Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Grab bag: BASKETBALL!

Basketball season is here, and I'm loving it!  It was great to get back in the gym Friday night, and I can't wait to watch the season-long saga unfold.  In fact, I'm so excited about the return of hoops that I'm completely ignoring the world of football, and focusing solely on matters of the hardwood.

(You really want football news?  Fine: CU can't play defense, and Alabama lost.  Knowledge: dropped)

Today in the bag, I'm looking back at Friday's win, admitting a mistake, discussing the freshmen, and taking a spin around the world of basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Win over Wofford -

Well, it's a start. It's a win.

The Buffs came out of the North tunnel for the first time this fall, and mostly cruised to a 74-59 opening night win over a game Wofford squad Friday afternoon.  Freshman power forward Josh Scott lead the way with a 14 point introduction, sophomore point guard Spencer Dinwiddie shrugged off some cramping issues to finish with 13 points and an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4:0, and sophomore shooting guard Askia Booker had a strong shooting night, going 6-13 en route to a 13 point game. 

An appreciative, if slightly passive, record-setting crowd of over 10,000 people was on hand to welcome in the new year, and celebrate the last.  A short pre-game ceremony to honor last season's Pac-12 champions unveiled a giant, engraved sandstone sheet, perfectly placed so that all visiting opponents will see it once they emerge from the tunnel.  It's certainly a statement maker.
That's halfway between a statue and a banner.  I like it.
The new version of a banner is a solid sheet of rock.  The performance Friday night, however, was far from rock solid.  I'm not saying it was disappointing, and it was far from disconcerting. It's just not the kind of performance that sets your heart aflame. They're just not there yet.

Part of that had to do with the opponent.  It looked as if the Terriers had two goals for the night: slow the game down to keep the Buffs from running, and freeze out Andre Roberson.  They succeeded on both accounts via a plodding half-court offense that kept the ball on 'Dre's weak side.  As a result, the Buffs only had four fast break points on the evening, and 'Dre was caged to a quiet 7/6 performance.  That kept affairs in order, and the game from becoming a rout.
The C-Unit was out in force for the opening night win. From: the BDC
If I had to point to one issue as something that needs immediate addressing, it's perimeter defense.  CU held the Terriers to only 36% shooting on the night, and only allowed two lay-ups, which are great top-line numbers.  However, the Terriers were gifted numerous open looks from 3-point range, and actually shot better from outside the arc then they did from inside.  Recovery was slow, would-be defenders got lost, and it got a little sloppy towards the end.  Perimeter D has been a niggling issue for the last two years, and seems to be more about focus and experience than anything else.  Hopefully it gets better in a hurry, or the sharpshooters waiting in Charleston are going to have a field day.

Beyond nit picking, however, it was an acceptable opener.  In truth, the Terriers never really threatened to win, struggling to match-up across the court, and my qualms with the game are more qualitative than quantitative.  But that's all right, I don't want this team running on all cylinders in November; I want them performing at their peak in January, February and (especially) March.  1-0 will always be better than 0-1, so I'm happy.

Onwards and upwards...

Sabatino Chen makes me look pretty stupid -

Last week I gnashed my teeth a bit at the presence of lone senior Sabatino Chen in the starting lineup.  I hemmed and hawed about his intangible-focused game, and outright dismissed the notion that he could now hit an outside jumper. 

Of course, within the first couple of minutes Friday night, he had already made an indelible mark on defense, and knocked down his first 3-point attempt of the season.   He did a great job making me look a damn fool with his nine point performance.  Also... the hair.
That didn't take long. From: the BDC
My bad, Coach Boyle is right, the sun rises in the East, etc, etc.

First impressions: the freshmen - 

After 40 minutes of action, it's plainly evident how much Coach Boyle will rely on youth this season.  There were multiple stretches Friday night where there were three freshmen on the court at the same time, and underclassmen as a whole accounted for 135 of the team's 200 minutes.  Accordingly, one of the big things I'm following this season is the progress and performance of the large freshman class.  For four of the six, Friday night was their first taste of collegiate ball, and, much like the team as a whole, it was a mostly positive experience.  Here are my notes on their first night.

Josh Scott, 14 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block -

When you lead the team in scoring during your first collegiate game, you know you're doing something right.

The Terriers didn't have much of an answer for Jelly.  Anytime the Buffs got the ball into the paint, good things happened, and Josh was no exception.  He was able to grab good position to not only receive the ball, but do something with it as well, and was rarely challenged when on defense.  He also shot an amazing 10-11 from the free throw line, allowing me to laugh maniacally as he hit shot after shot.
Josh was ready to go from the opening tip-off.  From: the BDC
Of course, the small school Terriers had little size to counter the 6-10 big man.  While Wofford forwards like Lee Skinner and Aerris Smith were solid, they were undersized, and made it easy for the lanky kid from the Springs to catch and go to work.  It'll be interesting to see how he fares against taller, more athletic competition.

Still, an overall great start for the crowing jewel of the class.

Xavier Johnson, 5 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist -

 Xavier was one of the first players off the bench, and did a good job relieving the front-line forwards.  He didn't score much, but showed off his nose for the basketball, coming up with a team-high eight rebounds. A step slow on defense, I think better teams would've taken advantage, but he played well enough to earn his 24 minutes of action.

Eli Stalzer, 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist -

Eli took on the role of the back-up point guard, and turned in a quietly strong performance.  The offense didn't really suffer with him at the helm, and he limited turnovers (only one).  The team doesn't need him to be explosive, just contributory; Friday was the kind of night I expect him to have.
Stalzer was steady and serviceable, exactly what is needed.  From: the BDC
Xavier Talton, 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal -

The other Xavier played the fewest number of minutes of all Buffs contributors (10).  He showed a lot of energy out on the court, but I think his role is still developing.

Wes Gordon & Chris Jenkins -

Both will be redshirting.  You could feel this coming for Chris, as he's a little undersized, and the team can cover what his game provides elsewhere.  Wes is the surprise.  It was anticipated that he would be the reserve bulk in the paint.  In fact, I was talking with people who know things before the game, and everyone was in agreement that he would be playing.  I guess something changed.  Regardless, it's not the worst thing in the world; Wes will now have a class of separation between him and Josh Scott, and he'll be given plenty of time to acclimate to the collegiate game.  Coach Boyle still thinks he has a chance to become an All-Conference performer.

Around the nation of college basketball - 

Pac-12 vs ghosts of '11-'12 -

Good news!  After opening weekend, the Pac-12 is a perfect 13-0! (OSU played twice) Considering how shaky the conference was last season, even going so far as to drop some embarrassing early exhibitions, this is a major victory.  Sure, there was some shaky moments - particularly in Arizona, where the 'Cats struggled to put away Charleston Southern - but rebound tour '12-'13 is alive and kicking.  Huzzah!

Syracuse vs San Diego St - 

This was one of the few aircraft carrier games that was actually played to completion.  Syracuse managed to win 62-49, but when every game recap mentions how strong winds played a part, you know it was more show than game.  They need to stop this crap.
"Just going up for this layup... MY EYES!  THE SUN IS TOO BRIGHT!"
Michigan St vs UConn -

Why not try what MSU and UConn did, and play in an aircraft hanger?  That gets the whole "we love our troops" angle across, while still being enough of a stunt to draw ratings.  It also has the added bonus of salvaging a playable basketball game, even if the weather outside is slightly less than perfect.

Oh, btw, UConn won 66-62.

Happy Monday!

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