Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Bring on the Pac-12!

Over the next two weeks, you may notice that the basketball band has a decidedly... older flare to it.  That's because, for the third year in a row, the band is graciously allowing a few alums, including yours truly, to join the group for some of the games over break.

I'm very excited to get an opportunity to play my tuba once again at the CEC, and look forward to filling the old arena with whatever sound I can still muster.  I am not, however, excited to perform the traditional tuba cheer.  It's an act that was meant for younger knees than mine, and I ask for your patience as I bumble through.

Still, if you're going to be in attendance for either the Oregon State and Oregon men's games, or the Cal and Stanford women's games, give a look out for the fat tuba player who is clearly too old for this shit.  That would be me.  Also, if you're taking odds on whether or not I fall over, put me down for $20 on 'does not.' I still got a (very) little game.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the big win over Georgia, how CU looks to start out Pac-12 play, and the goings on in week 17 of the NFL

Click below for the bag...

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013-14 Georgia Basketball Teaser

I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday break.  For the Buffs, the sting of a neutral court loss to top-10 power Oklahoma State must be short-lived.  There's no shame in losing by five to the Cowboys, regardless of situation.  With only one minor hurdle standing between Colorado and the conclusion of a successful run through non-conference play, it's imperative that the team maintains focus, and complete the task at hand.

That hurdle is, of course, the Georgia Bulldogs, who come to the CEC Saturday night.  Not a traditional basketball power, Georgia has been putting some talent in the NBA the last few years without much on-court success to show for it.  This year, at least from what I can tell, they're still mired in inconsistent, ineffective basketball. They've lost every game played against a team of consequence, while narrowly avoiding defeat in recent games against Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina.  Blech.
The Bulldogs continue to be a forgettable basketball program under Mark Fox.
The departure of star wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Association has left the Athens, GA cupboard bare of 'names.'  With him out of the mix, head coach Mark Fox (once a mid-major darling at Nevada) has had to turn to a more balanced attack, as four Bulldogs average in double-figures this season.  Key on that list is 6-5 sophomore guard Charles Mann, who averages 13/3/3. Mann leads the team in scoring, free throws and assists, but negates much of his skill in attacking the rim (top 50 in FT rate and fouls drawn/40 minutes) by shooting under 70% from the line.

Beyond Mann, Georgia gets its scoring from Kenny Gaines, Nemanja Djurisic, and Brandon Morris. Djurisic is probably the most intriguing of this bunch, as he posts an offensive rating in the low 130s.  I also like his ability, with his 6-8, 230 frame, to attack off the dribble.  The Montenegran is coming off the bench, but make no mistake, he's a big part of the Bulldog attack.
Djurisic is an interesting talent off the bench.  From: ESPN
In spite of the balance, I don't see a lot of danger from Georgia offensively.  Not only do they eschew taking advantage of the three-point line (less than 18% of scoring comes from beyond the arc, near the national basement), but they take a lot of two-point jumpers (nearly 38% of attempts, nine points over the national average) which is the sign of a poorly-organized offensive effort.  Mid-range jumpers, while wistful reminders of an era long passed, are the most inefficient shot in the modern game.  The more you take, proportionally, the less efficient you are, and the easier you are to beat.

Take for example the case of starting forward Marcus Thornton.  A bulky 6-8, 235lb athlete, Thornton should be attacking the rim at every opportunity.  Instead, he's taking nearly 40% of his shots as two-point jumpers, ceding much of his size advantage out of the gate.  As a result, his offensive rating is in the mid-80s, and the Bulldogs aren't as potent as they could be.
Jump shots from Thornton are slashing his statistical value.  From: ESPN
It's statistical cracks like this that have me shaking my head, and blithely disregarding Georgia.  The fact that tomorrow night will be their first true road game of the season makes me even less convinced of their ability to compete with the Buffs.  Sure, maybe they'll jump up and bite Colorado in a moment of weakness and distraction, but I doubt it.  Even a marginal effort should get CU win number 11 tomorrow.  Probably by a comfortable margin, too.

Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 8pm on Saturday.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.


Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Oklahoma State Basketball Preview

The final leg of the Big XII revenge tour brings our heroes to Las Vegas for a nationally televised tilt with Oklahoma State.  It's a little different from the other two old school rivalry games already played this season. While the brawls with Baylor and KU were matchups that held plenty of external purpose for the fanbase, playing OSU means... well, relatively little outside of practical basketball realities (RPI, rankings, public perception).  No players in a Colorado uniform have ever even played against OSU.  Whatever rivalry there may have been will not define the narrative tomorrow night; the Cowboys may as well be a really good Big East or ACC team.  Baylor and KU was for the fans.  CU/OSU is for the players.  This is a statement game, the final opportunity for the #20 Buffaloes to make some national noise before conference play starts.

The other difference between the BU and KU games and what we'll watch tomorrow is setting.  Against Baylor, the young Buffs had yet to find their sea legs, and were fighting a tough team on, essentially, their home turf.  Of course, the setting for the Kansas game, taking place at the roiling cauldron that is the Coors Events Center, was the definition of home court advantage.  In (Las) Vegas, we'll see the team on a true neutral court against a very difficult opponent under the national spotlight.  If you have any remaining questions about this team, they'll be answered at the MGM Grand.

It certainly won't be easy.  Oklahoma State is rightly considered a top-10 team, possessing some of the best talent in the country, with a solid chance of making a Final Four this season.  That's not to say CU is completely out-classed, however.  In fact, we in BuffNation need to get used to the fact that the program belongs on this stage.  These are the kinds of games great programs play in, and expect to win.  It's not a fluke or mistake that CU is in the marquee game of a nationally televised weekend showcase, after all; the Buffs belong here. It's time for Colorado to take advantage, and enjoy the spotlight.


