Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hartford Teaser

The end of non-conference play is upon us.  After beating up on an obviously exhausted and out-classed NAU squad the Friday before Christmas, the Buffs finish the "pre-season" portion of their schedule against another minnow, the Hartford Hawks.
Spencer and the Buffs hope the romp over NAU speaks of good things to come.  From: the BDC
Just think, less than a month ago, the Buffs were in Lawrence, KS, playing the crème de la crème of blue-blood basketball programs in their historic arena.  Tomorrow, they get the University of Hartford at the CEC - a program which, until the schedule was released, I could of sworn was D2. I guess you could say that it's part of the beauty of non-conference play in college basketball, that you get to see a wide swath of the competitive spectrum, but that's a serious drop-off in degree of difficulty.  Much like the NAU game, regardless of outcome, CU's RPI will drop.

I don't intend to demean the Hawks (and their empty wikipedia page), who I'm sure are rightly proud of both their school and program, and you only have to look back to the Texas Southern game to see what can happen if you let the little fish get acclimated to the water, but holy hell it's tough to get excited about this one.  The Buffs play at Arizona Wednesday.  How are they not looking past the lowly Hawks towards the Pac-12 title rematch in Tucson?  I certainly would be.  Shit, up until 10 minutes before writing this teaser, the #4 Wildcats had been dominating my hoops-related thoughts.

You can talk all you want about how the next game is the most important, and how you can't look ahead, but human nature dictates that Hartford would be getting second-billing in the minds of the players.  They're certainly getting second billing in mine. 

Therein lies the danger.  It's cold, campus is dead, the players have spent more time at home with their families than on the court practicing, and the opponent looks like a cake-walk.  I'm not going to come out and call this a trap game, 'cause CU should win easily regardless of how focused they are on the Hawks, but the avalanche of distracting factors is enough to give me pause.  Hopefully, the Buffs come out red-hot, like they did against Northern Arizona, and put to bed any hope of a competitive effort the Hawks may have.

Tip-off is scheduled for high noon tomorrow.  For those out of town, you can watch the proceedings on the Pac-12 Network.  Radio coverage is set for 850 KOA.

Third year Hartford coach John Gallagher seems to believe in two things: creating turnovers, and taking buckets of three pointers.  In that vein, the Hawks are quite successful.  Over Gallagher's tenure, Hartford has routinely posted defensive turnover rates near 24% (well above the national average), and in his first two seasons at the helm, the Hawks bordered on taking 50% of their shots from behind the arc (top-3 in 3ptA/FGA in '10-'11, and '11-'12).
Coach Gallagher loves to see some threes.
Still, those two and a half years as head Hawk have been mostly losing years for Gallagher, as the team struggled through 42 losses in his first two seasons.  You can kind of excuse last season's struggle, as the team was mostly freshmen, including three frosh starters, in '11-'12, but the numbers don't lie, and 42 losses is a huge anchor.  Throw in one of the worst offensive efficiencies in the nation (consistently right around .9 ppp), and ugliness has followed the losing.

The ship may be righting itself, however.  Starting with conference play last season, the Hawks have been on a strong run of 16 wins in 30 games.  None of the wins are against any team that will ruffle feathers, but you can at least notice some improvement as Gallagher continues to mold the program.

For a team that is so reliant on taking (and sometimes making) three pointers, it's surprising that their primary scoring option is a post-forward.  6-6 sophomore post Mark Nwakamma leads the team in both points (12.8) and rebounds (5.3) per game, and winds up taking nearly 32% of his team's shots when he's on the court.  The Austin, TX product was an America East Conference All-Rookie selection last year.  His biggest problem is not only struggling to get to the line enough for his position and volume, but also missing nearly half his attempts when he gets there (54% on the year).
Nwakamma is a good small-conference power forward.
Sophomore Yolonzo Moore II is the primary deep threat.  The 6-2 sophomore makes over 48% of his outside shots, and is the team's best pure shooter.  Fellow sophomore Wes Cole is more of a volume shooter, as he's taken nearly twice as many 3's as he has free throw and 2pt attempts combined.  The 6-0 sophomore is not an Omar Strong-level hucker (no one else is, for that matter), but he could still hurt if he gets hot. 6-0 freshman Evan Cooper rounds out the back-court, and makes over 43% of his deep attempts.  Perimeter defense, long a hit-or-miss prospect with the Buffs, will be key.
Moore II is the primary back-court threat.
The final starting piece of the Hawk puzzle is 6-6 swing forward Nate Sikma.  The sophomore also appeared on the AEC's All-Rookie team last season, and posts a respectable 7/5 each night.

