Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The First Day of Ski Season

If you, like me, have any rooting interest in the University of Colorado Buffaloes, then you enjoyed the hell out of Saturday afternoon.  The Buffs had dropped nineteen consecutive basketball games to our former, long-time conference rivals, the University of Kansas Jayhawks.  In 2012, we were "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawked" to the tune of 90-54 at Allen Field House.  It could have been worse had KU coach Bill Self not shown a bit of mercy on KU Class of '85 and one-time Jayhawk basketball captain Tad Boyle, who these days earns his living coaching mens' hoops in Boulder.  I watched the game.  I kid you not.  It could have been worse. 

Coach Boyle is about one-third of the way through his fourth season as CU's Head Coach.  In his first three seasons, his Buffs have earned a NIT berth (and advanced to hte semi-finals at Madison Square Garden) and back-to-back NCAA bids - including 2012 when the Buffs had to win four games in four days at the PAC-12 Tournament to garner the conference's automatic bid.  It took Coach Boyle approximately a season and a half to win as many games as the mens' basketball team won during the four years that I was a student at CU - from 1985 through 1989.  He has created a college that not only cares about basketball but is actually good at it out of whole cloth.  It is a transformation that has been nothing short of stunning.  

Saturday's game was amazing.  KU came out flying and less than two minutes into the first half, the #6 ranked Jayhawks were up 9-0 and then 11-2.  The Buffs rallied and ended up taking a three-point lead into the locker room at halftime, courtesy of a three-point shot that junior guard Askia Booker drained just before time ran out.  In the second half, the teams battled back and forth until with slightly less than four minutes to play the Buffs found themselves trying to protect a nine-point lead of their own.  They could not.  Perhaps if we shot free throws better than we did on Saturday we might have.  We did not.

KU did what talented, exceptionally well-coached teams do down the stretch:  they came back.  The game was tied at 72 with three seconds to go.  The Buffs had the ball out of bounds deep along the sideline on their own half of the court (only a couple of feet away from the baseline).  The announcers on ESPN presumed that our plan of action called for the ball to end up in the hands of our best player - Spencer Dinwiddie - so that he could take the game's final shot.  It did not quite work out that way....

Askia Booker's game-winning 3-pointer vs. Kansas
12/07/13 - Coors Events Center, Boulder, CO

....although among the sounds you do not hear amidst all of the noise in the arena upon game's end is the sound of anyone wearing Buffs colors complaining about where the ball ended up.  

Shoulder to Shoulder.  Shoulder to Shoulder. 


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