Tip off the MGM Grand Garden Arena is set for 9:30pm MT tomorrow evening.  So, if you, like me, will be in the Eastern Time Zone at tip-off, it's going down at 11:30 at night.  Woof.  I'mma need some coffee... Anyways, coverage can be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick Post: The year in HOLY SHIT

When friend of the blog Adam Butler of says he wants some words about the state of Colorado Basketball, my only response is and ever will be 'sure, how many do you want?' This time, he's put a collaborative column together highlighting the year in Pac-12 HOLY SHIT, which makes a lot more sense when you read his introduction. I highly encourage everyone to hop over to his site, and check it out.

My contribution, covering Askia's Miracle, is re-posted below.


If safeties-free, all-balls performances like 17 points as a freshman in the NCAA Tournament, or a sizzling domination of a non-conference run in Charleston as a sophomore didn’t let you in on the secret, let me clue you in: Askia Booker was born to get buckets. Important buckets. Season-defining buckets.

So, when Kansas, dominator of all things Colorado Basketball for generations, makes the mistake of getting into a see-saw affair in the snake-pit-that-Tad-built, who else could CU turn to with the game on the line? Not Josh Scott. He’s too smooth, too nice. Not Spencer Dinwiddie. He’s too conventional, too ‘efficient.’

No, you need insanity. You need a player with no conscience, no understanding of the stage upon which he steps. You need, to be brash, a player who does not give a fuck.

Askia Booker does not give a fuck. Askia Booker gets buckets.

And so, 80-feet from the basket, with three seconds left on the clock against that team, the under-recruited dynamo from South LA - off-center goatee, and all - was the player in silver getting the ball.

One dribble, two. Still too far from the hoop. Better euro-step to cover some ground. Square up, leap, let fly.

Watch the gif. Count the fucks given by Booker. There are none to be found. After release, he just stands there, as if waiting for the oncoming train of noise. Waiting for us, the fans, to realize what he has just pulled off. He was born to hit that shot. He was born to euro-step into that shot.

Almost four years ago, Colorado was in a similar situation against the hated Jayhawk. Clock ticking down, tie game, ball in hand, CU had a shot to stun the #1 team in the land in the time-before-Tad. In that moment, it was Cory Higgins who was called upon. Higgins, the program’s co-leader in scoring, wasn’t up to the moment, and air-balled his dance with history. Looking back, it all makes since

Booker is everything that Higgins is not. Higgins was calm, cool, collected. Indeed, sophisticated. James Bond in shorts. Booker is the junkyard dog, barking at everything in sight. John McClane in Black and Gold. Higgins may have been more talented, but Booker has the want, the need to hoop. The balls to steal headlines from future NBA bonus babies. The grit to walk across broken glass when needed.

I could twist myself in knots talking about how the game, the win, the shot meant something for Colorado, for Booker. In the end, there’s nothing but the inbounds, the euro-step, and the pure, un-adulterated brashness of Ski and his moment.

Bucket gotten.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: On cruise control

Christmas break is just around the corner, which means a slight disruption to my already abbreviated blogging schedule.  I'll have a preview up later this week for the Oklahoma State game, and a short recap Sunday morning, but there will be no Grab Bag next week, as I will be out and about for the holiday.  After coverage of the OSU game, my next post will be a teaser for the Georgia game on or around December 27th.


Today in the bag, I'm wrapping up the Elon game, talking expectations, and taking a stroll around the nation of basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Elon Basketball Teaser

I've been worried about this game for a while.  Sure, #21 CU vs tiny Elon, with the Buffs fresh off of a win over Kansas, doesn't look like much of a challenge.  An upset looks even more far-fetched when you check out Elon's 2013-14 results, and notice losses to Canisius and DII power Metro State (woof).  But, I think there's a real danger here.

CU played in two highlight games last week, taking on the Rams up in a hostile Moby Arena before stunning KU at the buzzer in an electric Coors Events Center.  Even if the CEC is packed tomorrow, the atmosphere will be nowhere near what the team played in last week, and there's obvious letdown potential.  Keep in mind that the Buffs struggled with emotional see-saws last season, taking bad losses after emotional highs @CSU, @'Zona, vs the San Fran squads, vs Arizona, @Stanford, and vs Oregon.  CU will have to find a way to keep the blood pumping tomorrow night, or risk a humiliating performance.
From the emotional high against Kansas to a mid-December game against Elon is a steep drop.
More than that, however, the veteran Elon Phoenix do some things that will frustrate the Buffs.  They give up the offensive glass (349th in offensive rebounding rate), in part to cut down on transition buckets (not always successfully), they don't allow assisted baskets (1st in the nation in defensive A/FGM ratio), and they have a trio of shooter who can rain down threes if the defense is soft on the perimeter.  Doing those three things well - slowing transition, limiting assists, and pouring it in from beyond the arc - is the roux at the heart of any underdog's recipe for beating Colorado.

In that vein, BuffNation, let me introduce you to Tanner Samson.  The 6-4 sophomore guard out of Littleton is one of the nation's most efficient shooters, boasting an offensive rating above 150 on an eFG of 80%. Guarding him inside of 20-ft is superfluous (he has only taken six two pointers all season), but, OH MY, can he knock down a shot.  With confidence, too.  Said Samson, “If they leave me open and I can get my shot off, I’m ready to shoot. The gun’s loaded.” He's shooting 56% on his 54 threes taken this season, and has major pain-in-the-ass potential.  The Buffs need to find a way to buck the trend, and deny him the ball, since, with 90% of those threes coming on assisted plays, he's not going to create his own shot.
CU may want to guard him. From: the Burlington Times-News
Other than Samson, the Phoenix starting five features two other strong shooters that need to be watched. Swing Forward Sebastian Koch combines a 6-8 frame with 41% shooting from deep, and point guard Austin Hamilton has shown very efficient rates (72% eFG) in limited attempts (only 49 shots on the year). Both share the ball well, to boot, and create chances on the perimeter to leverage their strong shooting.