The big thing to note about the Hawks is their youth.  All of their key contributors are either freshman or sophomores, with only two upper classmen, junior Oren Faulk and senior John Peterson, seeing any meaningful action.  Combined with the recent turn towards .500 play, that makes me believe that the future bodes well for the Hawks from the University of Hartford.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see them take the AEC's automatic bid in either of the next two seasons, and appear as a 15-ish seed in the Tournament.

For tomorrow, however, they look to be a long-shot to challenge CU.  Nwakamma isn't nearly enough to scare CU inside, and the shooters don't make up enough of a volume to frighten with the "streaky" factor.  Unless they all get outrageously hot, the Buffs should claim victory. 

CU 81 - Hartford 61



Since you're all going to be up at the CEC tomorrow watching the man's team take down the vaunted Hawks, why not stick around after the conclusion to check out the #23 CU women's squad take on New Mexico?  The tentative tip for that one is 2:30, and your men's admission is good for both games.

Go Buffs!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

NAU wrap

While the Buffs were tipping off against Northern Arizona, I was making my way to DIA for a flight home to Chicago.  All along the ride across E-470, the wait in security, and the downtime at the gate, Mark Johnson and Chad Brown were my companions, neatly describing the nearly perfect CU performance.  It made the experience fly by (pun mostly unintended).
Too easy, Master Chief.  From: the BDC
While my trip to the airport was smooth and uneventful, the clash with NAU was even more so.  The Buffs came out of the tunnel red-hot, and never seemed challenged by the Lumberjacks en route to a breezy 98-51 victory.  I kind of felt bad for the Lumberjacks.  Playing their third game in five days, they were ill prepared to march into the CEC and pose any level of challenge to the Buffs, who had been on break for the last week.

This was the body-bag game CU had been looking for, more scrimmage than actual contest.  The blowout allowed Coach Boyle and crew to work on a few things in sore need of addressing, while still resting up for the start of Pac-12 play.

Askia Booker lead the way, scoring 10 of CU's first 12 points, before finishing up with 17.  Spencer Dinwiddie also had a spectacular game, dropping 15/6/5/4 in only 16 minutes of play.  The pair of sophomore guards combined to hit 14 of the 16 shots they took from the field, sparking the team to a 66.7% shooting night.  Imagine what they could've done with a full compliment of minutes against the underwhelming Lumberjacks...
Ski also found some time to welcome new football coach Mike MacIntyre to Boulder.  From: the BDC
The 47-point spread also allowed the bench to get involved in a way that they hadn't before.  Xavier Johnson notched a career high 17 points, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc, to easily lead the bench mob in scoring.  Jeremy Adams and Xavier Talton also had nice evenings, combining for 14 points.

The 10,034 in attendance saved many of their loudest cheers for seldom used reserves Beau Gamble and Ben Mills.  Each scored their first points of the season, adding some character to the laugher of a game.  Mills, who has become a cult-hero with the C-Unit (akin to Preston Slaughter and Billy Boidock from the Patton era), heard his name chanted early in the second half.  He obliged his adoring fans with two points and five rebounds, before fumbling away a last-second chance for the team to crack the century mark.  Such is life.
Oh my God!  It's Ben Mills!  On the court!  With the clock running!  From: the BDC
In the end, the best thing I can take away from the game is this quote from NAU guard DeWayne Russell:
This is a really good program, they're really well coached. You could just see the discipline, that was the biggest thing. You could just feel the discipline and how good they were on defense.   (-link)
Coming from Russell, who has now played, and lost to, three of the Pac-12's best teams (Arizona and Oregon are the others), that means something.

In the soccer world, they talk in terms of form and class.  Form is temporary, but class is permanent.  What Russell was talking about was the class of CU, rather than the form.  You can get caught up in the 66.7% shooting, or the impressive 24 assists the Buffs handed out, but those numbers are easily forgotten when playing against better competition.  Discipline, organization, good coaching... those are the things that will serve the team well going forward, and they were on display Friday night.

Onward and upward.

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!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nervous fidgeting over finals break

Finals break sucks.  I had gotten used to the new-normal of life with basketball, only to have it rudely ripped away for me while the team "studies" and "practices."  Lame.  I want to see the Buffs in action, damnit!

Since basketball is now set for slow-drip until conference play starts, I've been left to pour over stat sheets to get my hoops fix.  That can only lead to one thing: freaking out over minutia.

