Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2014-15 USC Basketball Preview #2: Can Haz Road Win?

This is a big one tonight.  CU watched a winnable home game against Washington slip through their grasp last week, and now need a road win to make up for it... a road win which would be their first of the season (their lone win away from Boulder was the beat-down of DePaul in Honolulu). The USC Trojans, rocked on their heels by a 1-6 start to Pac-12 play, seem to be an inviting target, probably the best remaining on the schedule.  If the Buffs can't convert this one, it's hard to see where that true road cherry will get popped in 2014-15.

Tip-off from the beautifully appointed Galen Center in downtown LA is set for 7:30pm this evening (good seats still very much available). Coverage can be found on Fox Sports 1, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: You can't defend? You can't win in Boulder.

Straight to the action... Today in the bag, I'm talking the curb-stomping of the Cougs, a new basketball commitment, and the public phase of fundraising.

Click below for the bag:


Saturday, January 24, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Washington State Basketball Preview #1: Battling to get back above .500

You had to see it coming.  Locked in a 50-50 tie Thursday night with the Washington Huskies, Colorado took the ball out of a timeout with just over 40 seconds to play, looking for a leveraging score.  The designed set for Jaron Hopkins was for naught, however, as the sophomore slipped into a held ball, flipping possession back to UW.  They would capitalize, as Andrew Andrews canned a jumper from the elbow for the win.  52-50 final; another heart-breaker for the Buffs.
Andrews didn't flinch with the game on the line.
The loss overshadows a series of gritty, encouraging performances from oft-maligned sophomores like Hopkins, Wes Gordon, and Tre'Shaun Fletcher.  Gordon was particularly good, posting a monster 10/17 line, while helping to swarm Washington's imposing front line.  Hopkins, whose offensive game is really starting to develop, lead the team in scoring, while Fletcher had an all around affair.  I can't help but say their contributions would've been more than enough had junior star Xavier Johnson been active for this game, but such is life.

Overall, this was an ugly, slow, defensive show.  Both teams struggled offensively, with layups and easy opportunities missed left and right.  CU hit their numbers on 'D,' holding the 'Dawgs to 36% from the floor (25% from three) while out-rebounding them by five, but couldn't solve the Washington zone.  There were plenty of terrified looks on the faces of Colorado players when the ball came their way, and there was a lot of pointless passing (as opposed to effective passing) going on.  It makes sense, with two of their best offensive players - Josh Scott and Johnson - on the bench, but the molasses drip of scoring made for uncomfortable viewing.
Scrappy, defensive play was the name of the game.  From: the BDC
It's hard to keep this in perspective, but the Buffs have been playing some pretty good competition (all four of the last few games have been against teams in KenPom's top-60) without two of their three best players. Yet, to their credit, the team has been battling their asses off, and deserved to win at least the last two.  It's small consolation, but there are some signs of life if you peel back the fat flaps.  This season will not end in the NCAA Tournament, it may not even end up in the NIT, but I'm learning a lot about the character of those on the bench, and who could be on the front line for next winter.  Frustrating? Yes, but just as informative.

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The attention now turns to tonight's battle with Washington State.  Both mired at .500 overall, the two teams are seemingly headed in different directions after the opening weeks of conference play.  As opposed to Thursday's offensive struggle, those in attendance should at least see some fireworks, as the Cougars bring with them a willing offensive mindset and a porous defense.  I guarantee that more than 102 points will be scored in this one.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6pm.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...


Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Washington Basketball Preview #1 - Battling the UpShaq

We come to another big weekend for the Buffs. Mired in mediocrity, CU needs to bank home wins if they have any postseason aspirations (note, I'm not talking about the Tournament, here).  The duo from the 42nd state is formidable - especially tonight's opponent, Washington - but I learned long ago not to count out Colorado in Boulder.  Even with injuries and suspensions, this program has knack for surprising in home environs, and playing over absences.  Let's see if they can pull a rabbit out of their collective hat this evening...

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Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7.30 pm this evening.  Fox Sports 1, who are broadcasting four of the next seven CU games, has the live coverage.  Mark Johnson and the radio call are on 850 KOA, as always.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag - Another Fruitless Trip Through the Desert

Does the football team have a DC, yet?  No?  Well then, straight to the action...