Still, even with those outside shooting dynamos, the Phoenix run things through their frontline of Lucas Troutman (first team All-SoCon) and Ryley Beaumont.  Both have shot rates in the high 20s, and the pair combine for 28/10 each night.  Overall, the Phoenix return their top-eight players from a year ago, and, even with a tough start to the season, are a good bet to grab an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These guys are no push-over, even if you've never heard of them.

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th, so expect some weirdness.  Still, there's no reason that CU can't, at least, pull out an ugly one against the Phoenix.  All I'm asking for is a 'W,' the details are less important than the top-line result.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6:30pm tomorrow evening.  This is your last chance to catch the team in Boulder prior to Christmas, so make sure you're in attendance to give the team a send-off to Las Vegas.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Askia's Miracle

I have to give BuffNation credit, they did their job in keeping the CEC Black and Gold on Saturday.  There were some patches of KU fans, even a small block in one corner, but nothing even close to years past when the split between Buffs and Jayhawks was 50-50 (or worse).  If you pressed me for a number, I'd put it slightly over 1,000, or about 10% of the stadium, which is just fantastic when you consider the university is contractually obligated to give them 250 seats to start with.  It was a Colorado crowd on Saturday. Allen Fieldhouse West is now dead and forgotten.
My view. Note the lack of blue dots.


Today in the bag, I'm talking Askia's Miracle, some women's hoops, and wrapping up the women's volleyball campaign.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, December 6, 2013

UPDATED: 2013 Kansas Basketball Preview

"I will hurt you for this. I don't know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you'll know the debt is paid." - Tyrion Lannister

The Kansas Jayhawks.  The gold-standard by which every Big 8/Big XII basketball team has ever been measured.  Colorado may have left the old conference affiliation behind, but it still means something to see that logo, and those fucking fans, come to town.  The pain, the suffering of being a die-hard Colorado Basketball fan was never more prevalent than those nights when CU hosted KU.  Sure, there was a chance to make a few minor headlines, but, for the most part, it was a humbling exhibition of just how far the program was from respectability.

Only driving home that point was the thousands of Jayhawk fans who would pack the CEC each and every year.  It was an exhibition for them, an opportunity to lustily cheer for their team on the cheap.  They owned the building, and they made it known.  Suddenly, those patrons who had been sleeping through games against UMES and Stetson showed up in blue and red, and rubbed it in that they were members of the chosen fanbase.  That BuffNation wasn't worthy of even witnessing their pure version of the sport.  For good measure, a few rounds of that fucking chant on their way out the door ended all doubt.

I have been (im)patiently waiting for this game since the day it was announced (BLOOD AND REVENGE!). After years of frustration and humiliation, it seemed like one last chance to slay the mythical beast before he escaped for good. To spite those fans for punking the slow kid at the back of the basketball class.  Kansas is coming back to altitude... willingly!  And we no longer suck!  Could I be so lucky?!

Now, on the eve of that game I've been waiting for, and just under 4,000 days after CU's last victory over the blue-bloods of blue-bloods, one plea dominates my mind: don't let this opportunity slip away. Don't let that team and those fans get away clean.  Last year doesn't matter, the 39-122 history of this series doesn't matter.  Just win this one, please.

I'm not saying that CU can win, or that they will win.  I'm saying they must win.  The program needs this monkey off it's back to make a national statement that this is no fluke, that this program is for real.  A win tomorrow night will define this era of growth, with CU basketball fans in futures as of yet unimagined speaking of 12/7/2013 the way CU football fans today speak of 10/25/1986.  This is a new era, a new program - it deserves a capstone.  I don't care how, get it done.


Don't get frustrated when you see Kansas fans tomorrow.  Even with the season ticket sellout and the measures taken to stem the red and blue tide from slipping into the CEC, those assholes are still going to do their 'Jayhawk' thing and eat up seats.  A $200 after-market ticket to CU/KU at the CEC is still a cheaper  proposition for many local KU fanatics than a trip to Lawrence and a ticket to the Phog.  Still, if you have a ticket, but now don't think you can make, you better not sell it to some Jayhawk.  If you do, You might find an angry man with a pitchfork on your doorstep.  Do your duty, and sell to a Buff.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 1:15 on Saturday.  The C-UNIT has designated this as a BLACKOUT GAME, so wear the appropriate vestments.  It may be cold outside, but gym will be warm and toasty. Coverage for those unable to find a ticket can be found on ESPN2.  Mark Johnson and the radio call are on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quick Post: CSU Wrap

The Buffs were shaky Tuesday night in Fort Collins.  They were out-rebounded (40-38, including an allowed 16 offensive boards), incapable of hitting a three-pointer (3-19 beyond the arc), and posted a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (9:14).  Still, somehow, they came up with the victory.

How?  How else?  Behind a Mayor-like performance from the great Spencer Dinwiddie.

Try this on for size, little brother: 28 points (19 of them coming in the second half), 11-11 from the line, four assists, two rebounds, two steals, and zero turnovers.  Add that to his 29-point performance from a year ago, and Spencer owns this series in a way that has to burn the few CSU fans knowledgeable to enough to notice (Seriously, how were the Ram students not booing him every time he touched the ball? That's student section 101).  That's a platform of results that should keep the Mayor in office for as long as he wants the job.
YOU-CAN'T-GUARD-HIM *clap**clap**clap-clap-clap* From: the BDC
Dinwiddie is the troll this series deserves; a player who not only runs his mouth to stoke the passions, but who emphatically backs up his talk to keep his team in the win column.  You know, like what Bradlee Van Pelt (fuck him) was for the Rams in football.  With Dinwiddie presumably turning pro in April, we might have seen the last of him against those in green and gold, but at least he went out with a bang.

