Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: Buffs Lose To Bears With One Arm Tied Behind Their Back

So, let's talk about Xavier Johnson and Wes Gordon.  Riding a three game winning streak into Sunday's matinee performance against Cal, Colorado found themselves stuck without the services of either fifth-year senior forward.  The reason?  Both were suspended at least one game for a violation of team rules. The substance behind their suspension is still unknown at this time; all Coach Boyle said after the game was:
"It was one of those situations where two really really good kids made a bad decision so we had to address it. We're going to handle it and we're going to move on from it. That's really all I have to say is they did something they shouldn't have done and we're handling it. Two terrific young men and they'll be back."    - link
That the two veterans would do something dumb enough to earn themselves a suspension is disappointing, both in terms of the example they set for their younger teammates and the bind their absence put the team in against the forecourt-forward Golden Bears (more on that later).  What I want to talk about now, though, has to do with this picture, and the response to it across BuffNation:
From: @Pride_Tradition
That's a pretty bad look from the pair, and it wasn't the only time the cameras caught them looking mirthful despite their situation.  In the midst of a game where your teammates are getting blown apart, in no small part because you aren't available to play, images of smiling jocularity certainly aren't going to play well to the fanbase.  Branding failure.  

That said, XJ and Wes aren't professionals, and they aren't a brand.  They're kids, friends, and, especially in XJ's case, emotionally exuberant to a fault.  What, were you expecting them to be off in the corner, looking morose and self-flagellating every time the camera panned over? They're in their early 20s -- they're going to crack jokes in down time, even in the midst of discipline.   That's just human nature.

Yes, the pair certainly deserve a chunk of the blame for Colorado's 11th loss on the year; the old "DNP -- Coach's Decision" is, and will ever be, ugly.  However, anyone running around using phrases like 'kick them off the team' or 'sit them the rest of the year' for a few laughs on the sideline, not the act they actually performed to earn the discipline, is an idiot. Those two knuckleheads cracking up on the sideline is far from the worst of this team's problems, after all.

Coach Boyle will talk to them.  This will be the bug in their ear for every extra wind sprint thrown their way till the end of the season.  And they'll 'deserve it,' too,  That's part of coaching, and of growing up, generally.  But a smile, a laugh, is not a crime, and we fans should not treat it like one.


Today in the bag, I've got just two topics for y'all, since I didn't watch any football over the weekend. I'm talking the loss to Cal, and how the rest of the Pac-12 fared in Week 6 of conference play.

Click below for the bag...

Second half comeback not enough against Cal - 

So, as was mentioned before the jump, the Buffs went into Berkeley without two of their best forwards -- this year's version of the 'something that always seems to happen' that I mentioned in my preview.  The results, at least in the first half, were about as you would expect.  CU fell behind by as many as 23 in the opening frame, were lucky to manage just a 15-point deficit at the break, and looked completely and utterly on the ropes.  The Buffs, those still available to play, did show some moxie in the second half, fighting all the way back to cut the lead to just five points with a few minutes to go. In the end, however, the first half hole was dug too deep, and the final horn cried out to announce a 77-66 loss.

Yeesh, that first half.  Colorado was out-rebounded 21-14, surrendered nine three-pointers, and saw the game essentially put to bed early after a 24-2 run made the score 37-14.  I don't want to pin the ugly opening solely on the unexpected absence of messrs Johnson and Gordon, but they do make for convenient scapegoats.  Superstar sophomore Ivan Rabb had an easy go of it against in the first half against reserves, after all, putting up 8/6 early to underscore the point.  But, of course, Rabb wasn't the only Bear on the court, and he wasn't the one with the most to show for the starting 20 minutes of the game.  Guard Charlie Moore was the primary culprit, especially on the perimeter, where he hit five of his seven first half attempts from deep.  He took advantage of the soft zone Colorado was forced in to playing, and was the ultimate individual cause of that big first half spread.  Had CU come in with their full compliment of players, they probably don't play zone as much, and maybe the numbers are different, but it is what it is.
The Bears belted Colorado early.  From:
As ugly as that first half was, the second half was better.  Given the halftime break to re-group, the Buffaloes looked a different team down the stretch.  Derrick White, especially, was assertive, going 6-11 from the field for 15 points after the half.  He powered the CU comeback attempt, along with assisting play from George King, Tory Miller, and freshman Lucas Siewert (who picked up 18 big minutes with the seniors out of action).  With all the miracles the senior guard has performed of late, would it really have surprised had he been able to pull the rabbit from the hat, and willed Colorado to a shocking win?  Alas, it was not to be.  The Buffs cut it to five, but no less.  The loss that seemed certain in the opening frame was finally realized.