Today in the bag, I'm talking the frustrating loss to Arizona State, a surprise suspension for a CU star, and the NFL playoffs.

Click below for the bag...


Saturday, January 17, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Arizona State Basketball Preview #1 - Looking to Rebound

Well, not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  Without either Josh Scott or Xavier Johnson, the Buffs came out and hung with the #10 Arizona Wildcats on their home floor, keeping the game within reach into the second half before finally succumbing to the pressure down the stretch.  The final: 68-54, and a backdoor cover.

Losing by 14 is never a comfortable feeling, but I thought the team played well...  and by team I really mean Askia Booker.  Down two of their best scoring threats, it was up to Booker to lead the way, and, DAYUM, did he answer the call.  The little spark plug scored 30 of the team's 54 points, showing the brazen disregard for circumstance that has endeared him so to fans of #SKIBALL.  He finished 11-17 from the field, 6-9 from three point range, and was CU's only scoring threat.  If you were worrying earlier in the year where the senior's head and heart were at as he struggled through some off-court issues, I hope you've long since stopped, as he's been averaging 20 per game since November 30th.
Ski was magnificent, but he was largely on an island. From: CUBuffs.com
For Arizona, it was all about super frosh Stanley Johnson.  Playing tenaciously on the baseline, he gashed CU's softened underbelly for 22/8/3/2.  It certainly helped his cause that he didn't have to go against Xavier Johnson and help-defense from Josh Scott, but the kid's for real.  His efforts were the difference on Thursday, countering the great work that Booker was putting in.

The trick then will be how the team rebounds from defeat, and carries the respectable effort with them to Tempe.  Today's game is a winnable prize, one that the Buffs would behoove themselves to claim.  If there's any faint Tournament hopes remaining, it's a must, but it's also important for conference positioning.  If Colorado can emerge from the desert at 3-2 in Pac-12 play, having already put road tilts against the league's best in the rear view, they have a leg-up on their competition for a top-six slot.  It may not seem like all that much now, but this result is will loom large on the plane ride to Las Vegas in two months.

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Tip-off from Wells Fargo Arena is set for 2:30pm this afternoon.  A slight change from Thursday night, when Colorado was featured on ESPN in primetime, CU is back on Pac-12 Network.  What hasn't changed, however, is that Mark Johnson and the radio call will be on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...


Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Arizona Basketball Preview #1 - ... and now to Tucson

Take a deep breath.  Have a seat.  Relax.  I just want you calmed before presenting the possibility that Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott, two critical legs of CU's big three, might be out of the action tonight.

*wince*

Of course, as I talked about on Tuesday, XJ is dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered in game against the Utes.  I didn't expect him back tonight, but, at the dawn of the annual march to Tucson, it's a little daunting to realize Colorado's bubbly leader, the straw that stirred the rivalry stew last year, will be MIA.

Scott's story is a little more complicated.  His return to action in Utah after missing two games with back spasms seems to have been a little premature, as he struggled to fight through the pain, only attempting three shots (all missed) in the game.  Apparently, in the wake of that effort, Josh has been left out of practices, leaving his availability for tonight up in the air.  As the Daily Camera reported, he's been fighting his back since before Honolulu (the plane flights couldn't have helped), so more time away from the court could be needed.

Colorado is already facing an uphill battle entering the valley of the beast.  If the Buffs have to play tonight without either Big X or Jelly, it's going to get rough in a hurry.  I just have a hard time picturing where the scoring will come from in their absence.  I've been wrong before, but, pending a surprise roster announcement this afternoon, I'm pretty pessimistic headed into this one.

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Tip off from the newly renovated McKale Center is set for 7pm this evening.  Proving that broadcast schedules shouldn't be chosen in August, television coverage can be found on ESPN: the Mothership. On the call are Walton, Pasch and Jay Bilas... well, if it's going to be a blowout, at least it'll be a well-covered one. If, however, you hate the World of Walton (most likely because you hate freedom), Mark Johnson will have the impassioned descriptions on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...