Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: Season ain't over, yet!

Back from Vegas, and somehow I lost two hours in my day. Wait, what time is it again? ... Without further adieu, straight to the action.

Today in the bag, I'm talking the Pac-12 final in Las Vegas (along with my All-Tournament team), the Buffs in the NIT, and women's lacrosse.

Click below for the bag...



Arizona sweeps past wounded Ducks, wins Pac-12 - 

The 2017 Pac-12 Tournament is a wrap, and your winners are *sigh* the Arizona Wildcats.  Thanks to an 83-80 win over Oregon, they swept their three games in T-Mobile Arena to claim the crown. Very much deserving, I will admit, considering their offensive dominance in their three games.

The final itself was pretty straight-forward.  Arizona really took over right before half, forging a six-point lead ahead of the break, and played keep-away for much of the final frame. Oregon would occasionally fire back, and even managed to cut the lead to just two points with 25 seconds to play. This was after five straight misses from the free throw line from the UofA, which gave everyone in red the willies.  The Ducks, however, were incapable of capitalizing on the empty possessions, playing hero ball in the final few minutes, rather than working for good shots against a rattled opponent.  As a result, it gave the 'Cats enough time to respond, which they did with four-consecutive free throws from Allonzo Trier.  Game-set-match.
Arizona gets the win on the Strip.  From: AZ Cenral
The Ducks were clearly hurt by the absence of Chris Boucher.  The lanky senior forward, it was announced, had torn his ACL in the second half against Cal Friday night, and had been declared out for the remainder of the year.  Without Boucher, the Ducks had to cut their rotation down severely (really only played five dudes after half) and it limited their ability to rebound effectively against Arizona's tall trees.  Accordingly, the Wildcats beat them by 10 on the glass, supported by 29 defensive rebounds.  Boucher may not have gotten all of the 50-50 boards, had he been healthy, but his presence probably would've been worth enough extra possessions to equal three or more points.

That is not to take away from Arizona.  They were on fire in Las Vegas, shooting 58% from the floor to control their three games from tip-to-horn.  Defensively they were alright, albeit better-than against UCLA, but their offensive performance is what blew me away.  Opponents just couldn't get crucial stops against them, with players like Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright nailing huge three-pointers.  If they shoot like that the rest of the month, they could go quite far in the real Tournament.

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My All-Tournament Team
  • Allonzo Trier - G - Arizona - Most Valuable Player
  • Tyler Dorsey - G - Oregon
  • Lauri Markkanen - F/C - Arizona
  • Grant Mullins - G - Cal
  • Derrick White - G - Colorado
Trier was, I thought, the clear winner of the MVP title, combining for 62 points and an ORtg over 120 for the week.  He was outstanding, and a difference maker in each game.  He's joined by his teammate Markkanen, who finally seemed to get his groove back on the Strip.  From the non-winners, Tyler Dorsey was incredible, playing his three best games of the season at a perfect time for the Ducks.  I also selected Grant Mullins; with Jabari Bird out of the mix for Cal in their semifinal game against Oregon, his 23 points on eight shots were the only thing, really, that kept the Bears in the contest.  Finally, Derrick White, though he didn't see the semis, winds up on this list for being the best player on the court when CU took on the eventual champs.

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Best band in Vegas - Oregon

I was going to go with Arizona... right up until the moment the Ducks pulled an Alice in Chains song out of their toolkit in the final minutes of the final.  You better believe that won me over.  Good arrangement of a difficult song?  *nods*


NIT field set, Buffs will play on - 

Lo and behold, the season did not end for the Buffs in Las Vegas, after all.  Along with a pair of their Pac-12 brethren, Colorado will forge ahead in the crapshoot that is the NIT.  It's the team's first entrance into the secondary field since the magical run of 2011, and their eighth overall appearance since 1990.
Bring on the Knights.  From: Bleacher Report
CU was placed in what is being called the Illinois State quadrant as a 5-seed, scheduled to play the 4th-seeded Knights of Central Florida Wednesday night.  With seeding determining home sites, that means the Buffs will be traveling for their first game to Orlando -- Tip time will be 5pm MT, with the action cast on ESPN's streaming service, ESPN3. As a five, you should also expect them to travel for any other games they earn this month, so any dreams of a repeat run to New York, akin to what we saw six years ago, will have to include three road wins.  To that end, they share that side of the bracket with bitter rival Utah, and other solid teams like top-seed Illinois State and Illinois.  Ever been to Normal, IL in March?  I have, and it's not pretty.  Colorado, though, may have that opportunity should they win this week.

As an important note, the NIT, as has often been the case in the past, is being used this year as a proving ground for potential tweaks to the game that the NCAA feels need full testing before final roll-out.  Specifically, this year all the games in the tournament will be played under different timing rules, designed to break the action up into 10-minute segments, similar to how it currently is in the women's game.  Team fouls will reset to 0 at the end of each segment, with an in-segment limit of four fouls per team.  Past that, you're shooting two free throws each; the one-and-one is no longer a thing.  As I understand it, there will not be a dead-ball situation once the clock hits 10:00, the scorer's table will just reset the foul counter and the game will continue. That means, realistically, the pace of the game doesn't change, just how and when free throws are taken. There's also a rule change cutting the shot clock to 20 seconds in possessions that start in the front court, but you probably won't notice that, to be honest.  These tweaks aren't guaranteed to make it into the rule book for next year, but that has been the route for previous rule changes like the charge/block line and the 30-second shot clock. So don't be surprised if this is a preview of things to come.
New timing rules for the NIT. From: ESPNU  
Overall, playing UCF in the NIT is far from the worst possible scenario, and certainly much better than the soul-testing possibilities of another game against CSU, only this time in Ft Collins.  Sure, there's no glamor, no bright lights inherent in playing in the other tournament this time of year, but it is more basketball, and it's one more opportunity to see the seniors like Derrick White run out in school colors.  I hope the team takes this seriously and brings their 'A' game.  If they do, they could have a shot to win a game or two.  If not, then it might get as ugly as the last time this program ventured out to Orlando...

Look for my teaser up on Wednesday.


Colorado Lacrosse tearing it up to start the year - 

If you hadn't noticed, CU's women's lacrosse team has been tearing up the competition.  Through seven games on the season, they're undefeated, and have been flying up the national rankings.  With their latest victory, on the road over then-#6 Penn State, they claimed their fourth win over top-25 competition, enough to earn them a top-5 spot in the latest Inside Lacrosse Poll.  4th?  In the country? Yo.

The team is lead by a pair of veteran attackers: senior Johnna Fusco and junior Darby Kiernan.  Each have 20 goals on the season, and Fusco has even picked up a national player of the week award.  In fact, three Buffs have won national honors so far this season, with Fusco joined by teammates Paige Soenksen (senior, goalie) and, most recently, sophomore Miranda Stinson.  The latter earned her award just this past week for tallying five goals and four assists against the Nittany  Lions, setting a school record for points in a single game.
This team is legit.  From: CUBuffs.com
It's hard to remember, but this is only the team's fourth year of existence, and they've yet to even appear in the NCAA Tournament.  Yet, here they are, seemingly in competition for a national title. Are you kidding me?  All credit to coach Ann Elliot and her staff -- in relatively no time they've created a powerhouse over at the Kittredge Fields.  Hopefully they can keep it up, with grueling MPSF conference play on the horizon.  They get through that, and we may really have a story on our hands.

The ladies will next take the field tomorrow afternoon, when Withrop comes to town (3pm).  After that is their conference opener, Sunday against Oregon (12p).  Both games will be available on an internet stream, with the visit from the Ducks broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.  You should check them out.


Happy Tuesday!

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