Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/19/12
Admit it. You sort of forgot about Colorado didn't you? Until the Buffaloes beat Baylor on Friday in Charleston, S.C., you had forgotten that this was a program that seemed to be headed upward even while it was still in the Big 12. Remember that CU was in the NCAA Tournament last year? It's OK. Unless you live on the west coast, Pac-12 teams have a way of disappearing on you. Maybe it's something about the late start times. In any event, let Friday's win be your reminder. The Buffaloes, now in their third season under coach Tad Boyle, appeared good enough Friday to compete for the Pac-12 championship whatever that's worth. The conference has two ranked teams, No. 12 Arizona and No. 13 UCLA, and Colorado may soon be a third. That doesn't exactly make for a gauntlet. The league is stronger now than it was two years ago, but there is no team on the schedule Colorado will feel like it can't beat. The Buffaloes won't face anybody with more talent than Baylor the rest of the year. Boyle's teams don't beat you with their talent, although this one has a guard, Sabatino Chen, who has to be one of the fastest players in the country, and another guard, Askia Booker, who looks like he can score from anywhere. He had 19 of Colorado's 60 against Baylor. The Buffaloes run patient offense and play sound defense and with a little bit of talent which they have that should be enough to be in the hunt for a Pac-12 title this year. Let's slow down on Shabazz Josh Smith's airballed layup notwithstanding you saw that, right? the 13th-ranked Bruins finally got their whole team together when on Friday the NCAA reinstated freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad just in time for UCLA's game against Georgetown Monday. The case was a reminder of what Kansas went through with Josh Selby two years ago. Like Muhammad, Selby was considered a certain one-and-done player and missed the first few games of the season. That turned out to be a pretty big deal. Although Selby had some moments (and did end up in the NBA after one year), he spent most of the season on the bench while less talented, more reliable upperclassmen handled the ball for the Jayhawks. This is not to say a similar fate awaits Muhammad. It is just to say that it's difficult enough being a freshman -- learning to cope with the demands of a coach who isn't going to kiss your butt anymore, learning to play defense, learning to score against defenses designed to take you out without missing the first couple weeks of the season. For all I know, Muhammad is going to be the best player in the Pac-12. By all accounts, he has that much talent. But let's pump the brakes on the expectations a little bit. It isn't that easy. Youth got served, so now what? Kansas and Kentucky both got taken out by more mature teams last week in Michigan State and Duke, respectively. So what of these teams that played each other for the national title back in April? Kentucky, it appears, will be fine. The Wildcats do not appear to have a force of nature quite like last year's player of the year Anthony Davis on the roster, but if there is one defining characteristic of John Calipari's teams, it is confidence. Or swag, if you prefer. And this group has plenty of it. The Wildcats' bugaboo looks like it's going to be turnovers from their guards, especially freshman Archie Goodwin. Kansas might have a little bit of a point guard issue, too. It's still unclear whether senior Elijah Johnson is comfortable in his new on-the-ball role, freshman guard Anrio Adams doesn't appear to be quite ready for all this yet, and sophomore Naadir Tharpe can appear a little physically overwhelmed at times. That wasn't what cost the Jayhawks against Michigan State it was a series of failed defensive rotations on high pick-and-rolls but it is the one spot on the roster where KU doesn't have clear answers. Telling stats 11 3-point shots without a make for Kansas swingman Travis Releford, who is shooting 26 percent from the field this season. Releford shot 33 percent from the 3-point line and 50 percent from the field last season. 11 3-point shots without a make by South Carolina, which overcame a 17-point deficit to beat UW-Milwaukee despite not making a 3-pointer. They said it "Hey, let's just call it like it is -- we don't look athletic to me at all. We look athletic in one spot: (Ben) McLemore. The other guys are just average athletes, as far as being able to run." Kansas coach Bill Self. "At the age of 19, I was working at a bank. That was so boring to me because it was the same thing everyday, the same people, the same thing, the same problem. Recruiting is a beautiful animal. It keeps you in suspense." South Carolina coach Frank Martin Player of the year watch 1. Cody Zeller, Indiana Zeller's numbers 17.7 points and 8.7 rebounds aren't overwhelming, but he's only averaging 25 minutes at this point. That number will go up, and so will the rest. 2. Trey Burke, Michigan He's averaging 18 points and eight assists and shooting 52 percent from the floor and 44 percent from the 3-point line. If those numbers hold up, and Michigan is a top 10 team, Burke will win this award going away. 3. Mason Plumlee, Duke It suddenly looks like Plumlee might be a major scorer for the Blue Devils and any time Duke has a forward who scores a lot, that guy is a player of the year candidate. Ups and downs Down: Washington Lost to Albany. Enough said. Up: Michigan State Rebounded from the week before to beat Kansas with a late rally. Of particular significance was the coaching strategy. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo successfully negated Kansas center Jeff Withey's defensive impact by running high ball screens, knowing Kansas' big men, including Withey, would hedge every time. The Spartans scored several buckets this way, particularly late in the game. Score one for Izzo. Down: N.C. State Shot 35 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line in a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State. That'll happen when Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie go a combined 1-for-16. Up: Oklahoma State The Cowboys barely beat Akron to start last week, then clipped off blowout wins over Tennessee and No. 6 N.C. State. Suddenly, Oklahoma State looks like the kind of team that could contend for a Big 12 title, and Lebryan Nash, averaging 19 and 7, looks like a Big 12 player of the year candidate. Conference power ranking 1. Big Ten 2. Big 12 3. SEC 4. ACC 5. Big East 6. Pac-12 Crystal ball No. 1 Indiana crushes Georgia and the UCLAGeorgetown winner this week, then gets taken into the final two minutes by Ball State. Shabazz Muhammad scores 19 in his debut against Georgetown, leading the Bruins to a win and immediately becoming UCLA's best player and garnering heaps of national attention before going 3-for-14 against Indiana. Pitt clobbers Michigan on the glass Wednesday, but the Wolverines make 12 3-pointers and win comfortably.
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