College Basketball Nation: Tad Boyle

Colorado's karma good in upset of KU

December, 7, 2013
12/07/13
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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.

[+] EnlargeAskia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesAskia Booker's face says it all: He hit the winning 3 at the buzzer as Colorado stunned Kansas.
Fortunately, Askia Booker's Euro-stepping, buzzer-beating 3-pointer -- the one that gave Colorado a 75-72 walk-off win and sent Colorado students careening to the Coors Event Center floor -- should be less controversial than Chen's was in January, even if it didn't look that way at first. Live, Booker's shot looked like a travel (not that it could have been reviewed, anyway). But the replay soon made clear that he had (somehow) wrong-footed his two-step pre-shot maneuver, gliding past Kansas's Frank Mason at mid-court just before (again: somehow) flicking the ball into the Buffs' home net. It was Manu Ginobili-style stuff, and even Manu would have had second thoughts about the technique.

"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.

3-point shot: Colorado assists neighbors

September, 16, 2013
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1. Colorado coach Tad Boyle, his staff and players helped on campus Saturday to aid those in need after floods in the Boulder area that have affected thousands. The team fed displaced families and helped cover short-staffed crews in the cafeteria.

2. BYU coach Dave Rose is expected to be released from the hospital Monday after last week's surgery to remove cancerous spots. Rose will have to take it easy the next few weeks, but the Cougars' staff expects him to be ready for the start of BYU practice Oct. 7. Teams are allowed to start practicing on Sept. 27. But the new rule is for 30 practices within 42 days of a team's first game, so schools can manage the start time to their schedule. That means there will be staggered practice days from Sept. 27 with not every team practicing on the same days.

3. No one should be surprised by former UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton ending up at UCLA. Hamilton's family made it clear that he wanted to be at USC or UCLA once he told UTEP he wasn't going to attend so he could be closer to his ailing grandmother. According to Hamilton's father, Greg, Isaac can be on a scholarship but without being released from his national letter of intent, he cannot play this season. UCLA cannot comment on Hamilton's arrival until all his paperwork is in to the school. UCLA coach Steve Alford is on the lookout for talent that can produce from Southern California. The onus will be on Hamilton to be a force in the fall of 2014 by using this ineligible season to his advantage.
1. The SEC is constantly looking for consistency as a league in college basketball; football has never been the issue. Kentucky and Florida are regular national players, but the rest of the league has struggled. One thing it needs is a destination for its conference tournament. Commissioner Mike Slive told reporters at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., Tuesday that there was a unanimous vote to put the tournament in one location, with reports calling Nashville, Tenn., the likely destination. Perfect. The SEC needs to grow the tournament in one spot. Nashville can support it locally, and it's close to Vanderbilt, Tennessee and, of course, Kentucky, and not far from Arkansas, if the Hogs were to re-emerge as a player. Nashville is also a destination city in the Southeast. The SEC tournament is slated for Nashville in 2015, '16 and '19; the 2014 edition will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Putting the tournament back in an NBA/NHL-size arena makes more sense, since it should be more intimate. The Big East had and will continue to have Madison Square Garden. The Pac-12 is trying to make Las Vegas its tourney home. The Big 12 has a good thing going with a rotation of Kansas City. Mo., and Dallas, while the Big Ten is doing it right with Chicago and Indianapolis. The ACC had Greensboro as its home, outside of a few years when the event rotated elsewhere, but that league is changing, so spreading out to the Northeast will work given new membership. But the SEC can't take its show on the road as much. Having one home would definitely help the conference tournament grow.

2. Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn handed in his resignation, and while the football program has struggled, Bohn hit a home run on his basketball hire. Bohn took a chance when he hired Tad Boyle, a former Kansas player, from nearby Northern Colorado. Boyle coached the Bears for four years, reaching the CIT in his final year. The big state schools don't usually look to a lesser-known state school to raise a program's profile -- yet Boyle has turned the Buffs into a major player in the West and in the Pac-12. The Buffs have gone to the NIT semifinals, won a Pac-12 tournament and a game in the NCAA tournament, then got back to the NCAAs last season. Basketball is a happening in Boulder now. The buzz is real. So while Bohn might have had his faults and the football program can be put atop the list, he got basketball right and should be given credit for taking a chance on Boyle. Boyle returned the loyalty by staying in Boulder this past spring when he could have pursued other opportunities.

