By Gary Montgomery,
BVN Staff Writer
In its inaugural season, the first ever Pac-12 Basketball Championship began with little hype. The Pac 12 conference has not yet garnered much respect in the big time world of college basketball. With UCLA, the legendary powerhouse struggling to stay barely above the 500 mark, its morass likely shapes national perception of the entire conference.
However, it could be argued based on the conference’s overall record that it’s much better than perceived. With six twenty win teams in the conference and at least five of those on the NCAA tournament bubble; I would say the Pac 12 is in relatively good shape.
The Washington Huskies (21-10; 14-4 Pac-12) entered the tournament as the conference’s regular season winner, favorite to win and likely NCAA tournament invitee. However, Oregon State upset the Huskies in the first round leaving the championship to be decided between the remainder of the field. For the 15 or 20 of us who actually fill out Pac 12 bracket, Arizona, Cal and Stanford became the top picks. Cal quickly dispatched Stanford setting up a semi-finals showdown with the #6 seeded Colorado Buffalos led by former Riverside King Star Carlon Brown.
Brown, a 6’5” senior shooting guard played three seasons at Utah before transferring to Colorado for his senior season. He was the Buff’s leading scorer during the regular season averaging 12.6 Points per game. Teaming with freshman Spencer Dinwiddie in the backcourt, Brown willed the Buffs to a 21-10 season record and its #6 seed in the first ever Pac 12 basketball championships.
“We need him on the floor. Obviously, he’s been feeling it offensively. Carlon is playing with a sense of urgency that we need right now and I think it’s infectious and obviously it has infected the rest of our guys,” said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. Entering the tournament, Brown raised his game to a completely new level averaging 15 points per game throughout the tournament and nearly two double-doubles. And more importantly, Brown seemed to rescue his squad countless times when need arose.
“Yes, my teammates depend on me, that’s what I was recruited here for to replace a departing senior and provide veteran leadership and do whatever necessary to help this team be successful,” said Brown after beating the #2 seeded Cal Bears.
Brown brought down the house down in the closing minutes of the Cal win with an unscripted windmill dunk off a turnover. “That’s something I’ve done before, so it wasn’t that exciting for me. I just knew I wanted to put an exclamation on the game and make sure we won and I wasn’t going to be lackadaisical, so I just attacked the basket and jumped with all my might.“ Brown’s dunk sent the raucous Buffalo student section into a rage as they continued with continuous series of chants for the entire game.
Colorado beat Utah, Oregon, Cal and finally Arizona to win the first Pac 12 Basketball Championship tournament. As tournament champions, the Buffalos earned a guaranteed bid in the NCAA tournament. Colorado will begin play on Thursday against UNLV in the opening round of the South Regional.
The Buffalos have certainly been rewarded by Browns excellent play. NBA analyst, Charles Barkley raved at Brown’s skill level and leadership, saying he has most definitely raised his NBA draft stock.
Consider this quite the complement coming from Barkley who seldom praises young players. It will be a difficult task for the Buffalos to maintain the high level of play needed to fight through the tough South Bracket with teams like Baylor, Indiana and #1 Kentucky in the standing in the way.
No matter what the outcome from here on, Carlon has already shown “what Brown can do for you”. G. Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com
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