I love the momentum of sport. For all of our advanced stats and my sophomoric understanding of them, there is no way to quantify the ramifications of a fortuitous bounce, well-earned technical foul, or a botched whistle. Timeouts are used to slow it and, arguably, entire game strategies are executed to limit it. Have you watched a Bo Ryan game?
So when the stripes went to the monitors two weeks ago to examine whether or not Sabatino Chen had just beat the third ranked team in the country on their home floor, the Buff’s claim to momentum laid in the balances. They’d blown a big lead but were handed the chance to garner it all back as Chen banked home the proposed game winner.
The rest will become history.
Since that moment the Buffs are 1-4 and scratching their heads as to how they got here. Two days after that moment Colorado jumped out to an explosive 17-4 lead on the host Sun Devils and looked the part of a team that prepared to take care of business. But ASU would not go quietly and wound up grinding out a victory. For arguably the second straight game, momentum was ripped right out of Buffalo hands.
Against Arizona, in regulation, Tad’s team shot 10-15 from three. Terrific. For the season these Buffs have been limiting their total number of threes (I like) despite shooting a very respectable 36%. However, since those three men waved away from the monitors, Colorado is shooting 12-65 from distance. To be clear on two fronts: 1) that includes the Arizona overtime, and 2) the math suggests that is an abysmal 18%. I don’t love a reliance on the three point bucket but regardless of dependencies, a sub 1-in-5 success rate is not good begging the question, slump or fact? By my feeble attempt to quantify momentum, the Buffs seem to have lost it since it was snatched from their hands.
And watch a Colorado game. They don’t seem to be able to grab momentum when it’s ripe for the taking. Take last night for example: The Buffs came out playing staunch defense and were chipping away at UW’s eight point lead. They had it cut to five, allowing just five shot attempts for the Huskies in the opening five minutes. Comparatively the Buffs – who we’ve noted are having shooting issues – got up ten shots connecting on just one. Alas, all things defensive clicking and momentum at their fingertips…Scott Suggs…four…point…play. Momentum.
As it were today, it appears history was written that night in Tucson. Colorado has perhaps let the magnitude of that moment best them; not necessarily the mark of a champion. But the season is young still and momentum can turn on a dime; a shot here, a block there, a whistle, a bounce, an affirming gesture. Where it comes from no one knows.
So for the Buffs, momentum remains in the balances, the coveted and inexplicable asset. I suppose for some help we could ask CJ Wilcox about it.