3. Missouri coach Frank Haith took in Baylor transfer Deuce Bello for two years; the guard must sit out a year before playing. The Tigers have found a way to benefit from being in Big 12 territory but playing in the SEC. Missouri can be a home for wayward transfers who don't want to leave the area but can still play in a different conference. It will be interesting to track how often Missouri gets a transfer from the Big 12. Haith has gone with transfers quite a bit since taking over in Columbia two years ago. He'll likely continue on that path, with transfers complementing high school recruits.
1. Minnesota coveted VCU’s Shaka Smart, but his former boss, current Golden Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague, couldn’t convince Smart to come to the Twin Cities (he should know Smart is loyal to VCU) for the head-coaching job from which Tubby Smith was just fired. According to sources, the Gophers have now turned their attention to Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Butler’s Brad Stevens. We’ll see, but I’ll be shocked if either were to go to Minnesota. Hoiberg is the Mayor in Ames (it's his alma mater) and has Iowa State in a good place after back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. If Hoiberg were to leave for Minnesota, the NBA's Timberwolves, not the Gophers, would make more sense. I can’t see Stevens bolting, either, with how much he loves the Butler way and working for AD Barry Collier. Stevens can have a lifetime contract at Butler, much like Mark Few has at Gonzaga. If they can't convince either of these two, the Gophers may make a play for Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. But Cronin is from Cincinnati and loves his gig, too. The only reason he might listen is if he sees the need to go to a school in a more stable conference.

2. NC State has made it clear that coach Mark Gottfried hasn’t heard anything from UCLA. Athletic director Debbie Yow also is quick to remind everyone of the $3.75 million buyout in Gottfried’s contract, which she terms non-negotiable. Much as he got many in the Research Triangle to warm to NC State, Gottfried would fit at UCLA. But it would be too hard for UCLA to pry him out of Raleigh. Multiple sources continue to think the Bruins may have to go with an NBA coach. But there are other options out there -- Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, a former UCLA assistant, hasn’t been contacted; apparently neither has Colorado’s Tad Boyle, who has recruited Los Angeles well. USC, meanwhile, might end up going with a quality coach, albeit not a huge name. Remember, Oregon didn’t get its first choice, but did land a big-time talent in Dana Altman. It can be done.

3. Hofstra athletic director Jeff Hathaway has made it clear he wants a current head coach for its vacancy, according to sources, making it seem more realistic he would lean toward coaches like Iona’s Tim Cluess and/or Tom Moore of Quinnipiac. Quality openings like Old Dominion and Siena remain. Meanwhile, sources close to former UCLA coach Ben Howland anticipate he’ll sit out next season rather than take a job.

 
AUSTIN, Texas -- Somewhere lost in all the pomp, circumstance, inspirational montages and endless car commercials of the NCAA tournament is the little secret someone forgot to mention to Colorado and Illinois -- in order to win, you must put the ball in the basket with at least a modicum of regularity.

That's not to say the seventh-seeded Illini and No. 10 seed Buffaloes missed all their shots. But each did miss enough -- 11 straight for CU to end the first half; 14 in a row, including 11 3-pointers, for the Illini at the start of the second half -- to build unnecessary and frustrating drama into a game that could have been void of both. (Apparently it is in the contract of both teams that, since this is March, they must provide some madness. And boy, were the coaches plenty red in the face.)

But, finally, the drama came to a close, along with Colorado's season, as Illinois' 16-point lead -- built during CU's horrid shooting stretch -- was enough to withstand a 23-2 Buffaloes run -- made possible by the Illini's putrid shooting stretch -- to eke out a 57-49 win in the second round on Friday.

"It's easy to come back. It is hard to come back and win,'' CU coach Tad Boyle said. "Our scoring droughts are tough to deal with. We played well enough to win today. We just didn't play well enough down the stretch to win.''

It's hard to say Illinois (23-12) played well enough to win, either. The Illini shot 13 percent in the second half. But they pulled it out at the end.

[+] EnlargeTracy Abrams
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTracy Abrams scored 13 for Illinois on 4-of-10 shooting, and added 6 assists and 4 rebounds.
"It was only fitting that the game was maybe as strange a game -- as far as the ebb and flow of it -- that I have been associated with this group,'' said Illinois coach John Groce. "We have done it the hard way with this group a lot.''

"We just find ways,'' said Illinois guard Tracy Abrams.

Now it is time for Illinois to try to find a way to win against Miami, which appears to be about as intimidating as Tony Montana. The Illini get the No. 2 seeded Hurricanes here in Austin on Sunday. So they get to deal with size -- three players of 6-foot-10 or better in the rotation; speed -- Shane Larkin moves like mercury on marble; and an experienced coach -- Jim Larranaga has been there, done that, with much less talent, just a few years ago at George Mason. It appears to be a daunting task for an Illinois program that slogged through the first nine games of its Big Ten schedule at 2-7. Miami started ACC play 13-0, by the way. Oh, and the Hurricanes had a 27-point win over then-No. 1 Duke.

