A year later, Colorado finally got the reversal it deserved. The buzzer-beater it was owed finally, officially counted. The upset it earned was finally recorded as a win.
OK, so it has been more like 11 months. And, OK, the officials didn't have anything to do with it. Colorado's Jan. 3 loss to Arizona -- when Buffaloes guard Sabatino Chen banked in a last-millisecond 3-pointer that looked like it should have counted, but was stunningly reversed -- didn't, say, get an official review from the NCAA that passed just this week. Horrifyingly plausible though that scenario might seem.
No, Colorado's lost upset was remitted karmically. The funds hit the account in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday afternoon just before 5:30 p.m. ET, and boy did they make a splash.
"It felt really good," Booker said just afterward, as he was swarmed by fans, teammates and the ESPN broadcast crew.
He was talking about the release of the shot, not its result, but the phrase surely applies to both. Insane as the final play was, it was preceded by 39 minutes, 57 seconds of efficient, tidy, advantage-seeking basketball from the Buffaloes. Colorado scored 1.17 points per possession, avoiding turnovers on all but 12.5 percent of their offensive trips. They were balanced, too: Four starters finished with either 14 (Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott) or 15 (Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie) points apiece.
Which is not to say they were always pretty. Colorado shot only 41 percent, 31 percent from 3. How, then, did Tad Boyle's manage its efficiency? Not from fluidity, but assertion. Kansas' main defensive weakness to date -- really, its chief weakness as a team -- is its tendency to foul. The Jayhawks were whistled for 26 fouls on Saturday, 13 in each half. One late, key stretch was dominated by fouls: Dinwiddie blew by a Kansas defender and muscled his way to the rim, earning a foul and knocking down two free throws. With 1:44 left, his drive sent Kansas center Joel Embiid to the sideline. The Buffaloes shot 37 free throws. They made only 22, but they were enough.
Kansas' collection of young talent showed plenty of flaws. The Jayhawks are struggling from beyond the arc: They entered Saturday averaging 30.7 percent from 3, and their 5-of-20 night in Boulder won't raise that tally. Kansas' outside shooting woes have helped opposing teams take away its chief strength -- namely, its insane one-on-one talent.
Andrew Wiggins had one of his best games on Saturday. He is the rare player whose games can seem both impressive and oddly quiet at the same time. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.
But it was only occasionally -- as in his late half-court-length drive that ended in an effortlessly improvised left-handed finish. Maybe three players in the country could conceive of putting that play together, and you watch Kansas waiting for more. But because the Jayhawks can't stretch the floor and force teams to guard them man-to-man, Wiggins' lithe frame is often wasted on the perimeter. He floats.
Beyond that? The Jayhawks foul to their own detriment far too often; their high-screen defense was wildly suspect, both at the point of attack and in rotation; and, despite their physical advantages, they were outrebounded on both ends on Saturday. This is Bill Self's youngest team. It shows, subtly and not.
And yet Self, once he has processed the sting of the loss, can probably walk away from Boulder feeling pretty good. Last Saturday, after a limp trip to the Bahamas, Self was openly disappointed in his team's energy, its effort, his coaching, the whole nine. A few days later, his young team executed well down the stretch in an environment far more hostile than the Atlantis casino floor. The game was tied, after all, thanks to his clever play-calling out of a timeout and forward Perry Ellis' decisive finish with 5 seconds remaining. Colorado is a good and well-coached team. The Buffaloes are experienced; Dinwiddie and Booker are excellent. True road games are brutal. And so on.
Self gave his young group the toughest schedule in the country this season for a reason: He'll happily trade a loss or two for learning. He can say as much about Saturday's trip to Boulder, and while he'll hope for a different outcome Tuesday in Gainesville, Fla., against Billy Donovan's Gators, he might acquiesce to the same trade there.
After all, sometimes the game you claw into overtime doesn't get there. Sometimes, some basketball god somewhere owes your opponent a year-old debt, and sometimes that debt is repaid at your expense.
The game owed Colorado a buzzer-beating upset. Saturday, finally, the Buffs got what they deserved.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks dropped nearly 40 pounds before the season began, yet he still knows quite well how to throw his weight around.
The 6-foot-9, 280-pounder was at it again Saturday night with 12 points, eight rebounds and two assists in just 15 minutes of play during Carolina's 81-50 win over UNC Greensboro, which is coached by former UNC guard Wes Miller.
"Down in the post, he still has that weight, so he uses it very well, spinning off guys getting other people in the air, finishing through contact and stuff like that," sophomore forward J.P. Tokoto said.
