Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: I Went To Provo For Basketball, And All I Got Was This Maple Doughnut

In most ways, watching a basketball game at BYU in Provo, UT lives up to expectations.  There's a pregame prayer, the crowd is whiter than Wonder Bread, and the only sense of hostility you feel is when you ask if they have any soda that's not caffeine free.

Still, I couldn't help but marvel at the ways the fans in attendance found to surpass my expectations.
My favorite in-game entertainment piece was the air guitar cam set to tame tracks from the mid-80s, which immediately brought me back to the days of this disaster in Manhattan, KS.  Then, a young father in front of me, with his young daughter in tow, bought me and my friends a giant maple doughnut (quaintly called a Cougar Tail)... just... out of the blue.  But, taking the prize was the pre-teen behind us who, I swear on my life, continued to randomly belted out church hymns throughout the game; they even seemed to line up with BYU runs, which was probably the desired effect.

Even a died-in-the-wool cynic like myself, however, would strain to keep a cold heart when everyone you pass throws you an over-earnest cry of 'welcome' or 'we're glad you're here.'  Sure, spending an entire basketball game watching your tongue while sober and surrounded by children isn't my first want in life, but it was certainly an experience I will never forget.  I'm glad I went.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the loss in Provo and what it means going forward, the continuing dominance of the Women's Team, and what looks like the end for the greatest marching band in all of the world.

Click below for the bag...

Buffs falter down stretch in Provo - 

Colorado had their chances.  On the road, in front of a large, if still demure, BYU crowd, they had fought and clawed against continuing deficits to the point that they claimed a scant 62-61 lead with over seven minutes to play.  Despite a host of things going against them, they had executed solidly on the offensive end, kept the Cougars off the free throw line, and put themselves in position to steal a wild one away from home.

But it wasn't meant to be.  Down the stretch, the Cougars would leverage a heavy-handed home whistle, earning 18 of their 29 free throw attempts in the final seven minutes of play.  Combined with a white-wash of the Buffs on the glass (BYU was +15 in rebounding) and the red hot shooting of guard TJ Haws (3-3 from deep in the second half, 13 points), it was enough to brush the Buffs aside, 79-71.
Haws cut up the Buffs Saturday.  From:
The game really turned early in the second half when the phantomest of phantom whistles was levied against Derrick White. It marked his fourth foul in the game with 14 minutes remaining on the clock, and contained less physical contact than a butterfly kiss.  While the Buffs would go on a run in the immediate aftermath, of the 18-9 variety over the next seven minutes, it took a lot out of the team, not having their primary point guard and chance creator on the floor for the majority of the final frame. It would catch up to CU in a big way over the final two media timeouts, as BYU started lobbing bombs the team couldn't answer.  Derrick would finish with 21 points, but it could've, should've been so much more.

White's foul issues put a damper on what was otherwise a thrilling game.  CU led for just a sliver of the clock, but continually counter-punched the home-standing Cougars, answering several runs throughout the game that could've put them down for good.  They put up thrilling dunks, well-executed alley-oops, and we were even treated to the rarest of rarities: a made three-pointer from Thomas Akyazili.  Some #TadBall blasphemes aside, I was largely happy with the output.
But, the reality was that the Buffs were not playing long-term winning basketball on Saturday.  BYU knifed them on the glass, and chewed up their defense both beyond the arc (47% from deep), as well as with back-cuts in the paint.  Colorado is never going to go on the road and win a game where they allow an opponent to shoot like that and dictate on the boards.  It's just not the way this roster is constructed. As Xavier Johnson said after the game, the result is not what this team is capable of, and it's depressing.

Looking ahead, this was Colorado's last chance to build a Tournament-worthy non-conference resume. The win over Xavier is nice, but, with Texas looking worse for wear (they lost to UT Arlington after the Legends Classic, btw), and no other marquee games remaining before Pac-12 play, the total scope of the record is nothing to write home about. What's worse, after an ugly start to the year, the Pac-12 seems destined to bottom-out as the 7th or 8th best RPI league in the country, which will limit any ability to make up for lost time against conference foes.  With the Buffs currently boasting an RPI ranking in the 100s, there just doesn't seem to be any opportunity to pave a road to an at large bid this season.  Barring a miracle run in-league, or in-Vegas, Colorado could very well be playing for the NIT from this point onward.  And for that, the result in Provo earns a *sigh*.