"I know that they have got great size and they are going to play very hard,'' Groce said.

Illinois had its win over a No. 1, too, beating Indiana 74-72 on Feb. 7. So the Fighting Illini are capable. But they also need to be held culpable for their errors. It was those errors -- all 14 of them in a row -- plus a couple of turnovers, that might leave some wondering just how big a mismatch Sunday will be. (Did anyone mention Miami won 78-49 and had nine guys score in the first half against Pacific on Friday? Well, it did.)

OK, there are a few glimmers of hope. Illini guard Brandon Paul didn't improve his shooting percentage -- he is a 40 percent guy -- but did make 9 of 10 free throws, five of which helped seal the game. In fact, for as bad as the Illini were from the field (30.8 percent), they were solid from the line (70.8 percent).

"D.J. [Richardson] was in my ear, telling me to just keeping fighting,'' Paul said.

Then there was the defense and the rebounding. Illinois has now held two tournament teams under 50 points in its past three games -- Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament and Colorado (21-12) on Friday. The Illini, despite giving up 14 rebounds to Josh Scott, were able to win the battle of the boards 37-36. And that was crucial in a game where misses were rampant -- and will be crucial again against the taller, thicker Hurricanes.

Illinois proved it could close. After failing so miserably from the field and falling behind, the Illini finished on an 18-5 run. One might say that they looked into the abyss and didn't blink. Miami looms large; if they can look at the Ibis and do the same, they just might be OK.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
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Does anyone want to win the Pac-12? The regular-season championship trophy has been dangling in front of the Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins and Cal Golden Bears all week, but no one has stepped up and grabbed it.

Cal was manhandled by Stanford -- at home, no less -- on Tuesday. UCLA suffered one of the biggest upsets of the conference season by falling at last-place Washington State on Wednesday. Oregon had a chance to clinch at least a share of the title by beating Colorado on Thursday. Instead, the Ducks were blown out in Boulder.

Sheessh!

Name another league where the teams at the bottom are outplaying the teams at the top at the end of the season. The Pac-12 tournament can't get here fast enough.

Here is the final edition of the Pac-12 power rankings. With most of the top teams losing their most recent games, these rankings are based on the entire conference season.

1a. Oregon. Despite the tail-kicking the Ducks received at Colorado on Thursday, it's impossible not to be impressed with the job Dana Altman has done with this squad. Oregon -- which starts two freshmen in its backcourt -- can clinch at least a share of the league title by winning at Utah on Saturday. A Ducks victory and a UCLA loss (at Washington the same day) will give Oregon the title outright.

1b. UCLA. The Bruins have come a long way since losing to Cal Poly early in the season and, for that, Ben Howland deserves credit. Howland's detractors, however, received some extra ammunition Wednesday when UCLA lost to last-place Washington State. Performing that poorly in a game with such high stakes -- UCLA would own a share of the league title already if it had won -- is inexcusable.

1c. Cal. The Golden Bears' regular season is complete. Mike Montgomery's team finished league play 12-6 and can only get a share of the title if both UCLA and Oregon lose Saturday. Much like its counterparts, Cal wilted in a high-stakes game Tuesday when it fell to Stanford 83-70 at home. The Cardinal became the first team in 10 games to reach the 70-point plateau against Cal.

1d. Colorado. With six wins in their past eight games, the Buffaloes are the Pac-12's hottest team. Tad Boyle's squad swept its season series with Oregon and is 4-2 against Top-25 teams. Thursday's 76-53 victory came without the services of Andre Roberson, the nation's leading rebounder, who missed the game with a viral illness. Colorado will close the regular season hosting Oregon State on Saturday.

5. Arizona. The preseason pick to win the league, the Wildcats have been the Pac 12's biggest disappointment. Sean Miller's squad is just 1-5 against the top four teams in the conference. Arizona's highly touted freshmen have been slow to develop, and the Wildcats lack a true point guard.

6. Washington. After a month-long lull in which they lost seven of eight games, the Huskies are getting hot at just the right time. Lorenzo Romar's squad has won four of its past five, with the most impressive victory a 65-57 decision over USC on Wednesday. Washington, which gets 17.1 points per game from C.J. Wilcox, has a chance to spoil UCLA's Pac-12 title hopes Saturday.

