Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


"My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball.  But tonight I say we must move forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling... twirling... twirling towards freedom!"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Every story needs a conclusion

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
- Ron Swanson

"There is a big difference between being interested in something and being committed to something."

I've been thinking a lot on that first quote lately.  It lead off my Massive Preview last year, more as a reminder of purpose than anything else.  "Stay on task, Rumblin," it seemed to speak to me, "don't let your focus wander." 

Well, embarrassing as it is to admit, my focus has wandered.  It's to the point that I no longer feel that whatever I'm putting down in virtual ink is up to my personal standard (please do take that with a humble grain of salt).  That's why the second quote, from His Tadness the other day, falls like a hammer-blow.  There is a big difference between being interested in writing and being committed, and it's a reality I'm now forced to face. I'm just not committed anymore.

It's with that in mind that I pull the plug on writing this season, and maybe this blog.  I tried, I really did, but writing in the Year of our Tad 2017-18 just isn't in the cards, and it's hard to see a path to my return.  If you were looking forward to what I had promised to produce this season, I am sincerely sorry.  If you don't care, I respect that as well, and look forward to joining you in this indifference.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  I'm still a passionate BasketBuff, and I'm really looking forward to this season.  It'll be a season of rebirth, renewal, and, hopefully, a return to the NCAA Tournament.  But it will also be a season with me decidedly away from the keyboard.  Back to being a faithful, muted fan.

Regardless, if this is, indeed, my farewell from long(ish)-form basketball bullshit, I would like to thank everyone who ever found this space and spent some of their time here.  If I can walk away from seven years having given even one heartbeat of meaningful substance away, I will consider it time well spent.

Good luck, and #RollTad.


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Quick Post: Taking a break

OK, so, as you may have noticed, this isn't a grab bag.  I've decided, after much consideration, to call a time out in my writing habit, and take a step back.  That means regularly scheduled programming is on pause for the time being.

Never fear, however, I do plan on being back this fall.  What's more, I'll still be on call, waiting for breaking basketball news to strike.  Maybe some early summer transfer drama will catch my eye. Wouldn't that be interesting?  Or how about some cool dispatches regarding Tad Boyle at the U19 World Cup?  Of course, there's always the looming run of Team Colorado at The Basketball Tournament (This year, they earn the money!). When something worth commenting on pops up, there I'll be, dousing the fire with a furious stream of words.

Till August (or thereabouts), however, I'm cranking the dial down to reserve power.  In my stead, please enjoy the sunshine, the outdoors, and the long afternoons.  And, as always, #RollTad.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: RIP, Rowdy

Yesterday, the Athletic Department confirmed the passing of CU's beloved Ralphie IV.  Mascot, revered icon, noble beast; "Rowdy" (her given name) was the embodiment of the Colorado spirit over her 10-year career, having led the football team onto the field in more than 75 contests. She was there when the 2001 team won the Big XII title, there when the 2006 team went to Georgia, and there when the 2007 team stunned #3 Oklahoma.  Overall, she appeared in six bowl games and four Big XII championships.
We'll miss you, Rowdy.  From: 9 News
Big, powerful, rumbling, her running style was distinctly different from the sprinting act of her successor, Ralphie V ("Blackout").  Indeed, it befit the older era of plodding three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football that she starred in.  She was the buffalo I played for at CU, and, despite the near-decade that has passed since her retirement in 2008, the one I still think of when I imagine 'Ralphie.'

Having lived a long life for a bison, nearly 20 years, Rowdy's death does not come as a surprise, but it is nonetheless a sad moment.  RIP, Rowdy.  Enjoy running with the great herd in the sky.


Today in an abbreviated bag, I'm talking the season-ender in Orlando, and the Colorado Women with their own NIT push.