Still, the cold reality is that the Buffs, outside of Spencer's heroics, did not play well enough to claim victory. In front of a hostile gym, they drew far too much iron from open looks, were too soft with the ball in many situations, and played below their true talent level.  If they had lost, it would be a rough pill to swallow. However, CU found a way to win an ugly game, against a tough team, in an intense atmosphere.   A good sign of the developing maturity of this still-young roster.  That it was freshman like Dustin Thomas (five offensive rebounds), Wesley Gordon (held scorer JJ Avila to 4-19 shooting), and, especially, Jaron Hopkins (10 points, including back-to-back threes that tilted momentum for good) that had the best non-Dinwiddie performances of the evening only furthers the 'growing-up' narrative.

Bigger fish to fry, of course, so there is no time to savor the eighth belt-notch of the campaign.  MF'n Kansas comes to town, and it will require more than the Buffs have shown to date to bag one of the biggest wins in program history.  They've got three days to prepare, I hope they take full advantage.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 CSU Basketball Teaser

Hey, remember that 2012-13 CSU team that was actually a little fun to watch?  You know, the one that won 26 games, earned an 8-seed in the NCAA Tournament, managed to beat Missouri (big ups on that one), and played feisty, combative basketball from November through their season-ending defeat at the hands of the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinals?

Well, I hope you got a good look, because that team is gone.  Like, completely gone.  Like, 'who the hell are these guys in green, and what'd they do with the Rams?' gone.
Ram-boy misses Pierce Hornung.
That '12-'13 team was built on the backs of five senior starters that dominated minutes and production.  All told, the since-graduated Colton Iverson (fuck him), Greg Smith, Dorian Green, Wes Eikmeier, and Pierce Hornung combined to provide 81% of scoring, 70% of rebounding, 79% of assists, and 75% of minutes last season.  More than that, the quintet brought with them a veteran grit and determination to the court each and every night.  Hornung, especially, was a pain in the ass of any opponent, with scoring and rebounding rates that defied his appearance (slovenly) and athleticism (questionable).  Without Hornung and the other four, it's an entirely new team in Ft Collins, one that looks nowhere near as imposing (at least, on paper) as they have in previous seasons.

Coach Larry Eustachy - incidentally, one of the better coaches in the West - would have you believe that it's not that big of a deal, that the Rams are ready to 'reload.'  Indeed, even without injured veteran guards Jesse Carr and Dwight Smith, there is still some interesting talent on this team.  Bulky forward J.J Avila, a transfer from the Naval Academy, is putting up big numbers this season (19/6), and the backcourt duo of Daniel Bejarano and Jon Octeus are both good ball-handlers (both in the national top-100 in TO-rate, Rams are overall national #1 in the category), serviceable scorers (combine for 27 points/game) and smart rebounders (both listed as 6-4, yet combine for 13 boards per night).  Beyond them, however, the bench is a lackluster combination of shallow and inexperienced.
Avila has my attention.
To date, the thee big guns - Avila, Bejarano, and Octeus - have been potent enough to lead the team to a nice 6-2 record.  Their most recent effort, a last-second, resume-boosting win over a difficult New Mexico St squad, is indicative of their capabilities.  Avila, particularly, had a huge game, dropping 29 points on 11-17 shooting, while Bejarano contributed a strong 11/15 double-double.  I'm not kidding, those three are legit talents that the Buffs need to be worried about.  Had Carr and Smith stayed healthy, this team would be real dangerous, even without the big-five from last season.

Of course, it wouldn't be a CU/CSU game without Spencer Dinwiddie opening his mouth.  Last season, the silky point guard dropped the old 'little brother' tag, while predicting a win and a 30-point night.  To his credit, he backed up his swag by doing just that - scoring 29 points and leading the Buffs to a rout of 'little brother' - but I'd just as soon see the CSU bulletin board stay clear of material.  I get the feeling that Spencer was more mindful of the microphones in front of him this year; while he did provide some kindling (reminding everyone how the Buffs 'smacked' the Rams around in December of 2012), he avoided any predictions or grandstanding to fuel the fire.  Good for him, the Rams don't need any help ginning up motive for victory.

Tonight is a big game for multiple reasons.  With Kansas on the horizon, it's important that Colorado stays focused on the task at hand, and continue to build the non-conference resume.  Additionally, it'll be the team's first test in front of a truly hostile environment (Lord knows the CSU students live for this shit).  A win up in FoCo won't shake many feathers nationally, but it will be a confidence-building keystone in the 2013-14 foundation.
The Buffs know well the price of failure at Moby...
On paper, CU should win.  They've got the athleticism, the bench, and the experience in this series to carry through.  I also like the fact that CSU is one of the worst in the country at defending the three (41.5%), don't take advantage of the arc themselves (289th in 3PA/FGA), play mostly man-to-man defense (Dinwiddie is especially happy), and don't shoot particularly well from the field (under 46% team-eFG%).  In addition, the Rams have lost the only two games that they were out-rebounded in, and I struggle seeing a scenario were the Buffs don't get the better of the boards (even though Eustachy knows how to get his troops on the glass). I am rightfully a little nervous about the road trip, the environment, and the recent history that has seen the Rams upset strong Colorado teams up in Moby, but I expect a solid CU victory, none-the-less.  Get it done.

Tip-off from Moby Arena is set for 7pm this evening.  If you're not interested in braving the worsening weather to head up to the Ft, your only other viewing option is ESPN3.  For those without the Mothership's streaming service, you can catch the radio call on 850 KOA.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Cruising through Colorado Springs

A hearty congratulations to the Volleyball team for their well-deserved selection to the NCAA tournament. It was a program-defining season for ladies that saw them upset three ranked teams and finish seventh in a league that sent 75% of its members to the dance.  For their efforts, they were awarded the equivalent of an 11-seed, and will play old Big XII rival Iowa State in Minneapolis on Friday at 3:30 MT.  Not too shabby.

Go Buffs!  Beat those Cyclones!


Today in the bag, I'm recapping the basketball win over Air Force, putting the 2013 football season to bed, and taking a look around the nation of football.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Beer Post: 2013 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Utah Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

It's Ute week, so the honorary beer selection is Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Brewery.  Indeed, why have just one?