7. USC. The biggest news surrounding the Trojans this week has revolved around their head-coaching vacancy. UTEP's Tim Floyd and Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins both have spoken with school officials about the position. Meanwhile, interim coach Bob Cantu continues to do a solid job. USC will finish Pac-12 play 10-8 if it can win at Washington State on Saturday. That's something no one envisioned after head coach Kevin O'Neill was fired in January.

8. Stanford. The Cardinal completed the regular season with an 18-13 overall record and a 9-9 mark in Pac-12 play. Unless it wins the conference tournament, Stanford will miss the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive year. That has to be disheartening to Cardinal fans, who had high hopes after winning last season's NIT.

9. Arizona State. The Sun Devils' 20 wins are twice as many as they had all of last season, but they've struggled in recent weeks. A painful overtime loss at UCLA was followed by a one-point setback at USC. Arizona State will have had an entire week off when it takes the court for Saturday's regular-season finale at Arizona.

10. Utah. The Utes ended a four-game losing streak by topping Oregon State on Thursday in Salt Lake City. Utah's four Pac-12 wins are one more than last season's total. The Utes will try to spoil Oregon's conference title hopes Saturday. Oregon beat Utah 73-64 on Feb. 9 in Eugene.

11. Washington State. The Cougars, who have been the victim of bad breaks and bad luck all season, finally tasted success Wednesday by defeating UCLA 73-61 in Pullman. Brock Motum had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Royce Woolridge added 19 points. The victory came despite the absence of second- and third-leading scorers DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd, both of whom have knee injuries. Coach Ken Bone said Lacy is out for the season.

12. Oregon State. It has been a nightmare of a season for the Beavers, who have now lost five consecutive games. Coach Craig Robinson appears to be safe for another year, but this team has too much talent to only have three victories in a league that, despite its parity, lacks elite teams.
1. Butler coach Brad Stevens said Thursday night he has heard nothing (as in nada, zilch) about the Bulldogs moving to the new Big East for next season. Of course, that's because multiple sources within the seven schools departing to the new Big East say they were focused solely on exiting the old Big East before looking at expansion and new members. So, it's not surprising that Butler is in the dark -- for now. Stevens said he has to operate as if the Bulldogs are in the A-10 in 2013-14. He said the team is scheduling as if it's in the A-10 because that's all he has been told. If Stevens is told the Bulldogs are on the move to the new Big East then he will adjust. Butler and Xavier are the most coveted of the possible expansion teams. And the Bulldogs are likely to bolt as soon as the offer is official. Just think about this: In two seasons, Butler would go from getting Youngstown State at home to Georgetown. There is no decision once the offer is extended.

2. The NCAA tournament selection committee may have a tough choice with Akron if the Zips don't win the MAC tournament now that point guard Alex Abreu is suspended due to possession and marijuana trafficking. If Abreu is done, then the Zips aren't the same team that dominated the MAC. The committee can evaluate Akron with a home game against Kent State on Friday night and then in the MAC tournament. Losing Abreu shouldn't be the reason Akron is kept out of the tournament if it doesn't win the conference tournament. If it were a major injury -- as in the case of Kentucky's Nerlens Noel -- then the committee has to evaluate the team as it is constituted going into the NCAA tournament. The hope is that the committee gets a chance to see the team prior to Selection Sunday. The pressure is on Akron now to prove it is still worthy.

3. The turnaround at Colorado under Tad Boyle has been quite remarkable. Colorado basketball had been overshadowed in the region for years by the WAC/MWC schools. But the timing of its revival at the same time as it joined the Pac-12 has been perfect. The atmosphere in Boulder is becoming something special. Colorado went through some second-year bumps early after last season's Pac-12 tournament title run. But the enthusiasm showed and the overall effort at home lately -- with wins over Arizona and Thursday over Oregon, sans Andre Roberson -- proves this is a program now, not just a few good teams in back-to-back seasons. Expect Colorado under Boyle to be in the Pac-12 mix for the foreseeable future.

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

March, 1, 2013
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Arizona and UCLA were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the preseason Pac-12 media poll. Yet neither team will be in first place when they square off Saturday at Pauley Pavilion on "College GameDay." UCLA (11-4 in conference) trails league leader Oregon (12-4) by a half-game. Arizona is a full game back along with Cal, both at 11-5. Long story short, four teams are still in contention for the Pac-12 crown, which should make for one of the more exciting regular-season finishes in college basketball. Here are this week’s power rankings:

1. Cal. Mike Montgomery’s squad has won six in a row. Included in that stretch are a two-point victory at Oregon and a one-point win at Oregon State. Allen Crabbe (19) and Justin Cobbs (14.9) have combined to average 33.9 points per game for a Golden Bears team that hosts Colorado on Saturday. Cal needs a victory to remain in contention for the Pac-12 crown.

