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Paul Klee: Does CU's upset carry more weight as FBI investigates Arizona basketball? 'Hell, yes,' Tad Boyle says

By: Paul Klee
January 6, 2018 Updated: January 7, 2018 at 8:55 am
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BOULDER — It was right about the time Dom Collier — yes, that Dom Collier — splashed another 3-pointer, busted into a grin that stretched to Longmont and tumbled into the courtside seats that I made the decision on Saturday.

We aren’t going to talk about the FBI investigation into the University of Arizona program, how a man who was Sean Miller’s longest-tenured assistant coach could go away for 60 years in a pay-for-play scandal, how we’re supposed to embrace another brilliant college basketball season and just ignore or forget about all the bad guys who are ruining it for the good guys.

Arizona Colorado Basketball
Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV, center, drives to the rim between Arizona guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, left, and forward Deandre Ayton in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 80-77. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Nope, we’re not going to talk about that. The University of Asterisks doesn’t deserve your time.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the baby Buffs. They beat No. 14 Arizona fair and square, 80-77, which is more than anyone can say about the storied Wildcats program these days. And let me tell you something about these baby Buffs: when they grow up, they're going to hang a Pac-12 championship banner in the rafters at Coors Events Center. Colorado might get a helping hand from the FBI or NCAA, taking down these renegade programs that are busy staining West Coast basketball, but they’ll hang one.

That’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to talk about the good guys pulling one over on the big, bad guys. We’ll talk about how Dallas Walton, a freshman from nearby Arvada who attacked his redshirt year, went toe-to-toe with Deandre Ayton, a 7-foot prodigy with a great attitude and the no-brainer No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft. “Respect everyone, fear nobody,” Walton said afterward.

Arizona Colorado Basketball
Arizona center Dusan Ristic, third from left, goes up for a basket as, from left, Colorado forward Lucas Siewert and guards George King and D'Shawn Schwartz defend in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

We're going to talk about how D’Shawn Schwartz, a freshman from Sand Creek, who is so Colorado he's a teenager who adheres to a vegan diet, came off the bench for 10 points, including a pair of nutsy 3-pointers, to curb the Arizona run that every one of the 8,519 packed into the old barn knew was coming.

“We never had a doubt,” Schwartz said, and, no, he wasn’t laughing when he said it.

Arizona Colorado Basketball
Colorado guard George King, right, reaches up to block a shot by Arizona forward Ira Lee in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

How the stoic Dom Collier, whose college career has fallen short of his Mr. Basketball career at Denver East, nailed a pair of 3-pointers and — stop the presses! — even cracked a smile. When he swished that 3-pointer, the one I was talking about, a courtside Buffs fan helped him up by the leg that shows a "Mile High City" tattoo. 

“There’s not a player I’m more happy for in our locker room than Dom Collier,” Buffs coach Tad Boyle said.

That’s what we’re going to talk about. Because there’s too much bad stuff going on in college athletics, and this was one time when the good stuff beat the bad stuff. Isn't that worth talking about? Like how freshman guard McKinley Wright IV is on his way to scribbling his name alongside the great CU guards that came before him, guys like Alec Burks, Spencer Dinwiddie, Derrick White and, yes, Chauncey Billups. This is a bad man, McKinley Wright IV, as bad as any college player that’s ever rolled through Boulder. OK, aside from Chauncey.

And just think about how Wright got here. Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball was committed to play for Archie Miller at Dayton before Miller skipped town for the Indiana job. So here come the Buffs, and as Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson would tell you, the Buffs know a hidden gem when they see one. But let’s be real. Sometimes you get lucky, and falling into a three-star recruit who can outplay, out-tough and — here was the key on Saturday — out-listen to his coach, the waves of four- and five-stars up and down Arizona’s roster is pretty lucky.

“There was just a lot of uncertainty at Indiana when I was deciding,” Wright told me.

Arizona Colorado Basketball
Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV celebrates as time runs out in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. Colorado won 80-77. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

I watch enough Big Ten basketball to say with certainty that Wright would be the best player at Indiana, and Indiana is the kind of place where they name their children after Hoosiers. Instead, he’s the one chosen to lead this Buffs revival.

“Hope he stays four years,” Schwartz said with a laugh.

OK, so I had to ask: Did Arizona coach Sean Miller, Archie’s brother, say anything after Wright had 16 points, 10 assists and so many gutsy plays you wanted to check his birth certificate?

“Actually, he did,” Wright said, and my ears perked up. “He was telling me his brother must be the dumbest coach in America for letting me go.”

The formula for long-term success in Boulder is pretty simple: follow Wright’s lead and the Buffs will go far. Oh, not this season. CU has eight freshmen and will be fortunate to crack .500 in the Pac-12. Their party is down the road. Boyle’s 55th birthday party was Saturday, even if no one in the locker room knew it before tip-off. To celebrate, CU swept the Arizona heavyweights — No. 4 ASU, then No. 14 Arizona — and clocked consecutive wins against ranked opponents for the first time since 2011.

“Potential top-five draft picks, future pros,” Walton said. “Doesn’t matter.”

That’s what we’re going to talk about. Not that the hygienic way to watch Arizona basketball is to take a shower afterward. Not that it’s fair game to remember the assistant who was indicted on federal bribery charges, "Book" Richardson, arrived at Arizona way back in 2009, so how many of their future pros got there through dirty methods? Not that Arizona and USC, the Pac-12 reps in the FBI investigation, were picked to finish 1-2 in the league. 

We're not going to talk about that.

But Tad Boyle will. And God bless him for speaking up, because the only sure-fire way to clean up college basketball is if the men in charge, the million-dollar head coaches, forget about where their next job is coming from and finally take a stand.

Was there any extra satisfaction beating Arizona as it sits in the FBI's cross hairs?

“Absolutely. It’s ironic we’re playing Arizona,” Boyle said. “I’ve got great respect for Sean Miller and the type of coach he is. They recruit very, very well. USC has recruited very, very well. The two most talented teams in our league from top to bottom are USC and Arizona. So, hell, yes, there’s extra satisfaction. I’ve got great respect for Sean. Helluva coach. I’ve got great respect for (USC coach) Andy Enfield. But to answer your question: hell, yes."

Let's talk about that.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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