Perspective – defined in the dictionary as a “point of view”, the choice of a context for opinions, beliefs and experiences.
It certainly is strange how one’s perspective can change when considering your team, and its relative position in sports world.
It struck me Friday morning how quickly our views, our perspective, can change. After the CU men’s basketball team took down No. 9 Arizona, 71-58, on Thursday night, to move to 17-7 for the season, the internet conversation about how March would play out for the Buffs quickly shifted. Rather than look at the “Bubble watch” postings on the internet basketball websites, the search was for “Bracketology”, to see where the “Bracketologists” (are these even words?) had slotted the Buffs.
In the view of many basketball observers, the Buffs, with a 3-2 record against ranked teams, and stellar RPI and Strength of Schedule rankings, are a team which is likely to make the NCAA tournament in March. Hold serve in the “winnable” games, and perhaps pick off a road win in the last road trip (to the Bay area), and the Buffs will not have to be nervous on Selection Sunday.
The chatter on the internet sites also shifted. While Colorado is certainly not guaranteed a slot in March Madness, the conversation is now directed more towards seeding, possible pairings, and locations where the Buffs might be shipped for their first weekend.
I found myself checking out the potential seedings. ESPN had Colorado as a No. 9 seed, CBSSportsline.com a No. 7 seed. The No. 7 rating was far superior, so the discussion went, not only because CU would face a No. 10 seed in the first round (yes, I know, that with the play-in games, this is now technically the second round, but I’m a purist) instead of having to play an eight seed, but also that the Buffs would then have a shot at the Sweet 16 against a No. 2 seed instead of a No. 1, with much better odds of advancing.
And I found myself wondering … Would the season be considered a failure if the Buffs didn’t win at least a game or two in the Pac-12 tournament? Would the season be perceived an opportunity lost if the team didn’t record at least one NCAA tournament victory, matching the efforts of last year’s team, which defeated No. 6 seed UNLV before falling to No. 3 seed Baylor?
That’s when it hit me … how much our expectations have changed.
How much our perspective has changed.
I’m now worried about how well the Buffs will do in the NCAA tournament?
Two years after the Buffs set a school record for losses in a season, with 22 in the 2008-09 season, Colorado, under new head coach Tad Boyle, in 2010-11, set a school record for victories, with 24.
Not to be outdone, the 2011-12 version of the CU Buffs also posted 24 victories. Not only was it back-to-back 20-win seasons – for the first time in school history! – it was back-to-back 24-win seasons!
And now, we might be disappointed with a one-and-done in the NCAA tournament?
The University of Colorado has been in all of 11 NCAA tournaments in its history, with eight of those before 1970. Between 1969 and 1997, there were exactly zero NCAA tournament appearances. In the last 44 years, only the 1996-97, 2002-03, and 2011-12 teams have had their names called on Selection Sunday.
That’s 41 of 44 seasons without an NCAA dance card, folks. A seven percent success rate.
I remember all too well how many January’s in year’s past that we in the Buff Nation were looking at the schedule for January and February, as the Buffs hovered around .500 overall, wondering about the post-season. Colorado could usually be counted on for eight or nine wins against a non-conference schedule which included the likes of Adams State, Regis College, and Ft. Lewis in-state, and a host of directional schools from out-of-state. That would mean, though, that for a .500 overall record – and an NIT bid – the Buffs would have to at least win half of their conference games at home (forget about winning on the road – remember it was only three short years ago that the Buffs broke a school-record 28-game road losing streak).
For the Buffs, the NIT was a realistic – if often unachievable – goal, with seven appearances in the consolation tournament since 1990.
Now we’ve advanced beyond worrying about making the tournament (though I will remain so unless the Buffs repeat as Pac-12 tournament champions), to where the Buffs will play, and what seed will give the best chance to advance.
And this new perspective also applies to the CU women’s basketball team. I was watching the Buffs’ game against Arizona Friday night, and I was more concerned about style points than a mere victory. When the Buffs started out tied 11-all, I was very concerned. Then, the Buffs pushed the lead out to 25-11 and 30-15, and I relaxed. An 8-0 run by the Wildcats, though, made it an uncomfortable 30-23 lead at the half.
Colorado then opened with a 10-0 run to start the second half, and the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt. The Buffs, though, who mauled the same Wildcat team in Boulder, 79-36, had to “settle” for a 55-42 victory, their 19th on the season. Unacceptable!
(Side note – did anyone else notice how the men’s and women’s teams played parallel games against their Arizona counterparts? Both teams were up 30-23 at the half. The men’s team went on an 8-0 run to open the second half against Arizona Thursday night, and never had the lead cut below six on their way to a 13-point victory. The women then followed suit, going on a 10-0 run to open the second half of their game Friday night, and never had the lead cut below six on their way to a 13-point victory. Wierd).
Granted, the CU women’s basketball teams throughout history have had much more success than the men, so the expectations may be higher. While the men have had three NCAA appearances in the last 44 years, the women have had 12 appearances since 1988. The women, though, have not been to the dance since 2004.
Cause for great celebration?
It should be … but now I’m more worried about style points in games than just winning. Really …
Again, it doesn’t take long for our perspective to change.
And our feelings toward the football team are also subject to change in a moment’s – or one year’s – time.
Last year at this time, the consensus was that the CU football team had a legitimate shot at a bowl game in 2012. True, the Buffs were coming off of a 3-10 season, but there were mitigating factors. First, it was the first year for the new coaching staff, and in 2012 they would have a full season under their belts. Second, the 2011 season was a 13-game gauntlet which included seven road games. Finally, the 2012 schedule set up much better, with the first six games coming against teams with losing records in 2011, with five of those six teams bringing in new coaches of their own. A fast start could well lead to six victories.
Now, after a school-record 11 losses, our perspective – and expectations – have changed.
In a CU at the Game poll taken just after Signing Day, over 70% of those who responded pegged CU for 3-4 wins in 2013, accepting the fact that the Buffs are all but assured of extending the school-record streak of losing seasons to eight.
It wasn’t always that way, of course.
I remember distinctly back in the glory days of the late 80′s and early 90′s, when Colorado was on a streak of 143 consecutive weeks in the AP poll (still one of the top ten streaks of all-time), wondering how the other half – those not guaranteed a winning season and a bowl bid – lived. Back then, I kept a running, hand-written legal pad with each week’s AP poll, tracking not only where CU was in the poll, but those ranked above and below the Buffs. I also charted the teams those ranked teams were playing that weekend, so I could track (and try to predict) where CU might land in the following week’s poll.
When CU was consistently in the top ten, it was actually not as much fun, as there were fewer teams ahead of the Buffs, and as a result fewer games nationally to track each weekend.
I also remember openly wondering why some fans of opposing teams would bother to travel to Boulder, knowing that their team was destined not only to lose, but to lose badly.
And now, I’m one of those fans, putting on the black-and-gold for the beat-down in Eugene last fall (though I also – due mostly to geography – found myself in Pullman for the Buffs only victory of the 2012 season). Oregon fans went to the game to see how many touchdowns – and style points – they could post against the lowly Buffs. CU fans went … hoping (in vain, as it turned out) to avoid embarrassment.
So, I guess we’re never quite happy with our team’s status.
In the most recent CU at the Game poll, only 30% of you thought it was acceptable for the CU fans to rush the court after the win over Arizona. The majority either felt it was unacceptable, or just acceptable this one time due to the revenge factor of the game.
In other words, the majority was of the mind that it’s high time for CU fans to act like we’ve “been there, done that”, in winning big games at the Coors Events Center … all history to the contrary.
I guess it’s just a matter of perspective …