There was so much positive about the CU Buffs' mens basketball squad this year that it was tough to watch the season flicker out as a result of three bad sequences in a row during crunch time of last night's 62-61 NIT semi-final loss against Alabama.
So let's deal with the bad news in order to focus on positives moving forward, shall we?
With time winding down and CU holding a 61-60 advantage, Alabama in-bounded the ball and the Buffs used their foul to give -- but they did so too early, burning off only about a second. Then, during Bama's second in-bounds play, speedy frosh Trevor Releford got the ball and drove to the basket -- and he arrived there virtually unmolested as a result of no help defense, at the moment when it was most needed.
CU wasn't dead yet. The players still had over nine seconds left when the ball was passed to Alec Burks on the Buffs' side of half court. But instead of driving and taking a shot with four or five seconds remaining, to give his teammates a chance for a rebound and follow, he lollygagged at the perimeter, and didn't fire until just 2.3 seconds on the clock. The shot was clearly bad from the instant it left his hand, and by the time it clanked, the put-back prospect had expired along with Colorado's hope for a redemptive NIT championship.
Then again, the Buffs put up a valiant effort against the Crimson Tide, a stellar defensive team that dictated the pace of play. Levi Knutson's second half rain of threes was particularly impressive, frustrating Alabama's efforts again and again. Big ups are also deserved by Cory Higgins, now tied for CU's all-time scoring lead with Richard Roby, and freshman sensation Andre Roberson, whose dunk had put CU ahead during the final minute.
Regarding next season, lotsa current Buffs stars, including seniors Knutson and Higgins, won't be around to build on this year's legacy -- and there'll be pressure on Burks to come out for the NBA draft. With luck, however, he'll realize that putting himself on the market during what could very well be a chaotic lockout year isn't ideal -- and besides, he can improve his stock dramatically by pushing CU into the Big Dance for real next season, rather than to the cusp of an invite.
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In the meantime, Roberson seems likely to blossom, and so will the scheme Coach Tad Boyle has put in place. He achieved great things in just one season: Imagine how much he can accomplish the second time around.
Don't lament last night's outcome, then -- or at least don't overdo it. These Buffs are only getting started. Look below for highlights from the game courtesy of CUBuffs.com.
More from our Sports archive: "CU Buffs topple Kent State, head to NIT semis in NYC: Are they best of the rest? (VIDEO)."