Woodling: Buffs brought A-game

Sunday, February 3, 2008

— His last name is one you would expect to find in a bowl of alphabet soup. In fact, when Colorado named Jeff Bzdelik as its new men's basketball coach, I immediately thought of Joe Btfsplk.

Back in the day, Btfsplk was a memorable character in the L'il Abner comic strip penned by Al Capp. Poor little Joe Btfsplk always had a dark cloud looming over his head to symbolize his unending bad luck.

Prior to Saturday's Kansas-Colorado game in the Coors Events Center, it was easy to visualize Bzdelik with a cloud over his head, too. After all, the Buffaloes were slumping - they had scored only 19 points in the second half of Wednesday's 57-41 loss at Iowa State - and, worse, they had to go against the No. 2-ranked team in the country.

What's more, everyone expected the Jayhawks to come out with their guns blazing in the wake of their first loss in a quarter of a century at Kansas State.

Add the fact that approximately half the crowd in the Buffs' arena would be filled with KU fans, and you had to wonder how in the world Bzdelik could keep his team from being steamrolled all the way to nearby Rocky Mountain National Park.

Wait, there's more. Although only Bzdelik and the Buffs knew it, starting guard Xavier Silas, the club's third-leading scorer, wouldn't be playing, apparently because of an attitude problem.

Pity the poor Buffs. They were about to become the butts of one of the world's oldest Groundhog Day jokes. It didn't matter whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not. Colorado was due for six more weeks of bad basketball.

Yet KU fans - here and in front of their TV sets - fidgeted in disbelief as the undermanned, outsized, out-everythinged Buffs stormed to leads of as many as seven points in the first half.

Uncannily, they were doing it with basically a 4-on-5 offense because the only big man in their starting lineup - 6-foot-9 Marcus King-Stockton - shoots as often as they plant palm trees at the foot of the Flatirons.

Meanwhile, on defense, the Buffs made the Jayhawks look like quaking aspens, often frustrating them with intense navel-to-navel pressure.

Doubts began to surface. Was the K-State defeat the start of a mini-slump during the dog days of February? Had the Jayhawks' two strengths - their inside and transition games - hit the proverbial wall?

Nope. In the final analysis, Saturday was just another example of Kansas receiving everybody's A-game. Actually, in the first half, the Jayhawks were recipients of CU's A-plus game. The Buffs simply couldn't play any better than that.

But, of course, basketball is a 40-minute grind. It's not the 800-meter relay. It's the mile relay, and Kansas, as we know, has the horses to overhaul just about every team it plays down the stretch. Unless that team is draining three-point goals, as K-State was the other night.

Colorado, for example, was 9-for-23 from beyond the arc, and two of those nine came late after KU had taken command.

College basketball fans in most of the country - ABC televised this one to just 20 percent of the nation - saw the final score of 72-59 and no doubt figured it was another cakewalk.

It wasn't, and none of the remainder of KU's road games will be, either.