Ever since the champions of Charleston returned from their victorious southern swing, the team has slowly dipped into stretches of inconsistent basketball, and less-than-appetizing play.  The Daily Camera's Ryan Thorburn touched on this last week, but the primary culprits have been three factors: The Pac-12's worst turnover-to-assist ratio, anemic production from bench players (only 18% of scoring comes from the bench), and woeful free throw shooting (66.4%, 230th in the nation).

Assist-to-turnover ratio is certainly worrying on the surface.  Turnovers have been abnormally high over the last two weeks (averaging 15 per game since returning from Charleston), and, while Coach Boyle's system has never relied all that heavily on dishing dimes (CU was in the 250's nationally in Assist/FGM each of the previous two seasons), this year has been especially bad (A/FGM of 39.2, good for 341st nationally).

I just chalk it up as a product of an offense that emphasizes individual creativity, while still relying on underclassmen.  Juniors and seniors have dominated the backcourt in each of the previous two seasons, and it all may just be a factor of Nate Tomlinson withdrawal.  I would expect the assist-to-turnover number to improve as the year progresses, and the young players get used to their roles (especially Spencer at the point).  Essentially, I am unconcerned.

I'm also not overly concerned with the lack of production from the bench.  Sure, only 18% of team scoring has come from non-starters, and anyone paying attention can see the team gets drastically weaker when the starters are resting, but that drop-off from the front-line is not necessarily out of the norm.  Last year, bench scoring made up only a slightly higher 24% of total production, while the Burks/Higgins year featured only 17% scoring from the reserves. 

I just don't get the feeling that it matters in the long run. The reality is that Coach Boyle has never relied on a deep bench, with bench minutes staying largely consistent over the last three years (if trending downwards) - usually in the 26% range, good for about 250th nationally.  Boyle will try to get the reserves into the flow a little more over the next two games, but I think that's more a reaction to the level of opponent and time of year. 

Honestly, is anyone really clamoring for more of what currently resides on the bench?  That'll just result in repeat appearances of the dreadful Talton/Stalzer/Chen/Booker/Harris-Tunks lineup that has popped up recently.  God help me if I have to watch any more of that garbage. 

That just leaves free throw shooting.  Nothing is more aggravating than missed free throws, and that is especially true when you consider that CU is extremely dependent on production from the line.  To date, CU scores nearly 26% of its points from the free throw line (top-20 nationally), and is 5th in the country in FTA/FGA ratio.  With that level of dependency on makes from the line, a team average just over 66% is inexcusable. 

Outside of Josh Scott, who is shooting a very respectable 76%, everyone is under-performing.  Spencer is 8% off his average from last season, Ski is an even more depressing 14% off, and Andre Roberson, who I begged to get close to 70% in my season preview, is barely cracking 50% (even worse than his freshman campaign). 

Luckily, the free throw woes have yet to cost the Buffs a game, but they will if this keeps up. There's just no shrugging off 66% shooting from the line. 

Still, in spite of these deficiencies, the Buffs have an excellent chance to enter conference play at 10-2, leaving them in prime position for a third consecutive 20-win season, and yet another post-season run.  It's easy to forget, but the program also played excruciatingly inconsistent ball in the doldrums of non-conference play in both '10-'11 and '11-'12, only to explode once conference play began. To be in this position in mid-December should be very encouraging by itself.

In addition, CBS has CU with the 5th toughest schedule in the nation, which is not surprising when you consider that, as TZISK pointed out last night, CU opponents are 69-25 in games not against the Buffs, and five of the 10 opponents have received at least one AP vote this season.  That difficult schedule may have a lot to do with some of the head-scratching statistics that have emerged over the first 10 games.  The comfort and familiarity of Pac-12 play could release some of the pressure.

In retrospect, I should probably just shut up, trust in Tad, and be happy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: #DontWorryBeLappe

A hearty congratulations to the CU women, who reeled in the statement win the program has been looking for.  Linda Lappe has that program running on all cylinders.

Today in the bag, I'll be recapping the win over Louisville, discussing why I wasn't there to witness it, and taking a quick look around the nation of basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quick post: Fresno wrap

Shrugging off yet another inconsistent offensive performance, the Buffs trudged to a 50-43 win yesterday evening over the Fresno State Bulldogs.  It was a nice bounce back performance from the weekend's disastrous trip to Lawrence.  While not 'pretty,' the team got the job done, overcoming only one point from leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie, a pair of missed dunks, 18 turnovers, and 57% shooting from the free throw line to claim their first true road win of the season.