Click below for the bag...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

2017 NIT: CU vs UCF Basketball Teaser -- Password is Tacko

It's been a while since Colorado was last in the NIT.  Some six years and (for yours truly) 950-ish posts ago, the Buffs of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins played Alabama in Madison Square Garden as part of the 2011 NIT semifinals. That day was bitterly painful for the small cabal of CU fans who, even back then, cared deeply about this program.  In a flash of a baseline drive from 'Bama's Trevor Releford and a missed jumper from the aforementioned Burks, about 19 seconds in total, an improbable season was over, and the Buffs were resigned to a 62-61 defeat.
The last vision of Colorado in the NIT was a painful one.  From: the AP
You have to remember that I didn't know the run of success that lay ahead, and that it would all get much better over the next five years, but I was broken-hearted that afternoon.  That team was, to that point, the closest I had ever seen Colorado Basketball get to being a 'winner,' and to have it all peter out, first with a NCAA snub, then with a last-second defeat in the NIT, seemed like an affirmation that Colorado hoops would always be an also-ran.  How wrong I was.

If some of you, especially those who may have been too young to remember 'the before times,' are missing an answer to why this tournament is still important, just look back to that season.  Even though Colorado missed out on the Dance, even though they didn't win in New York City, just getting there was a momentous step in the modern history of this program.  It was the launching pad for the 2012 rocket blasting into a league championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  It was the true birth of the swagger and the pride of Colorado Basketball.  That NIT run meant something to those of us who got to latch on and experience it first hand -- to look past the opportunity the NIT can be is to look past all the joy of the last five years.
The 2011 NIT means a lot for this program. From: the BDC
With that said, I'd be hard pressed not to acknowledge the differences between 2011 and 2017.  First, that 2011 group was loaded with hungry talent, not to mention three players who would go on to see the NBA.  They got to play three games in that tournament at home, and deserved each and every one of them.  While I cannot say yet with certainty how many currently in uniform will wind up at the next level, the '11 team was a more capable squad from top-to-bottom; they were a special, special offensive club.  Additionally, everyone that year, from fans on to the team, saw making the NIT as an accomplishment and a chance to shine, even with the disappointment of the Committee leaving them off the board.  That is, decidedly, not the case this spring.  You have to care about being in the NIT to succeed.  That 2011 team certainly did.  This year's squad?  I have my doubts.

But, enough jabber, on to the crux of the matter: UCF.  The fourth place finishers in the AAC this year, the Knights were winners of 21 games and are unquestionably a solid, tough basketball team. Looking at their resume, I don't see a whole lot of hiccups (though the home loss to Penn isn't anything to brag about).  Their problem this season was an overall soft schedule (even with a date against Villanova, the Knights were 329th in non-conference scheduling) and missed opportunities in league play.  Really, outside of home wins over Cincinnati and Houston, they swung and missed against every big team they played.  Indeed, should they beat CU this afternoon, it'd make for their third-best win of the season.
Coach Dawkins swapped coasts over the summer.  From:
The Knights are led by an old friend -- Johnny Dawkins.  You will probably remember Coach Dawkins from his days on the Stanford sideline, solemnly guiding the Cardinal to disappointing result after disappointing result.  Really, he's at home in the environment of the NIT, as accustomed to the secondary bracket as a chicken in a coop.  His Trees made the NIT four times in eight seasons, as compared to just one Tournament appearance, winning the damn thing twice.  Coach Boyle, however, knows a trick or two about how to go about beating Dawkins' teams.  After losing to the Cardinal twice in 2012, he never fell under Johnny's heel again, winning the last five meetings before Dawkins was fired a year ago. Though the personnel at his disposal is decidedly different from when he was on the Left Coast, I'm sure Coach Dawkins was far from pleased to see the name 'Colorado' turn over next to his on Selection Sunday.

