Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CSU Basketball preview

The headline splashed across the DailyCamera read: "Boyle warns: "Colorado State is going to beat us by 20."  He was referring, of course, to the potential reality if the level of performance against Texas Southern carried over.  The supporting quote - "If we play like we did tonight, Colorado State is going to beat us by 20 and they're going to out-rebound us by 20" - is directly in line with Coach Boyle's usual practice of toning down the hype, and reminding the team that they're not as good as they think they are.  He further doubled down on that statement, saying after the Wyoming loss that:
"We can't beat people with our coolness. We have to beat people with our grit, our determination, execution and our toughness. If that's not our mentality then we're in for some rude awakenings." (-link)
Simply perfect. Headed into one of the biggest games of the season, Coach Boyle has done a spectacular job both lowering expectations, with an eye towards inspiring, and avoiding potential "bulletin board material."  Hopefully his players got the message...

Wait, Spencer Dinwiddie has something to say on the subject:
"You just kind of see when the little brother beats the big brother once, then they are going to be happy, they are going to rush the court. When we win tomorrow night, I don’t think our fans are going to do that.” (-link)
Really? "When we win tomorrow night."  *facepalm*  Well, there goes the no "bulletin board material" gambit.  Great timing there, the day before the game... and to feed the quote to the Post's CSU writer... that's a helluva boneheaded quote.
The revenge-minded Dinwiddie committed a PR foul.  From: the Post
I appreciate the sentiment (don't rush against CSU).  I appreciate the confidence (we will win).  Just always remember: you gloat after you accomplish something, not before.  I don't think CSU really needs an external source to hype themselves up for this game, but best to not poke the bear.


Tonight's a big one.  This series has been fantastic recently, with each team winning on their home court the last four years.  The games have been especially intense the last two.  I have no doubt that, for 40 minutes this evening, the CEC will be home to a war.

This is Front Range hoops at it's finest (and that means a lot more than it has in previous years); if you can't get excited to see these two teams battle it out, I give up.

Tip-off is set for 8:30pm (approx. 30 min after conclusion of the women's game).  Please remember that this is a BLACKOUT game, and dress appropriately (wear black!).  Coverage for those not in the area, or otherwise unable to procure tickets, can be found on Pac-12 Networks and 850 KOA.

(Still looking for tickets?  Try buying a ticket to the women's game that tips off at 5:50; CU lets fans stay for both games of a double header.  As a bonus, you get to see the women beat up the Rams!  Fuck 'em up, fuck 'em up, wear black!)

Click below for the preview...

When last we met - 

Ugly, ugly, ugly.  Last year I came away from my biennial trip to Ft Collins chewing on a game that I figured neither team "deserved" to win.  Certainly not the Buffs, who missed buckets of free throws (16 in all), committed 15 turnovers, and struggled from the field with a total shooting percentage barely above 45% for the game. Someone, however, had to come away with the 'W,' and, unfortunately, it wasn't the Buffs, who had to live all season with the 65-64 loss.
A site I never want to see again.  From: the CSU Examiner.
The game had it's share of drama, but not early.  Down seven at the half, CSU would actually extend out to a 12-point lead by the 1st media timeout before the Buffs began to chip away.  An 11-3 run got the Buffs into the game by the 13 minute mark, but little else changed as the second half slipped by.

With only a minute and a half it certainly looked like the Rams were ready to seal the win.  They were up eight, and the Buffs had missed their last 12 shots.  Then, like a lightning bolt, Austin Dufault hit an extended-range three, which in turn opened up the floor for a Spencer dunk, and yet another Austin three.  Only a minute had rolled off the clock, yet the Buffs played +7 ball over that stretch, and had cut the Ram lead to a scant 63-62 advantage with only 22 seconds left.  Timeouts ensued as coaches Boyle and Miles scrambled to set their charges for the finish.

Out of timeout, a miracle occurred.  Nate Tomlinson stole the Kaipo Sabas in-bound, and converted an uncontested layup to steal the lead, and send the 500 or so CU fans in attendance into delirium.
How the hell did that happen? From: the Post
While the majority of the Moby crowd was shocked into silence, the Rams quickly in-bounded the ball, raced up the court - ignoring Coach Miles' pleas for a timeout - and drove for the hoop.  As the Buffs struggled to stop the ball, Ram guard Dorian Green got into the paint, and converted the go ahead layup with only nine seconds left.
The winning shot.
Now Coach miles calls his timeout, allowing the Buffs to draw up a last second gasp for victory.  Point guard Nate Tomlinson slowly brought the ball up court, leaving little opportunity to create separation, and he had to take his buzzer-beater closely contested.  It barely rimmed out, touching every inch of the rim before spinning wide.

Buffs stunned, Rams joyous.  Cue the storming student section, and an angry ride home for yours truly.

The post script is less frustrating.  Both CU and CSU made the Tournament the following March -- the Rams securing an at-large bid, largely thanks to some cheeky manipulation of his non-conference schedule, while CU ran the table in LA to secure their spot.  It was a good season for basketball in the state of Colorado, and the closeness and intensity of the finish in Ft Collins only underscores that point.  Hopefully, the Buffs can pull one out in similar fashion this evening to eek out some revenge for last season.