Of course, it helps when you have a monster like Andre Roberson patrolling the paint on both ends of the court.  He dropped 17/20 on FSU, notching the first 20-plus rebound performance for CU in over a decade.  If Coach Boyle is to be believed, he even did it all without boxing out once.  'Dre is a special player, and CU needed every ounce of his talent to overcome the feisty Bulldogs away from the CEC.
'Dre had a huge night when his team needed him the most.  From:
It's probably best to look away from the CU offense right now, which continues to sputter and stall like an under-serviced engine.  I'm going to choose, instead, to focus on the defensive effort.  Fresno was held to under 30% shooting, and, despite being handed those 18 turnovers, could only turn them into 10 points.  Defense won the day, a fact I'm sure Coach Boyle will be enthused about. 

I'd also like to snidely point out that the 43 points scored by the Fresno State basketball team is 12 points fewer then the FSU football team scored against CU in the first half of their game last September.  Maybe newly minted head football coach Mike MacIntyre should ask Tad to join his still forming staff as the defensive coordinator...
Coach Boyle knows defense.  From:
The Buffs will now enjoy eight days of rest before their next game: a home date against Northern Arizona on Dec 21st.  After that, it'll be another eight days before the final non-conference game tips-off against Hartford on the 29th.   It's an expended break the team could really use.  They've played the nation's 4th toughest schedule according to CBS, and look physically and mentally drained by the early slog.  Time for rest, recuperation, studying for finals, and practice.

Onwards, and upwards...


The annual CU non-conference road win was brought to you by Dr Andrew Maxwell: the world's first LASIK surgeon/international super-spy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Fresno State Basketball Teaser

Road woes have been the topic du jour for BasketBuffs this week, especially in light of last weekend's disastrous trip to Lawrence.  Of course, road struggles have long been a concern for almost all CU athletic programs, and the men's basketball team has been no different.

Even in the Coach Boyle era, CU has struggled away from the friendly confines of the Coors Events Center.  The non-conference road win list from the past two seasons looks like this: Cal St Bakersfield, and Air Force.  That's it, one per year.  Even then, that win over Air Force looked more like outright robbery than an actual victory, and the win over CSU-B was far from easy.  While conference play has been kinder - with wins over K-State, Texas Tech, USC, ASU, and Utah populating the record book - the point remains: the Buffs just aren't good in road games.

Which brings me to this evening.  On paper, a trip to play the Fresno St Bulldogs shouldn't be much of a problem for the Champions of Charleston.  However, with the Buffs' recent and extended road history, all bets are off.

Tip-off from the Save Mart Center (*sigh* that's an awful name) in Fresno, CA is set for 8pm MT, with radio coverage on AM760.  Unfortunately, there's no TV coverage, and your only remaining video option requires buying a $10 subscription to the FSU website.  (No, I haven't decided if it's worth it, yet.)


Hard-core followers of the Buffs from back in the Big XII days should recognize head coach of the Bulldogs: longtime Texas assistant Rodney Terry.  Known primarily at UT for his recruiting prowess (he helped bring stars like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, T.J. Ford, and Tristan Thompson to the Lone Star capital), he's tasked with the monumental challenge of bringing an underwhelming FSU program into the Mountain West, one of the country's best basketball conferences.
Terry brought Big XII cred to Fresno.
His first season in the Valley didn't go so well, with the Bulldogs struggling in their final season as a member of the WAC.  They went 3-11 in conference play, barely avoiding last place thanks to a truly horrific San Jose St squad. 

In response, Coach Terry ramped up recruiting efforts, landing a whale of a prospect in the form of top-50 player Robert Upshaw.  The 7-0, 250lb behemoth has yet to make a huge impact on the court, but his presence on the Bulldog roster is an eye-opener from multiple perspectives.

While Upshaw gets used to the collegiate game, the Bulldogs rely on a trio of 6-2 juniors to run the team:
 Kevin Olekaibe, Tyler Johnson, and Allen Huddelston. Olekaibe and Johnson combined for 37 points last year against the Buffs, helping the Bulldogs recover from a 15-point halftime deficit to make a close game out of what could have been a laugher.  Huddelston, a first-year transfer from Pacific, has been the Bulldog's leading scorer from the point this season, contributing 12 points per game.
Olekaibe gave CU fits last season. From: the BDC
All three would probably prefer to play off the ball, but size and simple roster math dictate one has to take the point.   That task has fallen to Huddelston, but that unnatural switch to running the offense has hurt the Bulldogs.  As a result, they only hand out 8.8 assists per game, good for 339th nationally.  That poor supply has especially stunted the once high-scoring Olekaibe.  After averaging nearly 18 points per game in '11-'12, he's only scored in double-figures twice this season.