Had North Carolina coach Roy Williams decided to chart center Meeks' development through the first eight games of the season, chances are the freshman from Charlotte would be ahead of schedule.
Since posting 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against Louisville, Meeks continues to give the Tar Heels' reasons to be optimistic about his potential. He has scored double figures in three of their last four games, and his eight rebounds against UNCG marked the third time he has led the team in a single game.
"I'm maintaining my goals right now; I can get better," Meeks said.
But remember, Meeks also put up 15 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's win over Michigan State. Those Spartans in East Lansing had comparable big men, and Meeks still stood tall.
"His confidence is slowly growing just because he's getting that experience, especially in some big-time games early in the year," sophomore guard Marcus Paige said. "He's had some success, and that's going to help him. I try to stay on him -- keep his highs not too high and manage his lows. He's a freshman; that's going to happen. He has a chance to be really good."
Last season, Carolina didn't really have a good scoring option in the post. This year, they have two. Brice Johnson added some strength and has become consistent as a sophomore. He is the team's second-leading scorer. But that was expected.
Meeks was a bit of a wild card, because no one knew how fast he would adapt to college basketball.
Williams has raved about Meeks' ability to throw outlet passes to get the Heels in transition. Against the Spartans, he showed he has good vision in the halfcourt too. In a second-half lineup that featured all three of the UNC freshman, Meeks delivered a textbook backdoor pass to fellow freshman Nate Britt for a layup. By the way, Meeks has only three turnovers in eight games.
"Kennedy is great," Paige said. "He takes care of the ball, he makes good decisions in the post, and he can score… I know it's early in his career, but he's showing a lot of positive things."
They were virtually all on display against the Spartans, like a fadeway jump shot, or like an ability to step outside of the paint and shoot a 15-foot jumper with the soft touch of a guard.
And he's not only a scorer. His rebounding total of 53 through eight games trails Johnson for the team lead by only two, despite the fact that Johnson has played nearly 50 more minutes this season.
About the only thing Meeks doesn't have, he still can get as he sheds more weight.
"He's got to keep working on his body, because he needs to be explosive, and he's not explosive in there," Williams said. "He's tipping the ball a couple of times, and if you're more explosive, you go up and get it with two hands and follow or dunk something like that. But offensively he really helps us."
And for now, that's exactly what the Heels need.
Kentucky made almost half of its 3-pointers. Baylor made less than a fifth. Had you presented those conditions to anyone familiar with either basketball team before Friday night's hilariously named "Basketball Showdown" -- one that lived up to its name thanks only to the four-overtime women's contest that preceded it -- you would have been met with a consensus. Kentucky would win. Baylor would lose, and probably by a lot.
That didn't happen, and how Baylor instead left AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with a 67-62 win over the Wildcats instead says much more about where the Wildcats are right now than it does the Bears. Oh, and by the way, those things it says aren't exactly compliments.
At this point, Kentucky's flaws are versatile enough to fit any basketball predilection. Are you more of the heart-and-hustle, body-language-aficianado, these-kids-need-more-experience type? Then turn your attention to the all of the fuzzy things that make basketball fans angriest: The Wildcats' dreary energy level down the stretch in a close game, their lapsed attention spans during timeouts, their poor execution on offense, and their missed free throws (UK shot 52.2 percent).
But if you are a more analytical sort, Kentucky has plenty for you to nitpick too. Don't get me wrong: The Wildcats have played mostly brilliant offense to date, in large part because a) they have Julius Randle and b) they outrebound everyone on the offensive end. Those strengths were less drastic against Baylor, whose chief strength as a team (outside of perimeter shooting) is Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers' ability to prevent easy buckets in the paint. Kentucky shot 39.4 percent from inside the arc Friday night, which goes a long way toward explaining how they managed to make eight of their 17 3-pointers and turn the ball over on just 15.0 percent of their possessions, yet still lose.
All of this UK flaw talk risks us overlooking the performance Baylor put together Friday night. Don't forget it: Baylor, which made 55 percent of its two-point shots and scored 1.12 points per trip, was good. But Baylor was allowed to be good in some ways by a Kentucky defense that has been only slightly above average this season. The Wildcats failed to record a single steal Friday night -- no small feat, especially in a game with as much length, physicality, and sideline—margin passing as this one. Even worse, the Bears rebounded 54.5 percent of their misses. That means, in even simpler terms, that well over half the time a Baylor player missed a shot, the Bears got another crack at things a few seconds later.