The real selection, however, comes from local brewery Crystal Springs.  Started by a local Boulderite, Crystal Springs is named after Boulder's first brewery, the long-since folded Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company.  Started out of the founder's house, they've been brewing for the last few years, but only recently opened up a tap room in Louisville's Colorado Technology Center. Their Summertime Ale is the last gameday beer-o-the-week for 2013.

The name is a little unfortunate.  It invokes a seasonal mindset, but this kolsch is far from seasonal, and can very easily be enjoyed any day of the year.  The kolsch-style is clear, crisp, and hoppy, and makes for a great session brew.  Crystal Springs' version is easy drinking, and pleasingly simple.

You can find these in four-packs of 16-oz man cans, perfect for a wintry tailgate in prohibitionist era Utah.  Look out Utes, the drunken Buffaloes are coming to town!

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Utes and Falcons!

2013 Air Force Basketball Teaser

It's a whole new roster in the Springs.  Gone is the superlative Michael Lyons, who dropped 51 points in two meetings with the Buffs, along with four other senior starters who combined to produce 72% of scoring last season.  Without them, it's no wonder the Falcons are struggling to start '13-'14, and are projected to finish somewhere near the bottom of the Mountain West.
The Falcons really miss Lyons and his scoring touch.
Their three wins this year have come over fellow cellar-dwellers Army, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Division II Colorado Christian.  Losses have come against VMI (yeesh), Jackson St (CU beat them by 24 despite playing poorly), and, Wednesday night, Richmond by 23.  By that run alone you can tell this is a team in transition, embarking on a long slog that will be more ugly than entertaining.  The harsh truth is that Air Force is a candidate for 250+ RPI status this year, which sucks because even a big win over them can end up hurting come Selection Sunday.

Statistically, as you would expect, it has been pretty grim.  Defensively, they've been giving up over an adjusted 1.1 points per possession, while averaging over 16 turnovers per game on offense.  Overall, it's a profile of a team that struggles inside and against athleticism.  They get less than 43% of their points from two-pointers, and have been blocked 30 times already.

The current roster revolves around a trio that has started every game this season, and who have combined to average 44 points per game.  Guards Tre' Coggins and Max Yon run the backcourt.  The sophomore Coggins is the primary point, and rarely leaves the court.  Why would he, when he's the team's best scorer (over 17 points per game)?  Yon, a 6-4 junior, is a nice compliment from the two-spot, and can attack the rim.  Up front, 6-9 junior forward Marek Olesinski is good at stretching defenses.
Coggins is trying to step into the do-it-all shoes of Lyons.
There is some reason to be nervous here for the more skittish members of BuffNation.  Coggins, Yon, and Olesinski all shoot over 40% from deep, and the Falcons can play zone from tip to final whistle.  Perimeter defense and scoring against the zone have long been issues for the Buffs, and Saturday could get uncomfortable for that fact alone.  The Buffs will have to actually guard the arc, and ramp up the ball movement on offense to claim the easy victory expected.

I know the Cadets, much like CSU, would make their season with a win over the Buffs, so expect their best shot, but I have a hard time seeing a competitive game Saturday.  Air Force just isn't good this season.  The only things that make me pause is the fact that any road game in college sports is difficult, and that Colorado may be looking ahead to bigger games against bigger names next week. Still, if the Buffs struggle throughout the 40, or even, God forbid, lose this one, there's something seriously wrong.  I expect a double-digit victory.

Tip-off from Clune Arena in Colorado Springs is set for 2pm on Saturday.  Coverage can be found on something called the Mountain West Network, with the radio call on 760 AM.  For those wondering, yes, the Mtn. is still dead and buried.  The Mountain West Network is what they're calling their digital streaming these days.  Unfortunately, much like the Mtn, it's underfunded and poorly designed.  Try this link at game time and see what you find.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

2013 Utah Football Preview

This is it, we've reached the end.  Farewell football season.

If you absolutely need an answer to the question 'was this season successful,' even before the final game is played, I think I can safely answer 'yes.'  Going back to my 2013 wishlist post from August, you'll find the team has already checked off four of the six boxes, with a solid chance of seeing a fifth when Paul Richardson is drafted in at least the third round of the upcoming NFL draft.  Progress on the sixth, the facilities project is still nebulous (though I've heard some positive whispers), but the key thing to focus on is that the team on the field met or exceeded every expectation.

While the Buffs never beat a team they weren't supposed to, they are at least finding wins against those they should beat.  A step forward from years past.  If they pull an upset this Saturday in Utah, I'll give the year a solid B+.  If not, I'll leave it a B, and happily forget about football till late July. 


Kickoff from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City is set for high noon on Saturday.  You can catch the action on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.  Feel free to throw yourself into the game as you would normally, but, remember, the CU/Air Force basketball game tips at 2pm... plan your exit strategy accordingly.

Click below for the preview...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: #26

The football team lived up to expectations Saturday night, proving completely ineffective against a very good Trojan defense.  While they would put 29 second-half points on the board, mostly through a 22-point fourth quarter that occurred long after I left the stadium, the first half was a comedy of zeros.  The result: a 47-29 loss that cemented their bowl-less fate.  At least the Buffs covered?
Sefo Liufau and the Colorado offense had a tough time moving the ball against USC.  From: the BDC.
Here's the pre-halftime drive chart: punt, punt, safety, punt, punt, interception, fumble.  Woof.  In all, CU could only put up 69 first half yards, and scored more points for USC then they did for themselves.  With the program's first bowl trip in six years on the line, it was a heartbreaking letdown to see the offense unable to live up to their side of the bargain.  Moving the ball against the Trojans was never going to be easy, and I don't know what else I reasonably could've asked for, but the bottom line is they didn't come through when needed.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the banana stand's triumphant Saturday, basketball against Harvard, and soccer's magical run to the Sweet Sixteen.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Harvard Teaser

The Harvard Crimson are a disciplined, veteran basketball team.  They return four starters from a team that won a Tournament game over New Mexico, and two former starters who withdrew from the university prior to last season in the wake of a cheating scandal.  Ignore the Ivy League patches on their jerseys, the Crimson boast mid-to-high-major talent and capability.
If you don't know about the Crimson, you soon will.
Harvard has yet to face a really difficult opponent, and this will be their first game played outside of Massachusetts.  The start of a two week western swing which will lead them up to Anchorage and the Great Alaskan Shootout, tomorrow's game marks an important opportunity for the small league school to make some RPI waves before their conference slate begins.  They'll be looking at the Colorado game as one of the biggest games of their season, and should bring their best effort to the table.