Opponent's season so far - 

The link to their KenPom profile can be found here.

Well, they're a front range basketball team, so, by definition, they've enjoyed a strong start to the season.  The four major D-1 teams in the area (Air Fore CU, CSU, and Wyoming) are a combined 26-3 through the first month of the season, with CSU in particular enjoying a strong 6-0 start to the campaign.

Their strongest statement on the season was their 73-55 at Washington two weeks ago.  The Huskies, who struggled out of the gate, were far from ready to handle the Rams when they stormed into the Emerald City.  CSU was allowed to out-rebound their larger conference opponent 40-19, including 19-6 on the offensive glass.  By the time the Rams took the lead early in the second half, the Huskies had nothing left to give, and wilted down the stretch.
I wasn't surprised that the Rams won, I was surprised by how easily they won.
That win was indicative of how the Rams like to play ball.  Domination on both side of the glass is the calling card, with the squad placing in the top-5 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage.  'Dre will earn each board he claims this evening, and the Buffs as a whole should count themselves lucky if they can hang with CSU on the glass.

They're also extremely efficient on offense, taking home nearly 1.1 points per possession.  This may have a lot to do with their veteran depth.  All five of their regular starters are seniors; all battle tested and excellent at their roles.  Hell, they'd have a sixth senior to rotate in had Jesse Carr not torn his ACL.  The veteran Rams know what they're doing on the court, and will pick apart young, undisciplined teams.

Coaching -

Long time BasketBuffs should be familiar with first-year head Ram Larry Eustachy.  The former head of the strong ISU teams from the turn of the millennium, Eustachy brings a honed basketball mind to Ft Collins in the hopes of replacing the departed Tim Miles (who went to Nebraska. Fuck him).
Doesn't he just look thrilled to be moving to Ft Collins?
He also brings with him a reputation for being the life of the party.  Fair or not, that party is what he's best known for nationally, and he's spent the last decade trying to shake off the stain of that night spent drunkenly draped around coeds in Missouri.

Let me put it this way: when you're in your late 20's - rocking the single lifestyle with more of a job than a career - riding 22yr old punnany to flavor country is a perfectly acceptable way to spend you evenings... encouraged, even!  When you're in your late 40s, with a "wife and a family and a dog and a cat," it's probably not as acceptable.  Everyone deserves a second chance, but Eustachy hit a home run of fail with his first one.  Coach, we'll always have Columbia!
Coach Eustachy, in his element.
All kidding aside, he's a good coach, and a great hire for CSU.  Over eight seasons with Southern Mississippi, he turned that program into a consistent winner out of C-USA, and is more than capable of continuing the winning culture that Tim Miles built in FoCo.

Star Players - 

The big story in Ft Fun has been that of 6-10 senior transfer Colton Iverson.  Before the season started, I heard many people - all who should know better - poo-poo the refugee from Minnesota, even dropping the word "stiff."  Yet, through six games the Midwestern import has plunked down 16/11 each night, with an eFG near 64%.  Those numbers send shivers down my spine.  If he can keep that pace up, he may be in contention for MWC player of the year come season's end.
Colton has been a revelation in the early going.
Despite not receiving the publicity of his more heralded rival from Boulder, senior Pierce Hornung is one of the best rebounders in the nation (averaging 12 per game), possibly even better than 'Dre if you look only at statistics.  Over the last two seasons, he's managed to grab over 18% of available offensive rebound opportunities, while putting up a respectable defensive rate near 24%.  Throw in the fact that he's listed at an undersized 6-5, and you realize just how good he really is.  The Buffs need to find him on the box-out, no excuses.  He had been injured, but expects to play tonight.
Hornung is quietly one of the best forwards in the country.
Senior Dorian Green is still haunting the perimeter, and still has trouble with turnovers with a Assist:TO ratio around 3:2.  His primary value remains attacking the rim, drawing help-defense away from sharpshooter Wes Eikmeier (50% from 3 on the season).  The senior Eikmeier was allowed to gash the Buffs for 19 points on 15 shots last season, much of it from the outside.  Knowing how soft the CU perimeter D can be, I wouldn't expect anything less from the Nebraska native.

The fifth starter is 6-6 senior forward Greg Smith.  Yet another Nebraskan (they have four on the roster), Smith compliments Iverson and Hornung well in the front court, operating as more of a purely offensive piece  (nearly 13 points per).

The bottom line is this: these Rams are veteran, tough, and, above all else, damn good basketball players.  They're no joke, and should be back in the Tournament come March.

Prediction - 

The Rams are the kind of team that CU always seems to struggle with. Physical, feisty, tough on the glass... they bow down to no one.  It certainly doesn't help matters that the Buffs just aren't playing their best basketball right now. Throw in the veteran depth of the Ram front-line, and I think Coach Boyle's warning of a 20-point loss is more of a possibility than many people think.

A packed CEC should help mitigate the damage, but I have a real hard time seeing anything but a CU loss this evening.

CSU 76 - CU 71


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I prefer completely biased coverage. So I predict CU 126 - CSU 23.5. I haven't quite figured out how the rams get that half point, but I'm sure it's in the rulebook somewhere. Someone sneak in to the Phog this weekend and edit it...