Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Northern Arizona teaser

Before you ask, no, I do not think Coach Boyle is "looking past" Northern Arizona.  That has been the concern around BuffNation since word came down that the CU head coach was planning to turn to his bench a little more against tomorrow night's Big Sky Conference opponent.  The players are simply tired after a brutal two-week stretch (followed by finals), and the next two opponents afford a nice opportunity to play around with the roster.  But, rest assured, Tad's not going to spike a game just to prove a point.  If the reserves aren't getting it done, I have no doubt that the starters will be back on the court.

Just in case the game gets out of hand early, however, you better bring your camera, because there could be a Ben Mills sighting.
The "baby giraffe" lies in wait for his next victim.  From: the BDC
Tip-off is set for 6:30pm tomorrow evening.  Television coverage is set for Pac-12 Networks, with radio coverage on AM760.

The Lumberjacks are still trying to recover from a rough 2011-12 season which ended on a 16-game losing streak, and a particularly ugly regime change.  Last December, NAU head coach Mike Adras raised some eyebrows when he abruptly resigned from his post.  As we saw with TSU, an abrupt resignation is never a good sign, and this case was no exception. 

It was later revealed through an NAU report - which includes more redaction then most black ops files - that Adras was playing fast and loose with practice time regulations, and had a penchant for bringing boosters over for dinner with recruits. While certainly violations, a few extra practice hours and a booster-fueled dinner usually aren't enough to chase a coach.  No, what seems to be the root of the Adras resignation is a bit more salacious.  The report alleges that Adras not only created an environment of "extreme fear" amongst his charges, but that "(The players') plights appear to be systematically ignored and dismissed at every level."  Abusing your players is generally frowned upon, even more so when you're losing, so Adras suddenly found his position untenable.

For his efforts, Adras received the remainder of his salary, and a letter gratitude from the university.  You gotta love this country...

New head coach Jack Murphy, a former scout with the Nuggets and assistant at Memphis, seems to have brought with him a breath of fresh air.  Already this season, the Lumberjacks have recorded more wins over D-1 competition then they had all of last year.  The road to recovery is long, but hopefully lead with compassion.  The players certainly deserve a leader who doesn't run them into the ground. 
Murphy has NAU headed in a better direction in his first year.
The primary NAU threat is 5-11 freshman guard Dewayne Russell.  With an eFG around 53% and an offensive rating above 100, he's one of the best freshmen players in the Big Sky.  Averaging 17/4/4 each night, he's been a revelation for the beleaguered Lumberjacks.

Back-court compatriot Gabe Rogers is much less efficient.  The 6-2 senior scores nearly 16 points per game, which is not all that surprising when you consider he takes over 35% of NAU's shots when he's on the court (he averages over 9 3-point attempts per contest).  Unfortunately, that 16 ppg comes at a cost, as he's very inefficient with his attempts.  His eFG is south of 42%, and his offensive rating is stuck in the mid-80's.  Not really what you want from one of your leading scorers, although the Buffs have been burned by streaky outside shooter before...
Could Rogers "Omar Strong" the Buffs tomorrow?
Both Russell and Rogers hit 85% of their free throws, so it'd be best to keep them off the line.

The front-court is pretty light on worrying talent.  6-8 junior forward Max Jacobsen is probably their best post-threat, as he brings 8/5 to the table with a solid offensive rebounding rate (10.7%).  6-6 sophomore forward Gaellan Bewernick can also cause some headaches, but the Luberjacks are mostly devoid of any star forwards.  This is one of the shortest teams in all of division one, and CU should be able to dominate in the post.

With Russell, Jacobsen, and Bewernick all scheduled to return next season, the Lumberjacks could be a team on the rise in future years.  For now, however, CU should be able to take a solid victory from them.  Barring a ridiculous shooting display that would make Omar Strong blush, I can't help but see a Buff victory.

CU 77 - NAU 60



With that, I'm off for Christmas in Chicago.  While I can't be at the CEC tomorrow night, I'll try and have some level of re-cap up Saturday before taking a few days off for the holiday.  I'll be back on the 27th to preview the final non-conference game against Hartford.

A Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season to you all!  Go Buffs!

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