Credit the Bears for doing so -- and credit point guard Kenny Chery, who turned in a dazzling 8-for-10 shooting night inside the arc, including a massive elbow jumper down the stretch. Baylor's team already looks more capable than the one that needed a reprieve to survive Dayton in Maui, and there are few teams in the country with that kind of interior length.
But credit Kentucky's young defense just as much. Box-outs? The Wildcats were just as lost before the ball went into the air, with almost zero in the way of help rotations, with Willie Cauley-Stein playing some of the worst pick-and-roll defense you'll ever see, with no one on his hip to cover things up -- the whole of UK's defense is a bit of a nightmare for John Calipari right now.
That's the most surprising thing about this UK season to date: The Wildcats just don't guard. Why so surprising? Because in the past decade, Calipari's teams have almost always defended exceptionally well. Rarely have they finished a season ranked outside the top 10 in points per possession allowed. Last season was a sudden and shocking departure from that trend, and while this campaign bears little resemblance thus far -- UK isn't that bad, rest assured -- the concerns of an ever-restless fanbase might rightfully be mounting.
After Kentucky's first loss of the season, when his shellshocked team nearly won a game it had no business winning on the sheer strength of its talent alone, Calipari reminded the media that it was a long season, that he "still had four months to get this thing right." He paused for a beat in the United Center press room and corrected himself: "Well, three and a half months now."
That clock keeps ticking. Is Kentucky getting better?
- How did Oregon guard Joseph Young get to Eugene? Whence did this versatile, efficient perimeter player materialize? It wasn't thin air, though Ducks fans might be feeling the magic. It was Houston, where, this summer, Young's father, Cougars icon Michael Young, got into a rather public spat with coach James Dickey, who had attempted to reassign the elder Young away from his position as director of basketball operations and into a more ceremonial role. Naturally, Joseph Young left with him, and Michael Young told the Houston Chronicle this "made a statement to me that he can't play for a coach that doesn't want his dad to be a part of the staff." Maybe Dickey should have just let Young keep his title. The ensuing firestorm was bad enough, but now Young is a Pac-12 player of the year frontrunner, and, as Rush The Court outlined Friday, long-suffering Houston fans are left wondering what might have been.
- Oh, and more good news for Oregon fans: Athletic freshman forward Jordan Bell has qualified academically and can now join the Ducks, according to the Oregonian.
- Baylor is probably going to play a lot of zone against Kentucky Friday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN, I'm a company man), because by and large that's what Baylor does. How does John Calipari feel about that? "My feeling is they'll play 95 percent zone. They're like us. They're so long, you're not getting the looks you think you'll get in that thing. "Against man we don't seem as cohesive as we do against a zone," Calipari said. "You can't just come down and make a play. You have to pass-pass, drive. I really don't care if people play zone. It makes us come together. ... We're playing off one another way better."
- Speaking of the Baylor-Kentucky men's-women's doubleheader at The House that Jerry Jones' Ego Built, the whole idea came together in the matter of one dinner, according to Kentucky.com. Calipari and Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey should, I don't know, work on the federal budget next.
- Hey, Wichita State fans: If you are not disabled, do not park in the disabled spots on game days. Not cool, bros and broettes. Not cool at all. This has been your College Basketball Nation public service announcement. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Friday.
Sports fans love predictions. Well, sports fans love to tell you when your predictions are wrong. I would know.
I’ve made a few predictions during my time at ESPN.com. Some right. Some wrong.
Why stop now? Throughout the rest of the 2013-14 college basketball season, I’ll make predictions (winner and score) about five prominent weekend matchups. I’ll tally up my results each week so you all can see how well -- or poorly -- I’m doing overall.
Here we go again …
Prediction: Baylor 78, Kentucky 76
Marquette at No. 8 Wisconsin, 2:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: The biggest issue for Marquette right now? Consistent offense. The Golden Eagles, like their intrastate rivals, are one of the nation’s top defensive squads (both Wisconsin and Marquette are top-25 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings). But Marquette just can’t score. Consistently. Last spring, Buzz Williams lost a veteran backcourt that registered 30.3 PPG. That didn’t help his offense. And now his program will face a Wisconsin team that held Virginia to just 38 points -- yes, 38 points -- on Tuesday. Plus, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are pick-and-pop nightmares for Marquette. The Golden Eagles need this one. But they won’t get it.