The dysfunction in the backcourt was particularly evident in last month's 39-30 win over UC Riverside.  Using 56 possessions, that translates to a shockingly awful .66 ppp.  My head hurts just thinking about that.  The lesson, as always, is that point guard play is important.

Outside of the three guards, the Bulldog starting five is in near-permanent flux.  One player who should see extended minutes, while not necessarily a starter, is 6-8 sophomore forward Kevin Foster.  When on the court, the Florida native sees a ton of the ball, getting used on close to 27% of possessions.  He's a strong rebounder, with better percentages than 'Dre does this season (27.7% of defensive opportunities/13.5% of offensive), but his offensive touches are a drag on the team (84.1 ORtg).  He makes less than 30% of his two-point shots, which is downright criminal coming from a forward.
Foster's best attributes are not found on the offensive end.
Overall, Fresno St comes off as a pretty lousy shooting team (eFG under 44%), which relies on strong perimeter defense to keep themselves in games.  They've been holding opponents to under 27% shooting from beyond the arc, with a scant 18.4% of opponents points coming from outside makes (the national average is around 27%)  The Buffs will have to get interior penetration, and get foul calls to win this game.


It was pointed out to me by friend of the blog Matthew Robbins that I've been quick to pick against CU this season.  I'll show you Bups; I am nothing if not rebellious, so, K-BOOSH, pickin' the Buffs!

CU should matchup well with the guard-heavy Bulldog rotation.  If the Buffs can get anywhere near the trips to the free throw line they received last year (32, making 27), they should be just fine.  Additionally, I expect Josh Scott and Andre Roberson will have a nice game against the FSU front-court.

So, I'll go out on a limb, and take the Buffs to get their annual non-conference road win this evening.  What's more, I'll say our hoops heroes hold the Bulldogs to fewer points than their football-playing compatriots managed to do this past September.

CU 67 - FSU 62


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Mike MacIntyre

Alright, time to talk myself into yet another football coach.

After two weeks of searching - and a few misleads - the Buffs finally have their new coach.  Welcome aboard Mike MacIntyre! No, not the dopey British comedian -- the dude from San Jose State. (Yep, San Jose State.  Deal with it.)  For $2 million per year in salary, another $2.6 million for the staff, and upwards of $200 million in facilities improvement commitments, I hope you're worth all the trouble.
Well, we're movin' on up!  From:
So, what are we to make of this, the third CU coach in three seasons?  On the surface, Coach Mac v. 2.0 seems eerily similar to Dan Hawkins.  Blond, bowl-cut, success in the WAC, press calling him a 'home run,' a son who apparently plays QB. (Hell, to my ear, he even sounds a little like him) Dig a little deeper, however, and he appears as a completely different coach.

Mike comes from a very respected coaching tree, having learned under the great Bill Parcels, while toiling for the Dallas Cowboys.  He also has experience recruiting in the SEC (Ole Miss), and received national recognition for his work as Duke's defensive coordinator in '09.  His extended resume is solid on multiple levels, and far deeper than either of his recent predecessors.

What's more, he's also not a 'program' hire. His success at SJSU wasn't built upon the backs of others, or dependent on a pre-built foundation.  He took over a truly awful San Jose State program, one that was on the verge of dissolution, and dragged them from one win to 10 wins in only three seasons. 
"The San Jose State football program definitely does offer special hurdles -- some would call them obstacle courses with brick walls topped by barbed wire -- compared to others in the top tier of college football. It is why the Spartans have had only three winning seasons in the past 20 years."   (-link)
Anyone with a pulse would admit that, while coaching at CU can be a golden opportunity, it also presents a peculiar set of challenges.  MacIntyre, through his time building at SJSU, is familiar with how to work around road blocks, and seems as seasoned as any in the gritty work of building something out of nothing.

His victories at SJSU were not won through gimmicks, they were hard fought, and well earned.  Coach MikeMac knows what it's like to dig into a rough situation, and make headway quickly. That's something that neither Hawk nor Embree could claim heading into the CU job.
He won at SJSU, which many thought was an impossibility.
Hell, he even knows a thing or two about beating up on CSU!  What's not to like?