That result was not wholly unexpected; my preview warned as much.  The narrative of the game, however, shows that this was an opportunity heedlessly forfeited.  Colorado was never going to get back what they lost over the opening 0-7 stretch to conference play, but a win here could've opened the Buffs up for a stretch that could've ended with them crawling back up to .500 in league play. Instead, with vets stuck on the sideline of their own accord, another notch was added to the wrong column in the record book.  I'm not saying that CU is a shoe-in to win, with XJ and Wes on the court. I'm just saying they'd have had a better shot. The shame of it is we never got to see the team take that shot -- for that, the seniors can take the blame.

Around the world of Pac-12 Hoops - 

- Oregon 85 - Arizona 58 - 

Oh.  I see Oregon is still serious about this whole 'defend their league crown' thing, after all. They absolutely walloped the Wildcats over the weekend, showing no quarter from the opening tip on til close.  The Ducks hawkishly attacked on defense, forcing ugly shots from the visiting Pac-12 front-runners, and exploded offensively to the tune of 65% shooting from the field (including 16-25 from deep).  This was as impressive an all-around ass-kicking as I've seen in a long time, even including the '14 visit from the UofA in Boulder.  Oregon made a statement here, one that could reverberate the rest of the season.
Wow, Oregon looked good.  From: KVAL
The trick will be: how do they follow-up on it?  The Ducks did not win the league Saturday afternoon. In fact, with any letdowns this week in Los Angeles (Oregon/UCLA it Thursday night, BTW), all the good work done against Arizona could be brushed aside entirely.  The simple fact is that 'Zona has a cake-walk of a schedule remaining, so any slips the rest of the way by UO will put them right back behind the championship pace.  What I'm saying is, they have to sweep this week in LA, which is damn daunting.

- Stanford 81 - Utah 75 - 

If not for the scoreline above, the biggest shock of the weekend would be this one.  Utah had no business losing to Stanford, even on the road, and this six-point setback just makes no sense to me. The Cardinal were out-rebounded by 11, but managed to shot 55% from the floor, including 7-14 from deep.  I thought the Utes played defense?
What're you doing, Utah? From: the Mercury News
The real problem here is that the loss effectively ends Utah's pursuit of the NCAA Tournament. Their cupcake non-conference schedule does them no favors here, but they knew that coming in.  By Selection Sunday, this loss the Stanford will not be a pretty one.  Add to it an RPI ranking that will struggle to get much higher than 65, when all is said and done, and Utah looks NIT bound, to me. Larry only has himself to blame.

- UCLA 107 - Washington 66 -

Bruins back?  After going 12 days without a win, encountering a pair of losses along the way, the mighty UCLA offense looked out-of-sorts and disconsolate.  Lucky, then, that a trip to the Pacific Northwest is a perfect way to break your duck.  They put up 95 points in a 16-point win over Washington State on Wednesday before turning around and belting the Huskies for 107 in this one over the weekend; it was their eighth game this year with at least 100 points scored  On the eve of their massive tilt with Oregon, I'm sure that had to feel good.
Lonzo easily won this battle of the super-frosh.  From: Scout
The sweep in Washington, though, does relatively little to bolster the Bruins' chances of jumping back into the title race.  Even with a win this week over Oregon, they wouldn't be back in it.  Going even further, winning out wouldn't even guarantee them the crown.  UCLA, in fact, would need to win-out and get some help from Oregon and Arizona each losing at least one more to force some tie-breakers.  Not a very enviable position.  No, the title race will come down to the Wildcats and Ducks -- UCLA's role is simply that of a spoiler.

Happy Tuesday!

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