Alabama football fans' favorite saying is "Roll Tide!" Now, boosters of CU Buffs basketball have changed it to "Roll Tad!" -- as in head coach Tad Boyle, who's energized the program in precisely the way CU football coach Jon Embree has failed to do. While the pigskin squad was falling to Washington 38-3 this weekend en route to the program's worst record in more than a century, Boyle's crew was winning the Charleston Championship in inspiring fashion.
Last year, the men's basketball team was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 during their first season as part of the conference. Instead, the players exceeded expectations in a huge way, winning the Pac-12 tournament to stamp a ticket for March Madness, from which they were snubbed the previous campaign. Even better, CU upset UNLV in the first round and was competitive against the mighty Baylor Bears, thereby setting themselves up for a bright future.
That was our view, anyhow -- but prognosticators weren't convinced, predicting a sixth-place finish in a revived Pac-12 in 2012-2013. But at least early in the season, the Buffs' play suggests they're not going to settle for the middle of the pack. After winning a tune-up against Wofford College, they headed to the Charleston Classic, a notable tourney that annually attracts top-drawer teams from across the country -- and after defeating Dayton by ten on Thursday, they found themselves facing Baylor again.
This time, though, the results were very different than earlier this year. Despite hitting just four of eighteen free throws, the Buffs bested the Bears by two, 60-58, setting up last night's championship match with the always dangerous Murray State Racers, featuring player-of-the-year candidate Isaiah Canaan, one of the nation's most deadly long-range shooters.
The results, as you can discern from the photo above, was an 81-74 win that proved to be a coming-out party for CU sophomore Askia Booker, who scored 23 points to cement the tournament MVP award. But the victory was hardly a one-man show. Mainstay Andre Roberson, while inconsistent, showed he has the scoring and rebounding ability to play at the next level despite what NBA scouts likely see as an in-between body size, big man Josh Scott looks set to develop into a force down low, Sabatino Chen is providing the sort of veteran leadership a team this young desperately needs, and Spencer Dinwiddie emerged as a defensive stopper par excellence.
As a bonus, Dinwiddle made eleven of twelve free throws, with the team as a whole stepping up to transform what looked to be another mediocre night at the stripe (the Buffs were eleven of nineteen at one point) into a 27 of 36 performance that helped cement the W.
The victory just may put CU on the national radar. ESPN analyst Jay Williams, who called the game along with Bob Picozzi, said toward the end of the contest, when the outcome was no longer in doubt, that when he fills out his choices for the top 25 teams in the country, he'll be including Colorado -- and if the Buffs wind up ranked, the boost in confidence would be perfectly timed in advance of tough games against the likes of Arizona and UCLA slated for early January.
The contrast between these accomplishments and those achieved by the football team couldn't be more stark. As noted by the Denver Post's John Henderson, the Buffs' season finale on Friday against Utah has stirred so little interest in ticket buyers that the school is offering to give away four freebies to season ticket holders just for sending an e-mail -- and even if a big crowd shows up (doubt it), attendance is apt to be the lowest in more than two decades.
Oh yeah: If CU loses, the team will notch its worst record since 1890, when it went 0-4, and its first season without a home victory since 1920.
Earlier this year, I thought Embree would be brought back for one more season, since he'd been left in such a terrible situation by his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, and had only spent two years at the helm. Now, however, I'm having a hard time believing he'll evade a pink slip.
Meanwhile, Boyle has been given yet another contract extension, this one running through April 2017. Roll Tad!
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Look below to see game notes on last night's win courtesy of CUBuffs.com.
More from our Sports archive: "CU Buffs fall short of sweet sixteen, but their future's so bright, they've got to wear shades."