2. Oregon. Thursday’s 85-75 victory over Oregon State was bittersweet for the Ducks. On the same night it welcomed back injured guard Dominic Artis, Oregon lost second-leading scorer Damyean Dotson when he bruised his hip in a nasty fall under the basket. He is listed as day to day. Oregon’s final two league games (against Colorado and Utah) are on the road.

3. UCLA. Would Bruins fans still hate Ben Howland if UCLA won the Pac-12 title? It could happen. UCLA could grab a share of the league lead by defeating Arizona on Saturday night in Westwood. The Bruins beat the Wildcats 84-73 in January. If UCLA beats Arizona again -- and then tops Washington State and Washington on the road -- it will own at least a share of the conference championship.

4. Arizona. Arizona has a gaudy overall record of 23-5, but it seems to have regressed in recent weeks. The Wildcats were whipped 89-78 at USC on Wednesday and nearly lost to Utah two weeks ago. Arizona’s freshmen haven’t developed as quickly as Sean Miller had hoped. And the team lacks a true point guard.

5. Colorado. The Buffaloes have won eight of their past 10 games, with the only defeats coming in a 58-55 upset at Utah and a 63-62 overtime setback against Arizona State. Tad Boyle’s squad faces a huge road test Saturday against Cal, which has won six straight. At this point, Colorado is in good shape to make the NCAA tournament.

6. USC. The Trojans snapped a two-game losing streak by upsetting No. 11 Arizona on Wednesday night and now have won five of their past seven overall. USC (8-7) is in position to finish Pac-12 play with a winning record, which is something no one would have imagined when coach Kevin O’Neill was fired in January.

7. Washington. The Huskies, who are 7-8 in Pac-12 play, have been a huge disappointment. But they still have a chance to finish with a winning record. Washington’s final three games (against Washington State, USC and UCLA) are all at home. C.J. Wilcox averages 17.1 points per game, and Aziz N'Diaye averages 9.5 rebounds.

8. Stanford. A few weeks ago, it appeared the Cardinal were ready to turn the corner, but Johnny Dawkins’ squad has reverted to its old ways and now has lost four of its past five games. The latest setback came in a 65-63 home defeat against Colorado on Wednesday, when Dwight Powell's potential game-tying dunk came one-tenth of a second too late as the buzzer sounded.

9. Arizona State. The Sun Devils’ NCAA tournament hopes were all but shot following back-to-back losses to Washington and UCLA (the latter in overtime). Arizona State struggled to find consistency throughout February, never winning more than two games in a row. Its final two games (against USC and Arizona) are both on the road.

10. Utah. The Utes threw a scare into Arizona and Colorado before being dominated by Cal in Thursday’s 64-46 defeat. Utah plays at Stanford on Sunday before returning home for its final two regular-season games, against Oregon State and Oregon. This team has improved significantly, even though it has yet to surpass last season's Pac-12 win total of three games.

11. Oregon State. The Beavers led Oregon 41-34 at halftime Thursday but couldn’t hold on in an 85-75 loss. Roberto Nelson had 31 points for an Oregon State squad whose only conference wins are against Washington State, Utah and Washington. Nelson is averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game.

12. Washington State. It’s amazing how many bad breaks this team has caught. Seven of the Cougars’ 17 losses are by four points or fewer, and five are by two points or fewer. Two of them came in overtime, and another occurred against Texas A&M on a 25-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
1. Colorado coach Tad Boyle did follow up with Ed Rush, the Pac-12 coordinator of basketball officials, after last Thursday's controversial overtime victory for Arizona. Rush publicly defended the officials' call on overturning Sabatino Chen's 3-pointer at the buzzer. Rush did the same thing privately to Boyle. But Boyle said Rush admitted the officials didn't get a substitution call correct with under two minutes to go in the game. Arizona was allowed to sub in but Colorado wasn't, according to Boyle. That allowed a mismatch with Josh Scott on Solomon Hill, who ended up making a 3-pointer to cut CU's lead to five with 1 minute, 41 seconds remaining in regulation. Boyle said there was no hangover for the Buffs when they lost two days later at Arizona State. But he said this week's homestand should provide a great atmosphere, with USC and UCLA coming to Boulder. CU needs these wins to be a contender.

