After the CU Buffs got screwed out of a March Madness berth, their consolation was a number one seed in the National Invitational Tournament -- and they've made the most of it so far. By beating Kent State last night, the squad earned the right to play in the NIT semi-finals in New York City for the first time in two decades. But it wasn't easy -- and there are plenty of obstacles between the Buffs and a tourney win.
As noted in the CU Buffs website game summary, both Alec Burks and Cory Higgins were suffering from symptoms of the flu during the game. Indeed, Burks received fluids by IV at halftime -- and still managed to tally 25 points. Moreover, he did so in exciting fashion, frequently flashing to the basket with the sort of deceptive speed that makes him such a difficult cover.
He wasn't alone: Plenty of Buffs scored from mere inches away thanks to thrilling drives. But the game was close throughout thanks largely to Justin Greene, the paint-dominating MAC player of the year, who either put up points or came damn close nearly every time he touched the ball. Indeed, Kent State would have had a better chance for an upset had they simply put the rock in his hands on each offensive possession down the stretch. Sharing is usually the best course of action, but not during crunch time last night.
As Greene's dominance demonstrated, the Buffs is susceptible to big men in the low post -- something you can bet the winner of tonight's Alabama-Miami (of Florida) game will attempt to exploit. And they also need to bring the sort of energy and enthusiasm that buoyed them during last night's contest on their home court to a neutral floor.
Which they're entirely capable of doing, I might add -- especially if Burks and Higgins are at full strength.
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By the way, last night's commentators debated whether Burks would be wise to come out for this year's NBA draft. But whether or not he might be a lottery pick, declaring after the NIT run would be premature. The potential for an NBA lockout is very real, and could wind up leaving him in limbo. And besides, he can raise his stock significantly next season, when CU will have a much higher profile than in previous years -- thanks in part to the positive way the Buffs have responded to injustice.
Look below for video highlights of last night's victory.
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