Buffs hope to parlay magical March into big encore


Buffs hope to parlay magical March into big encore

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) If there's a target on the Colorado Buffaloes' backs to go with the trophy they hoisted for winning the Pac-12 basketball tournament title last March, coach Tad Boyle doesn't see it.

``I don't know if we are being pursued yet,'' Boyle said. ``We had a great four-game run at the end of the year, but the reality is we finished fifth in the league last year, and we had a good run at the end, and we won an NCAA tournament game.''

While that's a far cry from their days as the dregs of the Big 12, the Buffaloes - younger and more athletic - have to build on that senior-driven success of last season in order to challenge for another NCAA tournament berth.

``Right now all we've done is open some eyes. People aren't going to fear Colorado basketball for what we've done,'' Boyle insisted. ``They're going to be more aware of us. We might have their attention now. We might not sneak up on people, but we've got more to do to get that bull's eye on our back. We don't have it yet.''

Indeed, the Buffs were picked to finish in the middle of the pack by media members who cover Pac-12 men's hoops, behind Arizona, UCLA, Cal, NIT champion Stanford and reigning regular season conference champion Washington.

``We just have to go out there and prove them wrong again,'' junior Andre' Roberson said. ``Just gain their respect nationally, as well. That's one thing Coach Boyle and the team talked about. That's one thing we're going to try to do and work on. We'll use it as fuel.''

Sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie said, ``We like that we ... have a little bit of respect. But we feel that we still don't have enough. You want to be one of the top teams. I understand that UCLA and Arizona having the top two classes in the country, whatever, we feel like we should be considered for that third spot at least.''

After bolting the Big 12, the Buffs had a solid season and a magical March that included four wins in four nights to win the Pac-12 tournament title in their first year in the expanded league. They beat UNLV in their NCAA tournament opener but ran into an old nemesis, the Baylor Bears, who used a 19-3 game-ending run to turn a close contest into an 80-63 rout in Albuquerque, N.M.

By game's end, the Bears' fans - quiet when it was 61-60 with 7:46 left - were deliriously chanting, ``Big 12 rejects'' at their former conference brethren.

While seniors Nate Tomlinson, Carlon Brown, Austin Default and Trey Eckloff set the tone for that run eight months ago, it was the young nucleus of freshmen Askia Booker and Dinwiddie and sophomore Roberson that sparked the Buffs (24-12) and gave Colorado hope that this NCAA tournament trip was just the beginning.

The Buffs' future looks bright. They seem much more comfortable and competitive playing out West and they're 10-3 in the postseason in Boyle's two years in Boulder.

Now, Booker, Dinwiddie and Roberson are joined by a fantastic freshmen class that includes forwards Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, along with returning big men Ben Mills and Shane Harris-Tunks and guard Sabatino Chen, the lone senior on the roster.

``We're younger, less experienced,'' Booker said, ``but I think we have a little more talent. A little more athleticism.''

With that exodus of senior leadership come new challenges for Colorado.

``This year you're probably going to see more blocked shots, more highlight plays,'' Dinwiddie said. ``We're going to be more athletic and we're definitely going to get up and down more. But our defense is probably a step back from where it was last year.''


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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

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No. 16 UMBC shocks No. 1 Virginia to make NCAA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Senior guard Jairus Lyles scored 28 points, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off the most shocking upset in NCAA Tournament history, defeating Virginia 75-54 on Friday night to become the first No. 16 seed ever to beat a No. 1 seed.

Virginia entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed after going 31-2 this season, including 20-1 in ACC competition.

But the Cavaliers couldn't get anything generated on offense and the nation's top-ranked defense couldn't contain American East Conference champions.

The 74 points were the most Virginia had allowed this year.

Lyles was the catalyst.

He diced up Virginia's defense in the second half, getting the hole easily on six different occasions and making easy layups. He also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as UMBC built a 16-point lead.

Lyles finished with 23 of his points in the second half and Joe Sherburne finished with 14 points.

The game was tied at halftime, but the Retrievers came out confident and motivated in the second half and built a double-digit lead that Virginia could never erase.

Sherburne scored on an and-one drive and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key after a behind-the-back pass from KJ Maura. After Virginia made a foul shot, the shifty 5-foot-8, 140-pound Maura drove the lane for uncontested layup.

A Tony Bennett timeout couldn't stop the bleeding, as Lyles hit two more 3's and Sherburne hit one to extend UMBC's lead to 14 with 14:57 left in the game. Lyles was fouled on a 3-point shot and suddenly the Retrievers led by 16.

A corner 3-pointer and a layups off a fastbreak by Arkel Lamer gave UMBC its biggest lead at 67-48. From there, the party was on as chants of "UMBC" rang through the arena.

It was yet another early exit for the Cavaliers in a season that seemed to hold so much promise.


UMBC: Despite being undersized and unknown, they shocked the world and made history with an epic game.

Virginia: This isn't the first time Virginia has struggled as the No. 1 seed. The Cavaliers trailed by five at halftime in 2014 to Coastal Carolina but went on to win 70-59.


UMBC: Will face No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday in the second round.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).