Johnny has an interesting roster to work with in Orlando, though.  The obvious standout, mostly because he literally stands out above the crowd, is sophomore center Tacko Fall.  The 7-6 (that's not a miss-print), 290 lbs Senegalese baller is as unique a challenge as you'll find in the game today.  In the mold of Sim Bhullar and Mamadou N'Diaye of recent fame, he towers over the paint, almost blocking out the rim from the sight of would-be attackers.  It's no wonder, then, that the Knights are #1 in the country in two-point shot percentage defense, allowing under 40% inside the arc.  What was once a good shot, anything near the rim, becomes a dicey proposition with Fall, the AAC's Defensive Player of the Year, lurking to block or otherwise affect even the closest of looks.  Opponents are even under 50% at the rim itself.  Colorado will need to find an answer to this conundrum -- moving the ball, getting out in transition, and hitting outside jumpers.
Dude's tall, what else can I say?  From: the AP
Past just deterring shots, however, Fall also excels offensively.  He's in the top-three nationally in eFG%, and top-five in offensive rebound rate.  Overall, he shoots 72% from the field, and I honestly have no idea how you go about guarding him.  You can't really front him, he's just too tall.  You can try to keep him from grabbing position down low, but he has arms for days and can close space to the rim in an instant just by reaching out.  Wes Gordon will have his hands full.  To that end, the Buffs have been getting creative, handing redshirting freshman Dallas Walson padded sticks in practice to simulate the reach of Fall.  Other teams have tried similar things in the past, with, most notably, the Silver Swords of Chaminade sticking a manager on a folding chair in practices leading up to their famous tussle with Virginia and 7-4 Ralph Sampson in 1982.  When playing someone as abnormal as a 7-6 center, your thinking has to be just as abnormal. Luckily, Tacko isn't on the court all the time, averaging just 26 minutes per, but when he is, CU will have to look outside the box; literally and figuratively.

Fall, however, isn't the only dangerous piece on the Knights. Guards BJ Taylor and Matt Williams combine for 32 points per game, and can be deadly.  The senior Williams, especially, rarely leaves the court, and is an outstanding shooter.  He took 292 three-point attempts this season, canning 38% of them. Colorado needs to run him off the line and keep him from getting hot.  Elsewhere, Tank Efianayi is an interesting veteran wing capable of playing inside-outside.  He combines well with AJ Davis and Nick Banyard up front.
Williams is an electric outside threat.  From: the Orlando Sentinel 
Overall, a solid team.  They can be elite defensively, especially as teams wrestle with their helping of Tacko in the paint.  I wouldn't be surprised if Colorado struggles offensively, unless they start nailing outside shots.  Defensively, however, I think the Buffs can find some room for success.  UCF is far from a strong offensive club, and can really get shut down by anyone that is willing to put in the work.  That's where the buy-in from CU comes in.  If they have bought into the purpose of this tournament, they should be alright and eventually find themselves in a position to steal the win in Orlando.  If not, however, the proceedings could get very ugly.  My guess is that, with four seniors and none of the post-season distractions of two years ago, a focused bunch of Buffaloes will show up. With that in mind, and with a healthy dose of heart behind my pick, I'll take Colorado to advance in an ugly one.


Tip-off from CFE Arena in Orlando, FL is set for 5pm MT Wednesday.  Coverage can be found via internet stream on ESPN3 (aka: WatchESPN), with the radio call... unknown at this time.  Is Mark Johnson still available, or did he bail on this season?  Anyway, stick with the stream, it may be your only shot at following this one.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: Season ain't over, yet!

Back from Vegas, and somehow I lost two hours in my day. Wait, what time is it again? ... Without further adieu, straight to the action.

Today in the bag, I'm talking the Pac-12 final in Las Vegas (along with my All-Tournament team), the Buffs in the NIT, and women's lacrosse.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2017 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 4

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 11th --

The final is set here in Las Vegas, and it's the rematch we've been waiting for -- Oregon/Arizona. These two have proven a clear separation between themselves and the rest of the conference over three months of play, now it's time to finally decide who will get to claim supremacy in the Conference of Champions.

Oregon earned their spot in the final thanks to a grueling, industrial effort over Cal.  The Golden Bears weren't really supposed to be in this spot, and, with star guard Jabari Bird out early in the action with a possible concussion, looked to be at long odds to survive 40 minutes with the vaunted Ducks.  But they battled ferociously all night, even cutting the lead to two points with 45 seconds to play.  UO would not be denied, however, with Dylan Ennis throwing the team on his back to secure the winning points.  In the end, the 73-65 scoreline belies how close Oregon really was to coughing this one up.

