down as one of the best stories in modern Colorado Basketball history, a group who is ultimately mentioned alongside the 2012 Pac-12 champs and the Billups' squad of '97.

The thing I know I will take from this run was the eagerness for BuffNation to embrace Team Colorado as their own.  From the Athletic Department to the fanbase at large, Buffs from around the world chimed in, cheering TC on in their pursuit of the title and the cash. This was a statement in the viability of Colorado Basketball as an inclusive entity, even beyond the furor of the #RollTad era, and worth its weight in free media.  Each of those players, most of whom missed the current era entirely, deserved their moment in the sun, to taste the pride the fan base now holds for basketball in Boulder.  While the win would've been nice, I was overjoyed to see the run, and I look forward to a repeat next summer.

The CEC floor gets a fresh cut - 

While the vast majority of facility improvement news over the last year has been centered on the opening of the football team's new practice facility, the CEC has, quietly, been receiving its own share of touch-ups.  Last fall, we were treated to new, improved lighting around the stadium, which brightened up the drab-yellow warmth of the old can lights to a more stage-appropriate brilliance.  This year, we've already been made aware of a new sound system from Bose (the old center panel of cracked speakers is gone) and the impending install of some railings for the aisles (safety's cool, too).  The most recent update, however, really got my attention: a new floor design.

With photos leaked to the public last week, the Athletic Department showed off not only a new coat of paint for the floor, but the inclusion of the beautiful Flatirons across the baseline, as well.  Photos below:
I think it looks sharp... beyond sharp, in fact.  It's a design that should really pop on TV, as well, giving the Buffs an iconic look that will set the court apart form others around the West.  Not as garish as Oregon's, it's still a move in the direction of the individual over the generic. You'll immediately know you're watching a CU basketball game the second you see the floor.

All things considered, this facility has absolutely come a long way since I graduated in 2006.  In the interstitial decade, they've added a beautiful practice facility, upgraded the weight rooms and locker rooms, and really turned what was once a dog into a top-flight collegiate basketball arena.  But, there's still more to do.  My ultimate dream would include a series of curtains around the concourse, accentuating the already Pit-like atmosphere at the Keg.  Add to it a widening of the concourse, the addition of some club/suite seating (move the bathrooms to the outside, put the big wigs in their place with some catering), and that rumored winter-sports hall of fame.  How about a center jumbotron?  Sure, you'd have to reinforce, or even 'pop the top' off, the ceiling, but a set of center video panels is sorely needed.  Most importantly, the entrance facade needs something.  While the practice facility is all nice and campus-y, with the sandstone and the Florentine roof, the CEC itself is still an ugly, concrete-driven gray (much like the engineering center across the road).  At least give it a coat of paint or stonework, and add some signage above the main entrance (something like 'Tad Boyle's Palace of Awesomeness' ... just a suggestion).  I could go on...

My main point is this: the football program got their new toys, now I want some new ones of the south side of campus, as well.

The unofficial start of football season - 

Speaking of football, it's August, so that beast is coming on like a tidal wave (the first game, against that team, is only four Friday's away, btw).  In that vein, fall camp started this past week, and, even though open access is restricted, the fanbase and media alike are crawling over themselves to find out if the 2016 Buffs will be the team that finally breaks that bowl-less streak.

While I'm not a big camp guy (the stories are always the same), there have been a few key things to note as the team starts to get into game shape.  First and foremost, quarterback Sefo Liufau has reported 100% healthy, and says he's ready to lead the team for his fourth year under center after recovering from lisfranc surgery.  Whatever your opinion of Sefo, I'm much more comfortable with the four-year starter leading the huddle than any of the other options in camp, even those that may look better on film (especially after the Webb fiasco). 
Hey, look who's back!  From: the Times Call
Secondly, and as an extension to the first point, the emphasis on veteran leadership is staggering.  While the program has continued to struggle with getting over the hump in recent seasons, they've been piling up experience among the 2016 and 2017 graduating classes.  In total, the Buffs will enter the season with 56 upperclassmen ready to answer the call on gameday, boasting a total of 412 previous starts, the most in school history.  That was an ugly reality over the past few years, as these kids now considered experienced were thrown into the fire - often a bit too early - but it's great to know that those starring week one will have a lot of football under their belts as the clock ticks towards crunch time.

I've still yet to make up my mind about how confident I'll be in this team headed into the season.  They're talented enough to compete for something better than a four-win campaign, for sure, but the schedule is a bear, and I'm always one to doubt until I've seen a historical pattern of success put on paper.  By kickoff on 9/2, I'll have something up on how I see the season going down, but, for now, just enjoy the banal findings from an otherwise standard fall camp.

Happy Tuesday!

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