Women continue perfect start to season - 

On the other side of the CEC, the Women's Team continues to roll against all comers.  With another perfect week of results under their belts, they're 9-0, and up to #15 in the latest AP Poll.  While the men are still struggling to find their groove, the women are reveling in theirs.

Their most recent result, a joyous 18-point thrashing of little sister, is completely indicative of the way they're hooping this year.  Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard put up a career-best 31 points on a record seven made three pointers to pace the squad.  There was even a moment where, late in the game, she refused what looked to be a layup opportunity to run back out to the arc and heave up another trey, which is just about the best troll job a shooter can do.  She reportedly did it all with a cut on the index finger of her shooting hand, making Kennedy's performance all the more impressive. It's all in line with what I see every game from the ladies -- they're playing fast, fun basketball.  If you can't find some joy watching them get buckets, then I don't know if basketball is really for you.
Leonard has been fantastic this season.  From:
The win over the Rams comes just a few days after another blowout win, this time over Idaho State, 85-56.  This time it was sophomore Alexis Robinson who led the way, 16/4/4 at the head of the attack.  Colorado has an outstanding pair of guards at the heart of their backcourt in Robinson and Leonard.  The promise of their strong freshman campaigns is starting to bear fruit in year two, and the wins are starting to rack up, as a result.  I can't get enough of watching them shoot and slash.

From here, there's just two more games to be played before the start of conference action: this Saturday's road tilt with Mississippi Valley State, and a home date with Wyoming on the 21st.  After that, it's all about proving that the non-conference start means the Rise is real for yet another CU program.  The Pac-12 is one of the more brutal conferences in the country, but everything I've seen to-date tells me Colorado will do just fine; I can't wait!

The death of fun - 

The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band is not technically brilliant.  Other groups play the notes better, perform more intricate drill, and sport crisper uniforms. Other groups also take things more seriously, and actually try to play nice with others. The LSJUMB breaks this mold. They are not, by the normal standard of the label 'marching band,' exemplary of the breed.
The Stanford Band is my spirit animal.  From:
But, then again, there's nothing meant to be standard about the Stanford Band, and nor should there be. They are exactly as they intend to be, the outlier in the graph that skews the results.  They scatter to their spots, rather than march in any sense organized sense of the word. Their uniform is minimalist and open to interpretation. They have a kitchen sink in their drumline, for Tad's sake. Above all else, they live to upturn the apple cart and play the provocateur.  They are the platypus of marching bands -- the species that makes you look and wonder about the wide and fantastic possibilities of life, and laugh at the unworldly strangeness of it all.

And they're being hunted to extinction.

Louts without a sense of humor, offended by benign things like of-age students drinking alcohol in their spare time, or jokes about cow-tipping in Iowa, have long sought to tear them down, undoubtedly jealous of all the fun they're having. Those squares seem to be getting their way now, with the University announcing over the weekend that they're suspending the band for the rest of the year, with an eye towards replacing their decades-old student-managed model with something more... traditional.  Stanford leadership would have you believe that the kids in the band have gone too far this time, in a Dean Wormer-esque dictum to conform.  The band, of course, refutes the charges, and generally resists the movement to sanitize them, as they should.  The problem is, I get the sense that, this time, the threats to tamp down the LSJUMB's fun are for real, as Stanford is desperate to stay ahead of a larger problem they're having with alleged mishandling of sexual assault allegations.
If we lose the LSJUMB, who will talk to Iowans honestly about their over-fondness for cows?  From: Fox Sports
Look, certainly, there are limits, and the Band's recent history of 'sexual hazing' is an ugly chapter (... that the band had taken steps to correct). At some point there needs to be boundaries, as true anarchy loses all meaning, and certainly isn't funny.  But the world needs the Harvard Crimson, needs the Onion.  And it certainly needs the LSJUMB.  But now, it's gone.  Or at least it probably will be. Come next fall there will be some form of band on display in Palo Alto, but it won't be the same, replaced by some souless, funkless husk. The bastards always win, I tell ya.

Shame on Stanford for looking to lose this truly unique aspect of sporting culture in this country. Once the LSJUMB is gone, they're never coming back, and whether you appreciate it or not, we'll all be worse off.

Happy Tuesday!

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