The second half here was a weird one.  The Ducks were robbed of the services of star point forward Dillon Brooks as he was called for his fourth foul as part of a bizarre stretch of five called on one Cal possession early in the frame.  That staccato burst of whistles knee-capped the game, sending it into a listless spiral of empty possessions as both teams looked to make sense of the new landscape on the court.  Play would eventually recover, as Ennis and Tyler Dorsey began to pick up the slack in Brooks' absence.  Ennis, especially, seemed to fill the Brooksian role, barrelling into the lane to force the defense to react and open up shooters.  Dorsey was all too happy to oblige, and he started nail repeated attempts from the field.  In all, the young shooting guard would finish with 23 points on 13 attempts, with Ennis finding five assists.

Oregon needed everything those two could provide, as Grant Mullins couldn't miss.  The senior specialist for Cal was 5-5 from deep, and kept the Golden Bears in the game, despite their at times archaic offense.  It wasn't enough, though, to overcome sputtering play from Ivan Rabb and Charlie Moore, the inside-outside duo that had generally fueled whatever California got in the regular season. With those two struggling to inconsistent 9-23 shooting, there were simply too many empty possessions for the Bears against a quality opponent.

Those Ducks will face the Wildcats this evening after they spent 40 minutes suffocating the life out of UCLA.  The second half itself was a treatise on frustrative offense for the Bruins, with then repeatedly failing to find any traction against the Arizona 'D.'  I didn't think it could happen, at least not so easily, but they were completely shut down.  All credit to the 'Cats, then -- they earned their 86-75 victory.

The Bruins, considered by some to be the best offensive club in a generation, were abysmal from the field, shooting just 16% from behind the arc.  Arizona wasn't completely to blame, with the Bruins forcing some heedless takes and missing some open looks, but it's hard not to note that UCLA's best weapon - the three-point shot - was almost completely taken away by a team that prides itself on defense.  You could see the exasperation on the faces of the Bruins' shooters, especially Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford.  That pair, usually so effusive, combined for just 13 points and 2-16 shooting from deep.  Ball was, himself, visibly shaken in the first half, focusing on a jammed finger and struggling with turnovers.  If Arizona can do that to Lonzo, in contention for the top pick in this summer's NBA Draft, then they should have high hopes in the coming Tournament.

For the 'Cats, probably their best takeaway from the evening was the play of Lauri Markkanen.  The big Finnish shooting star has finally seemed to break a weeks-long shooting slump here in Las Vegas, first against Colorado, then against the Bruins.  He got 29 Friday night on 22 shots, and seemed to be much more comfortable and aggressive with his shot than in previous weeks.  Parker Jackson-Cartwright, though, also deserves a lot of credit.  Every time the Bruins tried to drop into zone, his speed and ability to knife past the top-line kept UCLA's 3-2 from having any shot of taking effect.

All things considered, the pair of games could've been better (they certainly didn't live up to the legacy of last year's Pac-12 Final Four).  UCLA, for sure, could've played much better than they did to help the evening game reach expectations.  But the final is the one that makes the most sense for the league, and the one that should give us out truest champion.  Can't wait for tip!


Best pep band of the day: Oregon

I'm going to give it to the Ducks over Arizona, though it was close.  Both of these bands made their competition across the stadium pale in comparison, playing good music loudly and with good energy. The Ducks, though, had I thought the far superior bass player, and I'm a sucker for someone who lays down the funk.


Today's action:

- #2 Arizona vs #1 Oregon - 9pm MT - ESPN - 

The previous meeting between these two was, of course, a massive blowout in Eugene.  There was no return trip to McKale, however, meaning this pseudo-home game in a red-packed T-Mobile Arena will have to suffice for the Wildcats.

I really like the way Arizona has played this week.  They've been hitting their shots, playing great defense, and Sean Miller seems to have an excellent grasp of his rotation when to pull the trigger on situational changes.  Oregon, conversely, has seemed, at times, to be going through the motions against teams they should be blitzing.  Arizona, then, seems to have the rhythm advantage, but I have never liked the way they matchup against the Ducks.  Boucher and Bell have the length and athleticism to negate Markkanen, and I'll take Dillon Brooks over Alonzo Trier every day at this level. To that end, if Brooks can stay in the game, avoiding foul trouble, I expect Oregon to win.  If not, the wave of depth in the paint that Arizona can leverage should hold sway.  Keep an eye on that foul count.