Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, March 9, 2017

2017 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 2

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 9th --

I will not be seeing the Hoover Dam, at least for one more year.  Thanks to a furious 2nd half comeback, the Colorado Buffaloes were able to forestall the ignominy of a 1st round exit, storming back to upend the Washington State Cougars 73-63.

The first half performance from our Black and Gold heroes was simply awful.  The Cougars were able to get whatever shot they wanted on offense, tickling the twine to the tune of 57% shooting from the field and 65% from downtown.  In all, they would make 17 baskets in that opening frame, assisting on 12 of them.  Colorado was getting carved up, to the point that it almost didn't matter that they themselves were struggling with the ball, knocking down under a third of all shots and just 2-11 from deep.  The Buffs were in a bad way headed into the break, relatively lucky to only be down 14 after WSU had raced out to a 19-point lead after only 13 minutes of action.

Then, CU found the safe harbor of halftime, and everything settled down. Seniors, like Derrick White, Xavier Johnson, and Josh Fortune seemed to say, 'to hell with this, we're going down swinging,' and started to take over.  White, especially, was on fire.  In just over five minutes, he dropped 13 points (along with a block and a steal), all but erasing the halftime deficit in dragging the Buffs to within two.  The Cougars were suddenly on the ropes, and, with two-thirds of the half still to play, were looking lost.  Derrick would finish with 26/5/5 against zero turnovers.

WSU would adjust, doubling White off the screen, and trying to deny him the attacking lanes he had abused early in the frame. That just meant it was time for XJ to step up.  He would add 12 second half points of his own, most of which came down the stretch, highlighted by this thunderous dunk off the break. What you'll also notice on that play: Josh Fortune making a beautiful pass in transition. He had a nice, solid performance on the afternoon, chipping in seven points, five turnovers, and two assists against just one turnover.  His last points, on a three-pointer with two minutes to go, put Colorado up by five, and finally seemed to put the Cougs away for good.  XJ's final line was 19/6.

I can't say enough about how decisive the turnaround was in the second half.  The seniors, as a group (Wes' performance was more off-the-board, but still provided 8/4/3/2/1), were outstanding, helping to pick the team up off the mat to rebound with postseason hopes on the line.  I'm still not 100% confident that Colorado will make the NIT, but they're certainly in a better position now with 19 wins then they would've been with another bad loss on their resume.

In the day's other action:

  • Arizona State needed overtime to slip past Stanford, 98-88.
  • Oregon State put up a valiant effort but ultimately fell to Cal, 67-62.
  • USC coasted against a Washington team without Markelle Fultz, 78-73.

Best pep band of the day: Cal

I'm giving it to the Golden Bears because their tubas were HOT FIRE.  They grabbed my attention from the first note, and laid down the phat beatz on songs like 'Come on Eileen.'

The Cal band has long been an interesting phenomena for me to take in.  With a big bass drum and a glockenspiel, they have a very unique core to their sound.  Not one that I generally prefer, mind you, but one that clearly stands out against their peers... especially when rival Stanford is outsourcing their work to some high school band.  Where have you gone, Stanford Band?


Today's action:

- #8 Arizona State vs #1 Oregon - 1pm MT - Pac-12 Network - 

The league champion Ducks hit the court this afternoon, and I cannot be more excited.  Such a fun team to watch play, they feature an exciting style both on and off the ball.  I expect them to quickly dispatch the Sun Devils, completely shutting down the ASU guards who cut up Stanford yesterday.

- #5 Cal vs #4 Utah - 3:30pm MT - Pac-12 Network - 

Cal continues in this tournament, but does anyone really want to see them play?  The slow, negative Bears make for a tough watch, and playing the similarly pedestrian Utes will not help improve their style.  Utah's precision with the basketball will ultimately help them prevail in an ugly one.

- #7 Colorado vs #2 Arizona - 7pm MT - Pac-12 Network - 

The Buffs and Wildcats have met each other in four of the five previous Pac-12 Tournaments.  While the 'Cats have won the last three, rather decisively, Colorado can still claim the one meeting that really mattered -- the 2012 tournament final. The Buffs will need a lot of that '12 magic this afternoon because they will be up against it in T-Mobile.  I expect a thunderous herd of Arizona fans in attendance, largely filling up the cavernous area that lay mostly empty yesterday for the game with Washington State.

I think CU can play with Arizona, even given the antagonistic crowd.  I look for them to come out of the gate, and play well in the opening half.  Once in the final frame, however, I expect the 'Cats to take over, and the Buffs to slip behind.  Not without a game effort, though.

- #6 USC vs #3 UCLA - 9:30pm MT - ESPN - 

A rivalry game to close out the evening.  There's a lot of independent money flowing in on the Bruins in this tournament, to the point that I would call them the 'people's favorite.'  They boat-raced their rivals in the second half of their last meeting, but don't look for them to duplicate that feat today.  I look for UCLA to win, but struggle to put the Trojans away.  This one could come down to the wire. 


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