Prediction: Wisconsin 58, Marquette 48
No. 6 Kansas at Colorado, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Last weekend was a rough one for Kansas, which lost to Villanova in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Andrew Wiggins couldn’t find a rhythm. And the Jayhawks continued to struggle from the 3-point line (2-for-11 against the Wildcats). But Bill Self recently announced that he will give freshman Joel Embiid, who leads the nation in block percentage, more minutes in the coming weeks. The fluid NBA prospect will be critical in a matchup against a Colorado squad that’s won eight in a row and held five of its last eight opponents to 65 points or less.
Prediction: Kansas 69, Colorado 65
BYU at No. 21 UMass, 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: Tyler Haws (23.6 PPG, 40 percent from the 3-point line) leads an offense that’s averaging 89.2 PPG (ninth in the country). The Cougars scored 112 points in a win over Stanford and put up 90 in a loss to nationally ranked Iowa State. They’ve also been successful this year because they’re careful (ninth in offensive TO percentage per KenPom.com). But Chaz Williams (15.4 PPG, 6.4 APG, 1.3 SPG) leads a fast attack that balances UMass’ defensive pressure. The Minutemen will challenge BYU inside and outside. And the emerging Cady Lalanne (17.0 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 2.7 BPG) will be a problem in the post for BYU.
Prediction: UMass 80, BYU 74
No. 18 UCLA at Missouri, 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS: The Bruins have one of the Pac-12’s strongest backcourts with Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and freshman Zach LaVine. Sophomore Tony Parker has slimmed down, which is one of the reasons he’s averaging 21.6 MPG this year. The Bruins’ defense is relatively mediocre (65th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy), but it’s tough enough to suppress a Missouri squad that hasn’t played any notable opponents yet. Plus, the Tigers are committing turnovers on 18.6 percent of their possessions per KenPom.com (176th nationally). Jabari Brown, Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and Co. will struggle in their first matchup with a Top 25 team this season.
Prediction: UCLA 71, Missouri 65
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- Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross was lights-out against Maryland Wednesday night, hitting the positive end of a crucial season thus far built on extremes. From Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch: "It was 10 days ago that Matta benched Ross for the last 10 minutes of a game against Wyoming. At that point, Ross had missed 18 of his previous 20 shots and was shooting 22 percent from the field on the season, worst on the team. Matta was flummoxed. He was getting scoring from all over the place -- even the center position -- but Ross was curiously absent. Matta needs him. Maybe not against Wyoming, but sooner or later, Ross will have to be a factor. If the Buckeyes aspire to do big things, they must have Ross as a weapon. 'LaQuinton is one of these guys that the second he relaxes, he becomes an average player,' Matta said this week. 'He’s starting to come to grips with that.'"
- Kansas coach Bill Self was not particularly pleased with his team after its 2-1 performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis last weekend. That displeasure came through in his press conference Saturday, which is useful listening in advance of the coming Saturday's trip to Colorado, particularly if you want to construct a mental picture for how much fun Kansas's practices were this week. "I just think our energy sucks," Self said. "[We're] way too casual. I thought we would have errors of trying too hard, rather than errors of casualness. And that’s the thing that’s really frustrating to me … As a coach, you should be judged on basically three things. Do they play together -- are they unselfish? Do they play extremely hard, and are they tough? And I’d say we went Oh-for-three. So that’s frustrating to me."
- While we were all locked in to the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, Temple beat St. Joe's in a Big Five rivalry game, 77-69, and Temple students turned the "I believe that we will win" chant into a funeral for the St. Joseph's Hawk. Philly sports fans are the best. (Also, Temple's new arena detail is terrifying.)
- Misix takes a comprehensive, analytical look at the Marquette-Wisconsin game on deck this weekend -- a much bigger game for the former than the latter, now.
- What's harder than losing at Duke? Flying back to Ann Arbor and going to class the next day. The Wolverines are young, John Beilein told MLive.com, and they are tired: "I think the second-year players are … almost there with understanding the scouting report we put together," Beilein said. "But the freshmen are just swimming right now. I mean, they’re just trying to figure out all the things they have to remember during a game."
The third week of Wooden Watch (or as I like to call it, "Wooden Watch 3: The Watchening") brings with it more tumult than its preceding editions.
From sheer math alone, this makes sense. The Thanksgiving schedule pushed last week's Watch up to Tuesday, which has given us a nine-day stretch of uninterrupted basketball on which to base our way-too-early national player of the year prospectus. But pound-for-pound, those nine days were, I'd argue, every bit as good and every bit as tumultuous as any stretch that came before. Word to North Carolina.