The Crimson eschew taking hasty three-pointers (only about 24% of their shots come from deep) in favor of working the clock (2/3rds of possessions feature shots after 11 seconds or more) for a good shot at the rim (47% of their shots are at the rim, 15 points higher than the national average).  It's an offensive style meant to probe for weaknesses, and leverages second chances (45.6% offensive rebound rate, 8th in the nation) and foul shots (2nd nationally in FTA/FGA ratio in 2012-13) to take the wind out of opponents' sails.  The aversion to the three-point shot may, however, be suspended for this game, as any team should be capable of finding some open outside jumpers against the Buffs.

Defensively, they've been limiting outside shots and assists (3rd nationally in defensive A/FGM ratio). Somehow, they allow even fewer three point attempts than they take, doubly surprising when you consider three of their four games on the season have been blowouts with opponents playing catch-up for much of the action.

The roster is lead by emerging swing guard Wesley Saunders.  The 6-5 junior from LA has an early season offensive rating over 130, and has a true shooting percentage near 65%.  He can create his own shot, and is an excellent finisher through contact.  Unsurprisingly, he reached double-figures in scoring 29 times last season, and is, by far, Harvard's best pure scoring talent.  He's already up to 17.3 points per game on the young season, and could see those numbers rise with more minutes in closer games.  
Saunders is one of the best mid-major performers in the country.
With projected starting point guard Brandyn Curry still fighting off a foot injury, primary point guard duties have fallen once again to Sylvani Chambers.  When Curry sat out last season due to the cheating scandal, it was Chambers, then a freshman, who grabbed the reins with a composure beyond his years, posting an assist rate near 33%.  A 2012-13 selection to the All-Ivy League team - a first for a freshman - Chambers has a strong command of the offense, and will be a dangerous opponent against CU's often times forgetful defense.

Upfront, Harvard relies on the excellent combo of senior Kyle Casey and junior Steve Moundou-Missi.  The pair has combined for 21/12 in the early going, with both posting rebounding rates over the 10%/20% benchmarks.  Moundou-Missi, from former Buff Stephane Pelle's hometown of Yaounde, Cameroon, is a great shot blocker, as well, notching an average of two per game this season.  Both will scrap and annoy underneath, and pose an interesting challenge for CU's youthful front court.  One way around them: get them to commit fouls.  They're averaging a combined 13 per 40 minutes played.
Casey will push Scott and Gordon tomorrow afternoon.
Many in BuffNation are rightfully worried about this game.  Harvard is a legit team, easily one of the top-50 nationally, and on the fringes of the top-25.  With a veteran core and post-season experience in bunches, they are right up there with Baylor for the best team CU has seen.  Whereas the Bears are full of juicy five-star talent, however, Harvard gets by with discipline and belief in head coach Tommy Amaker's system. They won't beat themselves, and would easily beat a CU team playing like they have been the last two weeks.

If I read the tea leaves correctly, the Buffs recognize this, and are significantly more focused on the task at hand then they were in the days leading up to Thursday night's 'lackadaisical' effort against UCSB.  I'm not ready to predict a victory - right now I think Harvard is simply the better team - but I don't think the Buffs will be pushed around completely.  Let's say a close loss, with work left to be done as CU embarks on their first true road trip of the season.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 2:30pm tomorrow afternoon.  Breaking the Pac-12 Networks trend, the game can be seen on ESPNU, with the radio call on AM 760.  The Broncos have the late kickoff, so suck it up, and get to the stadium.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Beer Post: 2013 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - USC Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

It's said that you often overlook what's in your own backyard.  I certainly do, going out of my way to choose unfamiliar beers each week when it's just as important to celebrate the fact that Boulder County possesses one of the deepest brewing cultures in the country.  So, screw SoCal, and screw whatever else the Pac-12 footprint is brewing up. I'm drinking local this weekend.

Upslope continues to be my favorite brewery in town.  They surpassed Avery in the latter half of last decade, and have maintained the key to my tastebuds ever since.  One of their long-term staples, Upslope Brown Ale, is my gameday beer-o-the week.

The clean-finishing Brown Ale is a wonderful tailgate beer.  Not only does it come in easy-to-pack cans, it pairs well with a lot of the traditional eats of a football Saturday, and isn't as challenging to the palate as other styles like IPAs can be.  A slightly more bitter version of the style, it utilizes a darker roast on the malt and an extra dash of Patagonia hops to balance out the sweetness that normally turns me away from browns. Overall, the package is simple, direct, and pleasing.

A few of these before the game will do you nicely, as the 6.7 ABV will keep away the chill of tomorrows projected sub-freezing temperatures. Six-packs are readily available in pretty much every local liquor store of note, so roll like me, and drink local on Senior Day.

Happy Friday! Go Buffs, beat the Trojans!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Quick Post: UCSB wrap

'Lackadaisical... we didn't listen to instructions, we didn't listen to the scouting report."  That was how sophomore forward Xavier Johnson summed up CU's performance this evening on AM760.  The sorrowful tone was a common theme throughout the evening, as Buff after Buff expressed how disappointed they were in their effort.  I don't disagree with their analysis.

It's hard, then, to reconcile the fact that Colorado managed to beat the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos, 76-68. Talent does, occasionally, manage to carry undeserving teams to victory, and that was the case here.

