Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday Grab Bag: I'm Back

I'm back from the 50th state and ready to get back to the grindstone.  How was it?  Well, how do you think Hawai'i was?  The place is ridiculously fantastic.

I mostly stayed away from civilization, perched on the northern side of Kaua'i.  For a week I was blissfully separated from the major tourist areas, and I was granted suitable quiet to hear myself think for the first time in months.  More importantly, I saw exactly zero Husker or Ram fans through the trip; that is to say I enjoyed my time immensely.

Hawai'i is a fantasy land, but it's back to reality and the hoops programs at CU.  I come back to a men's program, despite a pair of victories, seemingly on the rocks, and a womens team riding a perfect wave into conference play.

Today in the bag I'll recap the past few weeks of Buffs Hoops and tease the rest of the week.

Click below for the bag...

Wrapping the wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Texas Southern - 

Never has a pair of wins put me in a fouler mood.  If anything threatened to disturb the peace of my vacation it was the news out of Boulder where the Buffs were struggling against two of the weakest teams on the schedule.  What should've been a chance to empty the bench, and breathe easy before the holiday crush, turned into a series of distasteful basketball. Over the two contests from the week before Christmas, CU combined to win by a total of 11 points, having to sweat it out down the stretch of each game. 

Against Cal State Bakersfield, CU actually found themselves on the losing end of the 1st half scoreboard, as they headed to the locker room down 27-25.  I imagine the halftime speech went something like this: "WAKE THE FUCK UP!"  That they did, as the Buffs scored 45 in the second half, buoyed by an incredible run of 20-21 shooting from the free throw line.  That's the good news; the bad news is that the Buffs were out-rebounded by the Roadrunners, and allowed eight made 3 pointers.  Despite the rough patches, CU walked away with a 70-64 victory.
Carlon popped for 15-3-8, a level of performance much needed in future months.  From: the BDC
Three nights later against Texas Southern was no better.  While the Buffs did out-rebound the Tigers by 11 (highlighted by 16 boards from 'Dre), CU allowed another eight makes from behind the arc, turned the ball over 20 times (!!!!!!), and allowed TSU guard Omar Strong to shoot 8-12 from the field and 7-9 from deep.  What had been a laugher of a rematch from last year's NIT, with CU holding TSU to 22% shooting in the first half, turned gut-wrenching as Texas Southern made a game of it late.  CU was able to hang on, however, and limped to a 56-51 win.
'Dre had yet another double-double, helping to power CU past a feisty SWAC squad.  From: the BDC
I noted a few things in the boxscores that contributed to the struggles.  Despite the factual existence of a 10-man rotation, that "depth" continues to mean relatively little on the court, and CU was outscored off the bench by a combined 54-19 over the two contests.  Turnovers are still a big issue, with CU committing 32 in two games (the Buffs cough it up over 14 times per game). CU also continued to struggle from behind the 3-point line, shooting a paltry 32% from range last week.

Additionally, Nate Tomlinson, despite all my protestations of competence, has begun to show signs of regression.  Over the past two games he combined to score one lonely point, and chipped in an unacceptable assist-to-turnover ratio of 8:7.  All you NT haters out there are having a blast watching him struggle, I'm sure, but please remember that CU is at its best when he's confident and playing well.  Until he gets through whatever is plaguing him, CU is a below-average team at best.
Nate's been struggling of late; CU needs him to be a full participant in the offense to succeed.  From: the BDC
Make no mistake, and no matter how you want to sugar coat things, CU has no reason to be barely beating teams of the caliber they faced last week.  I've come to expect a letdown over winter break, as kid's minds naturally drift, but this was a little beyond the pale.  CU wasn't struggling with good teams from mid-major programs; no, the Buffs were struggling with the dregs of some of the weakest conferences in the nation.  Kenpom has the team at #155 in the nation, and that number is dropping fast.  Inconsistency has become the watchword of the season, and I'm starting to wonder if CU is capable of having anything resembling a respectable year. 
Let's see what Coach Boyle has in his bag of tricks, 'cause this team needs a tune-up.  From: the BDC
Despite the ill feelings generated by a pair of wins (sports is weird that way), and the glaring problems on both sides of the ball, CU looks to end conference play with a decent, if not desirable, 8-4 record, with the final game of the non-con schedule tipping off tomorrow night.

The women continue to take full honors - 

While the mens team is mired in inconsistency and bad basketball, the womens team can seemingly do no wrong.  Since I left the state, the team splashed through the remains of their non-conference schedule (beating Weber St, Texas Pan-American, and Creighton) and will enter Pac-12 play with a perfect 11-0 mark on the season.  I still worry about the level of competition they've played (and so do the poll voters, who have yet to take note of the perfect Buffs), but a perfect record is nothing to mock.
Chucky Jeffery continues to lead the Buffs, and she combined for 44-22 over the past 3 contests.  From: the BDC
They'll start conference play on the road, as they travel to Utah and the two Washington schools (mirroring the mens schedule) starting on the 31st.   If you, like myself, are ready to buy into the best basketball being played on the front range, you may want to check out the ladies during the next homestand.  They'll be taking on a very strong Cal team on Jan 12th, and battling national power Stanford on the 14th.  It'd be nice to have a packed house for those two games... just saying.

The schedule for the rest of the week -

I have yet another four day weekend afforded me centered around New Years Day, so don't expect to find anything in this space on this Friday or Monday.  Tomorrow I'll be teasing the final non conference game of the season, the titanic matchup with New Orleans, before producing my first full conference opponent preview, the lowly Utes from Utah, on Thursday.  Additionally, I hope to throw together a post taking a look at attendance through the first half of the campaign.  Hopefully, somewhere along the way, I'll discover the magic secret to mine some consistent play from the rag-tag mens squad.

Happy Back-to-Work Tuesday!

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