Redhawks host Colorado 7 p.m. Monday at Connolly Center in the quarterfinals.
More than once during Seattle University’s historic postseason run, Isiah Umipig assured coach Cameron Dollar that everything was under control even when it appeared as though the Redhawks were spiraling out of it.
Usually Umipig, a senior guard, does so with a non-verbal exchange. He may give a wry smile and pat a hand against his chest as if to say “I got this.”
“That’s when I sit back down,” Dollar said laughing. “In March you’re pretty much set with how you are. You can tweak it here or there, but who you are is kind of who you are. It’s time for the young men to go out and have the coach sit down and get out of their way. Really just go compete and play until it’s all over.”
Colorado @ Seattle U, 7 p.m., Connolly Center
It may seem a little counterintuitive, but the further the Seattle University men’s basketball team advances in the College Basketball Invitational — it hosts Colorado at 7 p.m. Monday at the Connolly Center in the quarterfinals — the fewer demands on Dollar.
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“My job is done,” he said. “Once you hit March … the seniors take over. Players take over. And they’re really running the show. We’ve almost had 100 practices by now. They know what we need to do and how we need to do it. They can execute it. I have stepped back into my advisory role.”
It’s an unusual position for Dollar, the sixth-year SU coach who has guided the team to its first nonconference Division I postseason tournament since the Redhawks played in the 1969 NCAA tournament.
Seattle U players say they’ve enthusiastically embraced the CBI, which often is the difference between winning and losing in the third-tier postseason tournament that takes a backseat to the NCAA and National Invitation Tournament.
During Wednesday’s first-round 62-45 win over Pepperdine, the Redhawks were the more energetic team and they dominated the rebounding, 40-22.
“I think these games are going to be (won) by who wants to do the little things like boxing out and getting back in transition defense,” said Umipig, who scored a game-high 24 points in the opener. “Just not letting the little things like that affect the game.”
And SU’s administration has financially shown its support while doling out $85,000 in CBI tournament fees, including $50,000 for the quarterfinal, to host the first Division I postseason games at the 999 seat on-campus gym.
Publicly, Colorado has said all the right things, but it’s fair to question whether motivation will be in short supply. After three straight NCAA tournament appearances — which is the first in school history — the Buffaloes (16-17) finished the regular season with a losing record.
Before Colorado’s 87-78 win over Gardner-Webb in the CBI opener, sophomore guard Dustin Thomas left the team and announced he’s transferring while senior guard Askia Booker, CU’s leading scorer, chose to end his collegiate career.
“In fairness to (Booker) you don’t know what all went into that because I’d heard things about him being injury-prone with his hips and stuff like that,” Dollar said. “Definitely for us, we want it. We haven’t been on a stage so whatever stage we can get on, we’re excited to keep moving forward.”