2. Lehigh coach Dr. Brett Reed said during our ESPNU podcast Monday morning that a decision still needs to be made about whether to surgically place a pin in C.J. McCollum's broken foot. He said every precaution is being taken since no one wants to mess with the senior guard's possible NBA career. I didn't get the sense that Reed is fully expecting McCollum to return anytime soon; to project that he might not come back this season wouldn't be a reach. Meanwhile, McCollum said the Mountain Hawks cannot panic. You can tell Reed is up for the challenge of trying to beat Bucknell in the Patriot League without McCollum.

3. Minnesota's Tubby Smith also joined us on the Monday podcast and said his team is ready for the gauntlet of at Illinois, at Indiana and home to Michigan. He said the squad finally being healthy is a major reason why the Gophers have turned around their program. Smith also has a scoring lead guard in Andre Hollins, Trevor Mbakwe is fully engaged in the team concept and Rodney Williams is playing his natural power-forward position.

Video: Tad Boyle no fan of replay

January, 4, 2013
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Colorado coach Tad Boyle discusses the controversial call at the end of regulation in Thursday's Colorado-Arizona game.
It's fair to say Colorado coach Tad Boyle was frustrated by the officials' decision to use an inconclusive replay of a potential game-winning 3-pointer to reverse an on-court call at the end of Thursday's game against Arizona.

How frustrated?

Enough that he wants college basketball to take a dramatic step: Don't go to the monitor to decide a game on such a close call.

"Get rid of instant replay," Boyle told ESPN.com by phone from Tucson. "In basketball, football, human error is part of our game. If human error is part of the game, let the officials call the game. Players, coaches and officials will make mistakes. It's part of the game.

"We spend all this money on replays and we still can't get it right. Get rid of it."

Boyle hadn't seen the replay of Sabatino Chen's buzzer-beating 3-point bank shot until well after the game.

The shot, waved off by officials after a lengthy review, would have handed the Buffaloes a stunning 83-80 victory over No. 3 Arizona in the Pac-12 opener in Tucson.

Instead, Arizona completed a 17-point comeback to win 92-83 in overtime and remain undefeated.

"After the game, I was disappointed in myself and in the way we played down the stretch, but I hadn't seen the replay," Boyle said. "That was like a shot to the gut. We're going to move on and not cry about it and not complain about it, and we'll take it like men and hopefully get better."

But Boyle won't let it rest. He said his first call on Friday morning will be to Pac-12 coordinator of officials Ed Rush.

"I would like an explanation," Boyle said. "I think the University of Colorado deserves one and the players and administration and student body and everybody involved in Buff Nation deserves an explanation. It's not going to change the result. I've never been involved in something like this."

For Andy Katz's full story, click here.

3-point shot: Scoping SEC/Big 12 pairings

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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1. Don’t expect the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to produce matchups that conference realignment has dashed. You won’t see Kansas-Missouri or Texas-Texas A&M, at least for the foreseeable future. You also won't see Kansas-Kentucky, at least in the event's first season. Kansas had some scheduling issues and couldn’t work things out to play Florida, either, on a proposed date. So a more likely opponent for the Jayhawks in the inaugural series may end up being Arkansas -- at home in Lawrence. Kentucky will probably have its Baylor game at Cowboys Stadium folded into the challenge. This practice of pre-existing games counting as part of a challenge happened in the old Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series, as well. A Florida-Oklahoma State matchup could happen; if so, that would be one of the more marquee games of 2013. Four of the 14 SEC teams won’t play in the challenge since there are only 10 Big 12 teams.

2. The Colorado-Kansas series, which starts Saturday in Lawrence, was not at all hard to schedule for either school. Kansas wanted a series against a top-50 team and has always maintained a strong relationship with the Buffaloes. Kansas alumni in the western part of the state are actually closer to Colorado than to Lawrence, and have consistently gone to watch the Jayhawks in Boulder. CU coach Tad Boyle is a Kansas alumnus and jumped at the chance to schedule its former Big 12-mate. “I want to test our young guys in a challenging environment,’’ said Boyle. “We are in the midst of playing three of four on the road. I also wanted to challenge our season ticket-holders to pre-sell out the arena next year with Kansas coming back.’’

3. Virginia has no business being 7-2 so far. The Cavs have been injury-riddled, and got another scare when Jontel Evans was thought to be injured again in a Wednesday win over Tennessee. But Tony Bennett consistently maximizes talent -- and he should be applauded for offering up some sanity in a crazy waiver world. The Cavs picked up South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill in the offseason. Associate head coach Ritchie McKay said Gill is arguably one of the best players on the team. But he has to sit out the season because the Cavaliers staff and administration didn’t believe he had a legitimate claim to a waiver to play immediately since he was from Charlotte, which isn’t exactly closer to Charlottesville. In fact, Columbia, S.C., is closer to his hometown. Indeed, the Cavs didn’t bother asking for a waiver. Virginia continues to surprise, beating Wisconsin on the road, taking down Tennessee and probably on the way to an 11-2 start before opening ACC play Jan. 6 against North Carolina.