The losses suffered by top teams -- and players on the POY contention short list -- do shake things up a bit, but it's important not to go too far. One loss does not a Wooden campaign ruin. (You're thinking of the Heisman.) We've been couching these early rankings with all sorts of disclaimers about just how early in the season it is, and that remains true -- even as we barrel headfirst into December. Let's see where we are, shall we?
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: After a brilliant start, Smart's first regression of the season came in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Old Spice Classic last weekend. Smart had 17 points and eight rebounds in a shaky 69-67 semifinal win over Butler, but the five turnovers he committed on Friday foreshadowed the five he would commit Sunday. That game, against Memphis, saw Smart stifled by a suddenly coherent Tigers perimeter scheme, and while Smart finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. And yet, he retains his spot atop this list. Why? For one, Smart was clearly sick. I'm not offering excuses (nor taking credit away from Memphis, because the Tigers were great), but I am acknowledging realities. Second, well, it's one game. It's fine. Dude's really good. Moving on.
Russ Smith, Louisville: The North Carolina loss might have thrown people off Louisville's scent, but now that Michigan State is the latest to get a front-row seat to the Tar Heels' ongoing Jekyll and Hyde performance piece, let's go ahead and remind everyone that Louisville is playing top-10 offense and top-three defense, and that Smith, while maintaining his high usage and shot rates, has thus far pumped his assist rate to 37.5 percent (from 21.1 a year ago), shot 58.2 percent from 2-point range and kept his steals rate (4.1 percent) totally steady.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: I'm not willing to get too worked up about McDermott's one loss, either. Yes, I know Creighton fell to San Diego State and George Washington this week, but only one of those losses should be an indictment. Against San Diego State, Creighton was, well, Creighton: McDermott scored 30 points and shot 6-of-10 from 2 and 5-of-8 from 3, and the Bluejays' porous defense cost them the game anyway. Three years on, that's what you sign up for with the Bluejays -- same as it ever was. George Washington was a different story: McDermott was stifled by the Colonials in wholly unexpected fashion (seven points, 2-of-12 from the field, a tidy 54.0 offensive rating -- yikes). But, well, it's one game. It's fine. Dude's really good. Moving on.
Jabari Parker, Duke: I downgraded Parker's status last week because of Duke's putrid defense, but now that the Blue Devils have submitted two slightly better defensive performances -- one in a 72-66 loss to Arizona on Friday, the other in a 79-69 win (in 67 possessions) against Michigan on Tuesday -- it's time to elevate Parker once more. The ironic part? These last two games have been his worst offensively, the first two in which he failed to score at least 20 points (and less efficiently, too). But Parker is gobbling up defensive rebounds for a team that desperately needs him to be a stud on both ends of the floor, and he'll get his points, rest assured.
Julius Randle, Kentucky: Randle hasn't been quite as efficient as he was at the start of the season, but he is still plugging along, dominating
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut: The nice thing about Napier's player of the year candidacy is that it need not rest on a fuzzy term like "clutch" alone. Napier has been ruthless late in games, to be sure: His late winner against Florida on Monday required plenty of luck, but you knew he was going to ice that second chance as soon as the ball bounced to him. But you can also build Napier's case on the breadth of his point guard play, which has been as comprehensive as any guard's to date.
Casey Prather, Florida: In March, Billy Donovan may look back at the Gators' injury-riddled November and thank his lucky stars, for that was the month that Prather turned into a star. Prather makes his first appearance here this week, but it probably should have come sooner. In eight games to date, he's registered a 121.5 offensive rating while using 30.1 percent of his team's possessions; he's shot nearly 64 percent from the field; and he's rebounded 10.6 percent of Florida's available misses. Watching Prather, a three-year glue guy, slice defenses with Euro-steps and quick-twitch offensive rebounds has been an alternately confusing and thrilling process. Either way, he doesn't look like he's slowing down.
Nick Johnson, Arizona: Aaron Gordon gets all the attention, and he'll surely be on this list more than any Wildcat this season. But Arizona feels as much like an ensemble cast as any elite team in the country, and Nick Johnson is perhaps their most indispensable player -- the lone true shoot, drive or pull-up, all-court-style threat who makes Arizona more than a collection of impressive bigs.
