Brooks: CU Must Step It Up In Charleston Classic
CHARLESTON, S.C. - Tad Boyle wanted his youthful Colorado basketball team to be tested early in the season. He's brought the Buffaloes to the right place for that - and skeptics might remind him to be careful what he wishes for.
Expecting the degree of difficulty to far exceed what they encountered last weekend in an opening win against Wofford, the Buffs begin the Charleston Classic here Thursday morning against the Dayton Flyers (10:30 a.m. MST, ESPN3). If CU wins, it will advance to play on Friday morning (same time) against the winner of Thursday's Baylor-Boston College game.
"They won't be intimidated by us," Boyle said of a Dayton team that is 16-7 against BCS competition over the past five seasons and has made five consecutive postseason appearances (four NIT, one NCAA). "We have to take the bull by the horns and be the aggressor. If we do that for 40 minutes, I'll take our chances. But we can't expect to come out and just run our stuff and win on talent . . . these guys are talented and have an edge about them, too. It's going to be a hell of a test for us in the second game of the year."
After finally disposing of opening-night nerves last Friday, CU dispatched Wofford 74-59 at the Coors Events Center. Nothing against the Terriers, but Boyle has made the Buffs aware they won't see that kind of team in this tournament. In addition to CU, Dayton, Baylor and BC, the other half of the bracket includes Auburn, Murray State, St. John's and the College of Charleston.
Dayton is coached by Archie Miller, the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller. Boyle sees many of the Wildcats' traits in the Flyers, primarily because Archie was on Sean's staff for two seasons before being hired by Dayton in April of 2011.
"Defensively they're very sound, very consistent," Boyle said of Dayton. "There are a lot of similarities (in the Miller brothers' teams) . . . their core principles, values, the way they play and the way Arizona plays - yeah, no doubt. They're not going to be intimidated; they're a tough group of kids and they're well coached. Defensively, they'll make us make plays to beat them; they're not going to beat themselves."
After going 20-13 last season and appearing in the NIT, the Flyers opened the 2012-13 season with a 74-61 home win against Arkansas State. Dayton and CU have played twice previously, but neither meeting was recent. Each team has one victory, with the Buffs winning 77-59 in the most recent game on Jan. 10, 1987 in Boulder.
Dayton is expected to start two seniors, two juniors and a freshman - an experienced lineup when compared to CU. But like the Buffs, the Flyers' depth is mostly young. One of Dayton's seniors is All-Atlantic-10 point guard Jevin Dillard, who averages 12 points, 10 assists. He's one of three Flyers averaging in double figures, with junior shooting guard Vee Sanford (18.0) and senior center Josh Benson (14.0) the other two.
The 6-9 Benson likely will be guarding 6-10 CU freshman Josh Scott, who accounted for 14 points, including 10-of-11 free throws, and six rebounds in his debut. Scott called Dayton's front line "very talented . . . it's going to be a good test for me. I'm excited to be playing some good players."
In improving his play from the opener, Scott said, "I need to rebound the ball better. I mean six rebounds is OK, but I would like to be up around eight or nine . . . and I think I can help our team by just improving on my post defense."
At the second of back-to-back practices Wednesday morning, Boyle told his team that matching Dayton's energy for 40 minutes was imperative. "We know they're going to come out and compete; they know what it takes to get to the NCAA Tournament," CU sophomore guard Askia Booker said. "Their center and point guard work together pretty good and their point guard gets them going. We have to play defense and rebound and only give them one chance per possession."
Booker and sophomore point guard Spencer Dinwiddie scored 13 points each in the opener, but between them accounted for only four assists - all by Dinwiddie. The team had 10 assists, and Boyle expects that number to begin climbing.
The Buffs are headquartered directly across the street from the College of Charleston's TD Arena, a 5,100-seat venue that Boyle called "intimate . . . I can see where it would be a great home court advantage. I'm glad the College of Charleston is on the other side of the bracket."
Added Booker: "At home, we had our fans - and a lot of them. Out here, the gym isn't as big and there sure won't be as many people cheering for us. So we have to bring our own energy and depend on one another for our energy."
The Buffs spent their allotted hour of practice Wednesday morning at the TD Arena, then bused a short distance for another hour of work at The Citadel. Boyle termed the second hour a little more productive than the first and said his team will be rested from a long travel day.
You can get to Charleston from Boulder, but plan on spending a day doing it. The Buffs' travel party left the Coors Events Center just after 8 a.m. MST Tuesday and checked into their hotel in historic downtown Charleston just before 9 p.m. EST.
If you relish time spent on buses, at airport gates and in planes, Tuesday was your kind of day. And if you like gray, drippy skies and temperatures in the upper 40s, Wednesday morning was what you ordered. Locals called the conditions unseasonable and advised patience; a warming trend and clearing skies are expected over the next several days.
Scott, from Colorado Springs, said he wasn't expecting balmy weather here, while Booker, from Los Angeles, said he wasn't sure what to expect - "but not anything this cold."
Win or lose Thursday, teams will play three games here, with Saturday an off day and the championship game scheduled for Sunday (6:30 p.m. MST, ESPN2). The Buffs will return to Boulder on Monday.