3-point shot: LSU and in-state talent

November, 2, 2012
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1. LSU’s success in basketball has almost always revolved around mining the top talent in Louisiana. When the Tigers land an elite in-state product, it usually translates into a successful run in the SEC and in the NCAA tournament (see 2006 Final Four). I talked with new Tigers coach Johnny Jones about this last week in Hoover, Ala., at SEC media day. A week later, he landed Baton Rouge’s Jarrell Martin. For teams in the deep South in the SEC like LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and Auburn, getting the top talent in their respective states has proven to be a must to compete against the conference's upper echelon. If Martin lives up to his high school hype, the Tigers should climb back toward relevance again.

2. Michigan coach John Beilein suspended Trey Burke for one game. But the symbolism of the suspension will haunt Burke and the Wolverines. Burke was named first-team AP All-America prior to being disciplined. Now, the point guard will start the season with a stigma attached to him. The Wolverines lost leadership in Zach Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz. Tim Hardaway Jr., can lead this team but he needs to be able to trust Burke as his wingmate. Burke let his teammates and the Wolverines staff down with actions that led to his suspension. He needs to be a model citizen from this point forward, not just for the Wolverines’ success, but also if he wants to convince others he is worthy of national honors.

3. The Pac-12 media picked Colorado sixth in the preseason poll. I’m all in with the Buffaloes -- I don’t see it. If there is one team out West that will surprise preseason prognosticators, it is Colorado. The Buffs were no fluke last season in winning the Pac-12 tournament and then beating UNLV in the NCAA tournament. The backcourt of Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can hold its own with any in the conference. Andre Roberson will anchor the frontcourt. And two freshmen -- Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson -- will have a major impact. Tad Boyle has Boulder believing in basketball again, making playing at altitude a significant advantage for the Buffs. Arizona is a sure thing at the top of the league. But there are questions after the Wildcats with the teams ahead of CU in UCLA, Cal, Stanford and Washington -- enough that I’m not buying Colorado in sixth place and out of the NCAA discussion.

Bracket reveal: Charleston Classic

July, 26, 2012
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Tournament bracket for the 2012 Charleston Classic presented by Foster Grant

When and where: Nov. 15-16, 18 at TD Arena in Charleston, S.C.

Initial thoughts: This could turn out to be one of the better nonconference tournaments. ... Baylor advanced to the Elite Eight last season, Murray State went 31-2 and returns the bulk of its team and Colorado beat UNLV in the NCAA tourney and has plenty of momentum under Tad Boyle. ... Some of the country’s top freshmen post players will be in action. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin is projected as a top-five pick in next summer’s NBA draft. His teammate, Ricardo Gathers, was a top-40 recruit along with Colorado’s Josh Scott. ... It will be good to see St. John’s coach Steve Lavin back on the sideline. Lavin missed almost all of last season while recovering from prostate cancer. ... Archie Miller won 20 games in his first season as Dayton’s head coach in 2011-12. Will be interesting to see how the Flyers follow up. ... It also will be interesting to see what kind of improvements -- if any -- have been made at Auburn, which is regarded as one of the worst programs in the SEC but has recruited well lately. ... After the retirement of Bobby Cremins, College of Charleston has a new coach in Doug Wojcik, who spent the past seven seasons at Tulsa.

Matchup I can't wait to see: Dayton vs. Colorado. Of the four first-round games, this is probably the only one where both teams have the potential to earn NCAA tournament at-large berths. Colorado touts a potential lottery pick in forward Andre Roberson, who ranked fourth in the country in rebounding last season with 11.1 boards per game. Dayton returns three of its top five scorers, including Josh Benson, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury.

[+] EnlargePierre Jackson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireBaylor's Pierre Jackson, one of the nation's quickest point guards, has some sizeable help down low.
Potential matchup I'd like to see: Baylor vs. Murray State. Event organizers -- and college basketball fans -- would certainly be pleased with a championship game featuring two of the top five point guards in the nation. Pierre Jackson (Baylor) and Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), both Cousy Award finalists a year ago, would put on a hell of a show. The game, however, would likely be decided in the frontcourt. Murray’s Ed Daniel is poised for a breakthrough season, but the Racers might have trouble matching Baylor’s overall size and depth down low.