That's not to say the Buffs were completely out of sorts tonight.  Lead by Spencer Dinwiddie's 24-point performance, many in white had nice offensive stat lines.  While Josh Scott didn't score for the first 35 minutes of the game, others stepped up, and, in general, Colorado did enough with the ball in their hands.  It certainly doesn't hurt that CU was 28-36 from the free throw line, while the Gauchos were only 5-8.  The refs and an often times awkward whistle had a hand in victory.
Those begging for 'the Mayor' to take charge got what they have been asking for Thursday.  From: the BDC.
Defense, however, was much more of a problem. The Buffs were slow to recognize dangerous shooters, and unfocused off of screens.  How else do you explain reserve Santa Barbara guard Taran Brown going 7-10 from beyond the arc, 5-5 in the first half?  Perimeter defense has long been a thorn in Colorado's side, but it seems like teams are able to take advantage on a nightly basis without sufficient adjustments from our heroes. It's the primary deficiency that will keep this team from living up to its' potential.

The simple truth is that the Buffs have run out of time. The mental lapses, indecision, and 'lackadaisical' play that defined much of the opening six games will only bring them losses from here on out.  They're largely lucky to be 5-1, but luck and talent alone won't be enough against teams like Harvard (Sunday) and Kansas (two weeks).  Without some changes, and quick ones at that, the Buffs are in trouble.

2013 USC Football Preview

Bowl game? Are we really talking about a bowl game?  I hope not, because the Buffs are still a long-shot to get there.  They'd have to run the table, beating USC (at home) and Utah (on the road) in the season's final two games to squeak out a .500 record for the first time since 2007.  I wouldn't say the double is impossible, just highly improbable.  I'm talking like less than 10% chance.

The biggest hurdle is this Saturday against the resurgent USC Trojans.  Possessing one of the best defenses in the West, the Trojans were going to be tough even before a recent run of strong play put them back in the hunt of a Pac-12 Championship Game appearance.  Now, beating them seems unlikely.  If the Buffs can somehow pull off the win, however, the season finale in Utah gets real interesting.  Real. Damn. Interesting.

Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 7:30pm on Saturday.  Bring your thermals, because it's going to be outright frigid for senior day.  Coverage for those weaker souls who need the comfort of a warm room to watch football can be found on Pac-12 Networks.  The radio call will be on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Arkansas St Wrap and UC-Santa Barbara Teaser

Last night, CU's 93-70 win over Arkansas State did a lot to confirm what we already knew: CU can walk past small-conference fodder.  In three games against UT-Martin, Jackson St and Arkansas State - all blowout wins - the Buffs have averaged nearly 93 points, totaled about 19 assists per contest, and held the opponent at or near 40% shooting from the field.  Against more competent foes like Baylor and Wyoming, however, things have been much more difficult.  Combined in those two, CU is only averaging a little over 60 points per game on 36% shooting, and only sharing the ball to the tune of about seven assists per.
Josh Scott and the Buffs have been rolling, but they need to get pushed a little more.  From: the BDC
From a development standpoint, these games have been great.  They've served as an opportunity to get the bench involved (~34 points per), and allowed the team to work on things like ball movement and efficiency that will serve them well as the season progresses.  It also doesn't hurt that they've allowed stars like Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker to shake off the rust without the risk of a loss.

However, while Colorado is certainly improving each time out on the court, there's a clear tipping point against under-talented opponents.  I don't know how much more anyone can learn watching many more matchups like these.  The Buffs need a higher degree of difficulty if we're to determine just how good they are.

Happily, the schedule obliges, as the difficulty dial is about to slowly get cranked up to 11.  Starting Thursday night with UC-Santa Barbara, and culminating on December 7th with Kansas, the schedule will only get tougher as each game approaches.  The climb up the collegiate ranks will provide a nightly litmus test.
The scrappy Gauchos are a step above teams like Arkansas St.
First up: the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.  A program comfortable with winning (only two losing seasons since 2000), they fell on hard times last season, stumbling to a 11-20 finish.  Don't let that fool you, however, as they are already 2-1 on the year with a sexy win on the road against a down UNLV squad.  The Gauchos are probably the best non-Baylor team the Buffs will have played to-date, and an opponent to be wary of.

UCSB is lead by beefy (6-7, 275 *ahem*) center Alan Williams.  The junior was a pre-season selection to the All-Big West team, and has backed it up when on the court this year, averaging 24/13 in two starts.  In the month of small sample size, he leads the nation in both usage categories, as is top-50 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate.  This guy is a load.
Williams is a legitimately good post player.
Unfortunately, the big man has been battling some back spasms, and was a late scratch before the Gauchos' last game against Utah State.  You shouldn't be surprised to learn that Santa Barbara was unable to beat the Aggies without their best scorer and rebounder.  He's questionable for the trip to Boulder, and it would be a big blow to UCSB's hopes if he were unable to play for the second-straight game.

Other than Williams, look out for sharpshooting senior guard Kyle Boswell.  The 6-2 shooting guard is 10-20 from deep on the year, and can cause headaches if the Buffs aren't paying attention.  Additionally, I like wing Michael Bryson.  The 6-4 sophomore is a developing scorer who has over 12 points per game this season.
Deny the shooter, Boswell.
For those long-term followers of Colorado Basketball wondering, Keegan Hornbuckle, a former Buff, is no longer with the Gauchos, having left the team over the summer.  His length would've been a boon for UCSB, but injuries derailed a promising career.

If Willimas doesn't make the trip, the Buffs should roll to another easy win, but, for the sake of argument, I'll assume the big man suits up.  CU should still win in this scenario, but the outing would look much more like the Baylor/Wyoming games than the trio of blowouts.  Honestly, for competition's sake, I hope Williams is healthy; it'll make for a fun game.  Regardless, UCSB should be a mid-major force as the season develops, and a nice, low-key feather in the scheduling cap for the Buffs... assuming a win, of course.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6pm Thursday night.  Televised coverage on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on AM760.


