Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Buffs to meet Auburn in ESPN rematch
Colorado and Auburn will meet for the second straight season during ESPN’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. The rematch will be played at Auburn Arena on Nov. 17 (Tuesday) at 1 p.m. MST on ESPN in Auburn, Ala.
ESPN’s eighth annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon will feature more than 24 hours of consecutive coverage beginning on Nov. 16 and continuing Nov. 17 to mark the start of the 2015-16 season. The Tip-Off Marathon will feature 16 men’s and women’s college basketball games across ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.
Colorado defeated Auburn 90-69 during the 2014 Tip-Off Marathon in a game that tipped off at the Coors Events Center shortly after 11 p.m. Mountain.
The Buffaloes are 2-0 all-time against Auburn. Besides last season’s meeting in Boulder, Colorado claimed a 78-72 overtime win over the Tigers on Dec. 29, 1996, at the Big Island Invitational in Hilo, Hawaii. It will be Colorado’s first men’s basketball game in the state of Alabama.
Auburn was 15-20 in 2014-15 under first-year coach Bruce Pearl. The Tigers made a strong run at the end of the season; advancing to the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals by defeating three higher seeds before bowing out to No. 1 ranked and undefeated Kentucky.
Colorado was 16-18 in 2014-15, tying for seventh place in the Pac-12. Led by sixth-year head coach Tad Boyle, the Buffaloes return eight letter winners, headlined by the front court of Josh Scott (14.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Wesley Gordon (6.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
There is no documentation of anyone within the Colorado basketball program spilling salt or breaking mirrors back in January of 2014.
Something happened back then, though.
Did Tad Boyle forget to forward a chain e-mail?
Whatever it was, Boyle and the Buffaloes have had a series of bad luck since arriving in Seattle for a Jan. 12, 2014, game at Washington.
For those who forget — and few CU fans have — the Buffaloes arrived in Seattle that day ranked 15th in the country. The Spencer Dinwiddie-led Buffs were 14-2 and led Washington by three points late in the first half.
Then, Dinwiddie crumbled to the slippery Alaska Airlines Arena floor with a torn ACL. His season was over, and the Buffs weren’t the same since.
• About a minute after Dinwiddie went down, Tre’Shaun Fletcher went down with a torn MCL and meniscus, wiping out two months of his freshman year.
• Dinwiddie declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, skipping his senior year and making the Washington game his final moment as a Buff.
• Talented freshman Dominique Collier sprained an ankle during preseason practice last fall, kicking off an injury-riddled 2014-15 season for the point guard of the future.
• CU’s best player last year, Josh Scott, injured his back just before Christmas, missing six games in full and playing hurt through at least 10 others.
• Xavier Johnson, in the midst of his best season, suffered an ankle sprain in January that derailed his season. He only missed four games, but was never the same when he returned.
• Alarm clocks throughout the team seem to have been cursed last year, because the Buffs had numerous cases of players showing up late to meetings or shoot-arounds.
• The top scorer from last season, Askia Booker, skipped out on the team’s trip to the College Basketball Invitational, drawing national attention for that decision.
• Two sophomores and part-time starters, Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas, left the program in the spring and transferred to the other schools.
• And, in the latest bit of bad luck, Johnson tore his left Achilles’ tendon in June, likely putting him on the bench for the entire 2015-16 season.
In the 53 games before Dinwiddie’s injury, the Buffs were 38-15. In the 53 games since, they are 25-28.
The football team has Ralphie the buffalo leading them onto the field. Is a black cat going to lead the basketball team onto the court this next season?
Sooner or later, CU figures to see its luck turn the other way, and the Buffs are hoping its sooner.
Johnson’s latest injury aside, all accounts are that many of the Buffs had good summers. In particular, Collier is playing very well and as added muscle, Scott appears to be healthy and Fletcher is ready to take the next step and fill the void left by Johnson.
Tory Miller, Josh Fortune, Eli Stalzer and others have also expressed excitement over how their offseasons are going.
After last year’s disappointing 16-18 campaign, the Buffs vowed to improve the energy and focus within the program. They did that in April and this week a few of them said that has carried over into the summer.
“You can definitely feel it still; feel that same change (that was made in April),” Fletcher said. “It just feels different around here.”
After the way those 18 months had gone, different is good.
Brian Howell: twitter.com/BrianHowell33.