There are some red flags.  Most alarming is that his renaissance at San Jose State came during a period where the WAC disintegrated to the point that there was little legitimate competition to challenge the Spartans this season.  That's about as far from BCS as you can get.  Additionally, during his introductory press conference, he openly admitted to knowing nothing about the current roster or recruiting targets.  His practical head-coaching resume is soft, and he is a Colorado neophyte.

But, beyond that, he seems like a solid hire, a man with a plan, who's ready to do the hard work required to save this sinking ship.  He sounds like the kind of guy who will bring in real culture change.  Not just platitudes, or the unearthing of antiquated tradition.  Real, honest-to-God, culture change.

Of course, this could be another case of smoke and mirrors, another trap door ready to plunge this beleaguered program into another abyss.  It would take a fool to be blindly optimistic about the prospects of this program, considering what has transpired over the last decade. 

In the end, however, I'm a Buff.  I'll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any man who wants to take a swing.  Butch Jones was uncomfortable with the effort required to step up to the plate, Jon Embree wasn't capable of standing upright in the box when the pitch came in, and Dan Hawkins swung and missed at a bad curveball in the dirt.  The Buffs are down to their last strike, with two outs, and a runner on first.  Can Mac 2.0 start a two-out rally all by himself?

'I'm ready for this -- how about you?'


"Sounds... seems" 

We're all guessing here.  I don't know if MikeMac is the guy, anymore than his detractors know that he isn't.  For what it's worth, I expect him to be gone in four years - one way, or the other (an SEC guy isn't going to become a Boulder lifer, afterall).  

The point is this: he's about as good a hire as could be made in this situation.  Despite big-money, above-market offers to coaches like Charlie Strong, Butch Jones, and Dan Mullen, no one in a comfortable situation wanted to come here.  If there was any doubt that CU sat on a shaky foundation before, the whining baby routine played by the Buffs4Life crew in recent weeks cemented that opinion, and poisoned the hiring well.  As a result, anyone still out there whining that Mike Bohn didn't land a whale is just being childishly unrealistic (*cough* Alfred Williams *cough*).

The media in this town spent the last two weeks telling the whole world how buffoonish and lousy the CU AD was, and then complained when no one wanted to jump into the situation.  How did you expect this would play out?  You're part of the problem!

No, the Denver/Boulder media doesn't owe a damn thing to CU.  But it does serve their interests for the Buffs to be a vibrant, competitive product. Bashing what goes down up on the Hill will spike the needle for a few days, but nothing generates hits, viewers, and readers like a winner.  I'm not saying that the media needs to be beholden to the Buffs - certainly, call them out for their shit when appropriate - but they need to understand their role in helping this dying program save itself from extinction.

You all may now go back to forgetting about the Buffs, and return to your regular all-Broncos-all-the-time format.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Thank you sir, may I have another?

Well, that sucked.  I didn't expect the Buffs to win in Lawrence, but I did expect them to keep their head afloat for at least a little while.  Those hopes were dashed less than two minutes into the game, as KU set about handing the Buffs an all-time ass-kicking.

Today in the bag, I'm touching on the loss in Lawrence,  recapping my trip into the belly of the beast, and welcoming the new football coach to Boulder.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Kansas basketball preview

I'm quick to tell the story of my freshman year, when a determined CU squad nipped the #6 Kansas Jayhawks at the CEC 60-59 (somewhere, Kirk Hinrich is still missing layups). The quote from Stephane Pelle was apt, "We hadn't beaten Kansas in something like 11 years and 11 months. To do what people say is impossible is great."  The fans rushed, the Jayhawk horde that had invaded the CEC filed out in silence, and I cried while playing the alma mater.   It was a good night.
Michel Morandais and the '02-'03 did what was long-thought impossible.  From: ESPN
Of course, the sad continuation of that story is that CU has yet to duplicate that feat in the subsequent near-decade.  By tip off Saturday, it will have been nine years, 10 1/2 months since that win, with CU going 0-18 against Kansas over that period.  Bagging Kansas has become the unobtainable, the picture of Big Foot, the winning lottery combination.  The impossible.

I would never go so far as to say that CU and KU are rivals.  For almost the entirety of their existence they've excelled at different things.  But, just like how CU looked to Nebraska in the '80s for their pursuit of respectability, I've always looked at KU as the gold standard for where I'd like to see CU hoops end up.  From that perspective, there's nothing I want more than a win over those guys.  It keeps me awake at night, it's what drove me to start writing this blog in the first place.

And that's why I was so excited when this home-and-home series was announced.  I just want one more win over the Jayhawks.  Just one more.  I don't care if it comes this year in Lawrence, or next year in Boulder.  I just can't stand that series to end on a 0-18 note.