Keith Appling, Michigan State: Appling can stay, despite Wednesday night's home loss to UNC, because, well, again: It's one game. Before Wednesday, Appling had been peerless, and he wasn't that bad Wednesday night, either. The current line is 57.1 percent from 2, 48.3 percent from 3, a 28.4 assist rate to just 13.0 turnover percentage, and more generally, an engaged, comfortable and balanced player on both ends of the floor.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State: Carson had his first comedown of the season at Miami on Sunday, when he somehow went 0-for-10 from inside the arc. That, plus Arizona State's sub-Duke defense, is reason for slight downgrade this week. (If this were a list of the most entertaining players, Carson would probably be No. 1 every week. He's fun to watch miss.)
Honorable mentions: Marcus Paige (UNC), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), C.J. Fair (Syracuse), Gary Harris (Michigan State), Joseph Young (Oregon), Anthony Drmic (Boise State), Chaz Williams (UMass), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Tim Frazier (Penn State), Jordan Adams (UCLA), Roberto Nelson (Oregon State), Kendall Williams (New Mexico), Caris LeVert (Michigan), Cleanthony Early (Wichita State), LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State), T.J. Warren (NC State)
Send in your questions and comments to Andy Katz and Eamonn Brennan and we’ll post as many of them as we can.
The real test for the Minutemen, however, could be handling the hype that comes with the renewed expectations.
UMass, ranked No. 21, is now the favorite in the Atlantic 10. Sorry VCU, but the honor goes to the Minutemen, who won the Charleston Classic title while the Rams were manhandled in Puerto Rico.
UMass will get another major test Saturday when it hosts BYU in Springfield (1:30 p.m. EST, CBS College Sports).
The Minutemen will deal with more adversity than any other A-10 favorite. The schedule is a bit muddled by being made to play road MAC games because the football team is in that conference. UMass still has to go to Ohio after winning at EMU.
The BYU game is being played in Springfield, not Amherst, which should create even more of a buzz and will allow more fans in the Western Massachusetts area to get on board. Amherst is a bit of a sleepy college town where it's still very difficult to fill the Mullins Center, but having a hot team and the support of the larger Springfield area will bring some limelight on the Minutemen.
They'll have plenty to get excited about when they watch this team. The Minutemen have one of the top players in the league in point guard Chaz Williams. Williams is one of five players on the team averaging double figures -- Cady Lalanne, Sampson Carter, Raphiael Putney and Derrick Gordon being the others. They'll need to be well hydrated to deal with the Runnin' Cougars of BYU. The Matt Carlino-Williams matchup should be one of the toughest UMass will have this season.
The Minutemen still have to play Florida State in Sunrise, Fla., and host Providence before the A-10 season begins, so a win over BYU will continue the interest, the hype and increase the ranking before getting into conference play. But a loss will give reason to pause. It shouldn't, but it could, especially with a team where fans are increasingly suspect of whether they can return to being a consistent winner. Kellogg is a graduate and grew up in the area, so this means more to him than most. He is invested in turning this program around and winning Saturday will be another reason to believe in his cause.
You'd best believe the Jayhawks have been in the back of the Buffaloes' collective minds all offseason. That’s partly because of the 90-54 beatdown Kansas put on Colorado last season at Allen Fieldhouse. But it’s more about what a win could do for the Buffs this season.
The need for Colorado to play well in this game was only magnified after its season-opening loss to then-No. 25 Baylor in one of those games it would love to have back. The Buffs trailed the entire game, shot just 33 percent and couldn’t pull closer than two possessions in the second half. Whatever traction the Buffs had nationally quickly eroded and bounced them to the periphery.
Now’s their chance to gain it back.
Colorado rides an eight-game winning streak into its meeting with Kansas. That streak was punctuated with a quality win over Harvard.
CU coach Tad Boyle also navigated his team through back-to-back true road games in wins over Air Force and rival Colorado State. Boyle scheduled as tough a six-game nonconference stretch as there is in the country.
The Buffaloes completed the first three unscathed, but the Jayhawks represent a move up in competition level for the next three games. After Kansas, the Buffaloes face Elon and conclude arguably the most difficult portion of their schedule against No. 9 Oklahoma State.
The most notable improvement Colorado has made since its season opener has come defensively. The Buffs rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 65.2 points per game. They’re also third in rebounding margin, collecting an average of 11.1 more boards than their opponents.
Colorado is as balanced as it gets, with four players averaging double figures. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie leads the team with 13.8 points per game, which is just a shade less than his 15.3 average a season ago. If the Buffs are to pull off an upset, they’ll likely need Dinwiddie and backcourt mate Askia Booker to play strong.