The results say more than the words
By Michael Krumholtz
When they left for that old southern port, everything around them was quiet. Those experts of projection filled up valuable airtime to talk about Baylor’s unstoppable starting five, Murray State’s all-everything point guard, and St. John’s ultra-athletic freshman class. Not a peep was heard from the Buffs end. They left from Boulder on a noiseless night like camouflaged riders embarking on an obvious mission.
Tad Boyle, the eager general, and his Baby Buffs tore through their trio of games in the Charleston Classic with a patient discipline that exceeded the expectation of their years.
First came the Flyers of Dayton, holding their proud basketball history tightly against their chests. 67-57. Colorado. Next up were the Baylor Bears, the same well-assembled team that turned the lights off of the Buffs’ dance party last March. With a tournament-friendly combination of senior point guard, great shooter, and talented 7-footer, the Bears were primed to stop Colorado short of it’s mission again. 60-58. Colorado. Then, for the Sunday night championship game, came Murray State and its All-American guard who led the Racers to a 30-2 record last season. Their quick-handed defense and three point shooting usually pose a problem for teams relying on size alone. 81-74. Colorado.
It’s not yet Thanksgiving and the Buffs are champions again. And it bodes well because college basketball’s last four national champions have won their early season tournaments. (Not too imply anything too crazy, but at least it’s a perfect start).
Now comes the hard part. The Buffs are No. 23 in the AP poll, marking the first ranking in the Boyle era. This team and this coach have never played with expectations of being elite. Now the talk may start to surround the oft-unheralded Buffs. Will it get too loud and engulf these undefeated youths? Or will Boyle have them ready again?
No game comes easy after this. Even the next opponent, a seemingly non-threatening Air Force, is ranked by the CBS sports RPI as the nation’s No. 4 team. Still, Boyle could not have predicted a better start for his boys.
The improvement was tangible in the span of three games. Dayton, although they were overwhelmed in the frontcourt, out-rebounded the Buffs. That didn’t happen again, as André Roberson, Josh Scott, and Xavier Johnson took care of the boards so well its as if they were asked to babysit the ball. (Scott continued his second half dominance, scoring nine points against Murray St. after collecting three early fouls before halftime).
Spencer Dinwiddie matched up with three superb point guards – the kind that make the biggest impacts for their respective teams in March – and not only contained them, but basically took them out of whole offensive series. His 6-foot-6 frame and unrelenting defense is starting to make pro scouts chatter.
But the most encouraging improvement had to come from the free throw line. After making just above 20 percent against Baylor, the Buffs heated up when it counted with Murray St. and converted 90 percent (18-for-20) in the games last eight minutes.
Despite all the talk surrounding those other players and teams, there were none better. The sweet-shooting Askia Booker averaged nearly 20 points per game en route to becoming tournament MVP and outdoing the other exceptional guards in Charleston.
The always-prepared Tad Boyle and his players may start to hear the hype like they’ve never heard before. Both on the Pac-12 level and the national scene, they’ll be expected to keep this pace. But only a few sounds keep constant.
The black sneakers whistling on a hardwood floor in a closed arena can easily block off the sounds. It’s time to get back to work before riding on to the next task.