Pretty please, with gumdrops and sugar?


That place... is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go. 

After all those years seething at the numbers of KU fans invading the CEC each winter, I'm finally able to return the favor.  That's right, this afternoon I'm hopping in the car, and high-tailing it eastwards.  I'm chasing the dragon of a CU win over Kansas all the way to Lawrence. 

I must have lost my mind, because the Buffs haven't pulled the road shocker in the Sunflower State since 1983, over a year before I was born.  That win is so ancient and forgotten that doesn't even have it on the '83 schedule.  (BTW, the Buffs also beat Duke that year.  The '80s were weird). Yet, here I go, ready to drive into the home of the invader.

Making history won't be easy.  Kansas doesn't get their reputation for nothing, afterall.  KU hasn't lost a true home game since UT cruised past them in 2010, and hasn't lost to a visiting non-conference opponent since Oral Roberts, of all schools, shocked them in 2006.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that they're due for a shakeup...

Tip-off from historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse is set for high noon MT.  Coverage is set for ESPN2, with Mark Johnson and the radio broadcast set for 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

CSU wrap

"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)

When "the Mayor" speaks, everyone should listen.  His pregame statement - all but guaranteeing victory, calling CSU "little brother," and shaming them for rushing the court last season - was hasty, but I have to give the man credit: he backs up his words with actions.  The Buffs did win (70-61), Spencer was the primary reason for the victory, and the C-Unit did not rush the court to celebrate the win.
The C-Unit was in fine form yesterday.  From: the BDC
That last bit, the C-Unit not rushing the court, was certainly a statement.  Not only did they not rush, but I didn't even see a crush of students trying to rush.  All 2,500 students just stood there cheering; while happy, they could've been celebrating any win over a strong opponent.  Nothing special, moving on.  I hope the 50 or so CSU students who made the trip got the message.

If not for a blistering start, however, things may have turned out differently. CU rushed out to a quick 9-0 lead, which set the tone for the game's first 20 minutes.  What turned out to be a record-setting crowd of 11,708 created an electric atmosphere that propelled the Buffs to a 25-point lead with 93 seconds to go in the first frame.  The Buffs could seemingly do no wrong, and CSU looked completely out-of-sorts playing in the environment. At the break, the Buffs were shooting 60%, while the Rams could only scrape together 30% shooting from the field.  The game was threatening to become a rout.

Half-time couldn't have come soon enough for the Rams.  They used the break to settle down, and they came out of the tunnel looking like the quality team they are.  A quick 8-1 run to open the 2nd half got their blood pumping, and a 10-0 run at the 10-minute mark cut the 20-point halftime deficit all the way down to three.

But all that effort to close the gap came at a price.  For almost the entire second half the Rams had been throwing their starters at the lead, and they were exhausted.  In contrast, since the Buffs were so far ahead, Coach Boyle was afforded the opportunity the find adequate rest for his starters.  At the six and a half minute mark, when CSU closed the gap to three, Coach Boyle put his fresh starters back into the game, and CU responded with a 9-1 run which all but slammed the door on the Rams.  Despite seven missed CU free throws in the final three minutes, there was no coming back, and the Buffs walked away with a nine-point win.

The big individual story was, of course, the play of Spencer Dinwiddie.  The term "on fire" doesn't even begin to describe his performance last night. When CU roared out to that blistering first half start, it was Dinwiddie that keyed the runs.  When CU struggled in the second half to hold off the charging Rams, it was Dinwiddie who answered with clutch buckets to keep the Buffs afloat. All told, 8-10 shooting from the field, 5-7 from beyond the arc, and 8-10 from the line.  The sensational sophomore point guard dropped 29 points on little brother to carry CU to a much-needed win.
It was Spencer's night from the opening tip.  From: the BDC
He made it sound so simple after the game:
"I just hit my shots. When shots go in, you'll score. It was more the way they were playing defense. I have the utmost confidence in my three-point shot. They continued to squeeze the ball screen so the big man stayed right behind our big man, then the guy who was guarding me tried to go under two people. When you're shorter than me and you're trying to go under two people and then you're trying to come back around and close out the shot, the likelihood that he is going to get to the shot is very low. So, I just tried to stop behind my big man and just pull up and have faith they weren't going to be able to get to the shot."
I guess we just have to thank CSU for not adjusting on the screens.  But, considering how well Spencer has been playing of late, I don't know how much of a difference those adjustments would've made.  Since returning from Charleston, he's been averaging 23 points per game, while boasting a triple-slash line of 58%/56%/80%.  That's some serious work.