Five players to watch

Isaiah Austin, Baylor: The 7-foot freshman has a unique skill set. On offense, Austin is hardly limited to the paint. He has a nice touch from mid-range and can also handle the ball on the perimeter and swish 3-pointers. Austin is also expected to be one of the nation’s top shot-blockers.

Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: There may not be a better all-around point guard in the nation. Canaan shoots from long range, slashes to the basket with ferocity and generally makes good decisions. He averaged 19.0 points last season for a squad that went 31-2.

D'Angelo Harrison, St. John’s: As painful as it was to lose Maurice Harkless to the NBA draft, the Red Storm couldn’t be more excited about the return of Harrison, a shooting guard who averaged a team-high 16.8 points last season. Harrison, though, shot just 37 percent from the field, a number that will have to improve in 2012-13.

Pierre Jackson, Baylor: The 5-foot-10 junior-college transfer changed the culture of Baylor’s entire program last season by bringing swagger to a squad that was often criticized for being soft. Jackson averaged a team-high 13.8 points and 5.9 assists. There might not be a quicker point guard in America.

Andre Roberson, Colorado: The 6-7 Roberson may be a bit undersized in the paint, but that hardly showed last season when he averaged 11.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for a team that won the Pac-12 tournament before upsetting UNLV for its first NCAA victory in 15 years. Roberson will likely be a first-round pick in next summer’s NBA draft.

Title-game prediction

Baylor over Murray State: Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, Cory Jefferson and J’Mison Morgan will be too much for the Racers down low.

Whom others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Baylor over St. John's
Andy Katz: Baylor over Murray State
Myron Medcalf: Baylor over Murray State
Dana O'Neil: Murray State over Colorado
You know what's annoying? When fans of a longtime national power invade your home arena or stadium.

Plenty of schools have this problem, and it's always at least slightly embarrassing. An example: When I was a budding student reporter at Indiana a few years back, the running joke about the bi-annual Ohio State home game was its status as the program's unofficial football "Picture Day." As in, it was the only day Indiana football could fill its home stands with enough red to snap an aerial media guide cover photo. The tradeoff, of course, was a full afternoon of "O-H-I-O" chants loud enough to drown out the home pep band. And you wonder why Gunner Kiel chose Notre Dame instead. (Just kidding! No one has ever wondered that.)

Colorado coach Tad Boyle feels that pain. The Buffaloes are hardly a historical hoops powerhouse, and there are few jobs more difficult than building a middling high-major program into a consistent contender, but Boyle has already lifted the program considerably in his two seasons at the helm. His combined record is 48-25, and in 2012 the Buffaloes snuck into the NCAA tournament (thanks, historically horrid Pac-12!) for the first time since 2003. Attendance at the Coors Events Center is spiking, enthusiasm is as high as ever, and altogether things are going pretty well.

But as you'd expect, Boyle is hardly satisfied, and he's set a new near-term barometer for his program: By the time former Big 12 rival Kansas comes to the Coors Events Center in 2013 -- part of a home-and-home series signed with the Jayhawks this year -- Boyle doesn't want to hear any of that infernal rock-chalking typical of those pesky Kansas die-hards. From the Boulder Daily Camera:
"My challenge to the fans is we have to keep them out," Boyle said. "And we have to expand our season ticket base. I've been saying it since I became the coach here two years ago, until the Coors Events Center is sold out each and every home basketball game, we've got work to do."

"To me it will be a great challenge and a great test to see where Colorado basketball is two years from now," Boyle said. "We'll see how many Buff fans are in the gym versus how many Jayhawk fans are in the gym. Everybody knows in years past there have been more KU people than there should be."

The Buffaloes are, at least for the moment, well on their way. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, no Division I program has seen a higher home attendance gain (from an average of 4,637 fans during the 2008-09 season to the 7,804 that came in 2012) than Colorado. Meanwhile, according to the Camera, the athletic department saw a 26 percent increase in season tickets sold last season. These are all very positive signs, a reward for the winning trajectory Boyle has established quickly during his tenure.

Can Colorado keep it up? The Buffaloes will be young but increasingly talented in 2012, led by junior forward Andre Roberson, rising (and quietly efficient) sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and a six-player recruiting class that counts two top-100 players -- something the Buffaloes haven't said often in the past decade -- among its assets.

So, yes, things continue to look up. But when Kansas and its horde of Rock Chalkers come calling in December of 2013, Boyle will have as good a barometer as any for the long-term construction project he inherited in Boulder. Now, if the Buffs could just find a taker for that old basketball court ...

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