As hot as Spencer has been this past fortnight, however, his back-court partner Askia Booker has been equally as cold.  An ugly 3-point attempt in the opening minutes yesterday evening miraculously banked in, but after that it was all downhill for the Charleston Classic MVP.  He shot only 2-11 from the field, and even struggled from the line, shooting a paltry 1-of-5 from the charity stripe. It's his second-straight brutally cold performance.
Dude needs a slumpbuster, fast.  From: the BDC
Since coming back from Charleston, Ski has been mired in a slump.  Over the last four games he's only shooting 25% from the field.  As a result, I think it's high time that we introduce him to the concept of a "slumpbuster."  My dude, call up an escort service. Ask for the fattest, ugliest working girl they have, and - remember to wrap it up, of course - get it out of your system.

Turning to the front-court, super forward Andre Roberson had a great game.  He provided yet another double-double (his fourth straight) with his 15/14 performance.  With CSU rebounding as well as they can, for 'Dre to come down with 14 boards speaks volumes.
A day after his 21st birthday, 'Dre played like the top-flight forward he is.  From: the BDC
Yesterday evening also saw the return of Shane Harris-Tunks from hibernation.  This was a matchup tailor-made for the big Aussie.  Against big Ram front man Colton Iverson, Shane's bulk was sorely needed on defense.  Shane's performance on the defensive end allowed him to build confidence, which translated to the other side of the court, where he chipped in seven points to round out his evening.  With talismanic freshman Josh Scott struggling to gain traction against the bulky CSU front line, Shane's efforts were vital to the cause.

All-in-all, yesterday evening made for a great night of Front Range hoops.  The crowd was excellent, both teams played well, and the Buffs won.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  The weekend trip to Kansas looms large, however, and the Buffs will need to play more like they did in the first half, and less like they did in the second, if they have any hope of upsetting the #9 Jayhawks.

Onwards and upwards...

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...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The day the Denver media lost their minds

Somewhere along the last 48 hours, everyone in the Denver/Boulder media lost their minds.  They were at one point, I'm assured, professional journalists, capable and willing to do a solid job covering local interest stories.  Then CU decided to bring Butch Jones in for an interview, and give a go at respecting his privacy by limiting pictures, per a request from the man himself.  Every ounce of self respect was immediately thrown out the window.

It all started when Butch arrived on a plane from Cincinnati. CU had the plane diverted to a separate part of the airport to avoid the assembled press.  Fair enough.  But then, a camera crew from 9News went full stalker.  They tracked down the escaping SUV, and proceeded to shoot, edit, and broadcast the creepiest  video in the history of coaching searches.

Can you imagine the scene?  Bohn stops the car to talk, the 9News van slides up next to them, and the conversation goes down with some idiot cameraman pressed up against the window, like some voyeur paparazzi straining to land footage of a partying royal.  Ridiculous.

Not to be outdone, once at the stadium, the circling press, rabid for something to report, began taking spy photos of the interview being held at Folsom Field.
Can we make the picture grainier?  Maybe make it black & white?  From: the Post
That's some serious Soviet-era shit going down right there.  What's next, microfilm hidden in a church pew?

But, everyone saved the best for last.  Someone at the athletic department decided to get creative with Coach Jones' exit from Folsom.  In order to get him out privately, they literally had two employees move a giant food warmer between him and the cameras to obscure his dash to the car.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
We've gone to plaid.... From: the BDC
Of course, that immediately brought to mind this scene from GoldenEye:

Grown adults - men with degrees from prestigious institutions, and holders of large piles of both cash and respect - devolved into running and hiding from gumshoe journalists who had watched Tinker, Taylor, Solider, Spy one too many times.  Over a damn football coach, potentially about to be hired onto a floundering program.  Did I take crazy pills Sunday night?

I give up.  Can someone please turn this into a movie script?  It's beyond the pale.
All that bullshit for this lame picture?  From: The BDC
In all, Coach Jones spent nearly nine hours in Boulder, more than double the time he spent visiting Purdue.  What that means going forward is anyone's guess, as he's still deciding.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Grab Bag: Dealing with an imperfect record

You knew this team had to drop one sooner or later, and I even predicted a loss Saturday evening, but that doesn't lessen the pain any.  On the bright side, this is only CU's second loss in thirteen games.  I'll live with the pain of losing on that schedule.

Today in the bag, I'm recapping the trip to Laramie, talking Butch Jones, and swinging around the world of football.

Click below for the bag...