Monday, November 18, 2013

2013 Arkansas St Basketball Teaser

You may not have ever heard of it, but the Buffs are wrapping up something called the Global Sports Main Event this evening.  A series of games played between Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas St, Jackson St, and Tennessee-Martin, feel free to look at the GSME as glorified schedule filler; it's primary importance being a few guaranteed wins, and some extra home dates.
The Red Wolves and Cowboys - just two of the teams in the GSME.
Not that you should care - hell, even I barely care - but the Buffs could clinch the round-robin tournament title this evening with a win over the Arkansas State Red Wolves.  That should be expected, however, and I doubt there's even a trophy to display in the coaches office.  I certainly hope there's not a trophy...

Anyways, on to those Red Wolves.  Despite a solid 19-12 campaign, the reigning champions of the Sun Belt - West were not granted the opportunity to play post-season basketball.  (The disadvantages of playing small conference basketball in practice.)  Undeterred, they've reloaded with four senior transfers to challenge for a spot in some form of post-season play.  They're deeper now, and are the best of the three teams CU will face in the GSME.

As opposed to some of the more guard-oriented teams the Buffs have played over the past week, Arkansas St has most of their talent up front.  Wiry swing-forward Melvin Johnson III pairs nicely with lanky center Kirk Van Slyke and bulky power forward Kendrick Washington.  All three are senior transfers, and have added about 38 ppg, and 15 rebounds to the roster.  Johnson, a 6-6 transfer from UTSA, is a deadly three point threat, who has made 8-15 on the season, including 4-8 up in Laramie over the weekend.  Van Slyke, a 6-10 transfer from Houston, is another shooter, so don't let his 6-10 frame fool you.  Washington, also from Houston, is the team's best rebounder at 6-7, 255, but not much of an offensive piece.
Johnson, the transfer from UTSA, is a legit shooter.
They're lead in the backcourt by another transfer, Brandon Reed.  Originally the Sun Belt freshman of the year in '09-'10 with the Red Wolves, he tried his hand at power conference ball with Georgia Tech before deciding to finish his career back in Jonesboro.  He's joined at the back by 6-0 sophomore Cameron Golden, who bucks the trend by being a completely homegrown talent.

All told, these guys like to live outside.  They've tried over 40% of their shot attempts from long range, which should worry BuffNation, as the close-out man-to-man the Buffs utilize has been late in getting to shooters on the year.  CU is at their best when they simply don't allow the shooter to get their hands on the ball, and I'd love to see Dinwiddie, who is great at ball-denial, get tasked with Melvin Johnson to mute him before he can go off.  It'll probably be Xavier Johnson, assuming he's healthy, with the Mayor on Reed, but my point stands - Spencer is the best option to cancel out a great shooter like Johnson.

Assuming whoever guards Melvin Johnson keeps him quiet, Colorado should have an easy go of it tonight.  If he does get hot, things could get dicey... Texas Southern dicey.  Still, I like CU to win, regardless.  At the very least, the Buffs are more dynamic on offense this season, and should be strong enough to overcome a good night from an opponent like Arkansas St.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm this evening.  Television coverage is on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.  If you have a ticket, but say you'd rather stay home and watch whatever lousy football game is on ESPN, I will come to your house an hurl things at you.


Monday Grab Bag: A Perfect Saturday

To all those sad-sack schools who had the miss-fortune to be playing the University of Colorado on Saturday, I apologize.  You never had a chance, it was CU's day.  It didn't matter what sport it was, the Buffs were better.  Basketball?  Check.  Soccer?  Check.  Football? Check.  All we needed was some distance running, and it would've been a perfect 24 hours at the Foot of the Flatirons.

For those of us in BuffNation: we get far too few days like this to celebrate, so live it up!


Today in the bag, I'm talking the basketball win over Jackson St, the soccer win over DU, and the football win over Cal.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Beer Post: 2013 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Cal Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

With all apologies to the football program, my focus is on hoops right now, leaving me leaning towards Saturday's basketball matchup with Jackson St to help me pick a suitable beer for the weekend.

Jackson St, for those who don't know is located in Jackson, MS, a region of the country not exactly known for beer production, so I won't find a regional selection to offer.  Their mascot, on the other hand - the Tiger - is a little more promising in terms of beer nomination, and gets me thinking of an honestly awful-tasting import from Singapore.  That beer, Asia Pacific Breweries Tiger Beer, is my gameday beer-o-the-week.

Billed as southeast Asia's best-selling lager, Tiger Beer is your proto-typical American Adjunct Lager, better known as the crap being pumped out by big breweries like Budweiser and Miller.  It's flavorless at best, outright foul at worst, and generally watery and non-filling.  On the plus side, it gets you drunk, and is generally known not to contain poison.  The good with the bad.

Think of it this way, Tiger Beer is mascot appropriate for the basketball game played Saturday morning, and taste appropriate for the football being played by the Pac-12's two worst teams Saturday afternoon.  So, man-up, make sure it's cold, and choke some down.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat Jackson St (and Cal)!

2013 Cal Football Preview

Well, this is it.  The game BuffNation has been waiting all fall for.  If the Buffs have any hope of avoiding a 0-9 conference run, they need to win tomorrow.  As bad as the Buffs have been, Cal has been a tad worse, only entering with one win on the year, and none out of seven tries in Pac-12 play.  Nothing on the remaining schedule (vs USC, @Utah), is nearly as winnable, making this the game of the season for Colorado. Of course, the Bears are looking at CU in exactly the same way - a chance to avoid an embarrassing winless run in conference.  Thankfully, with ties abolished in college, someone has to get their first in-conference win.

No excuses, Buffs, get it done.


It's the Pac-12 Toilet Bowl, live from Boulder, CO!  (See, I knew we'd make a bowl game one of these days.) Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 3:30pm Saturday.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wyoming Wrap and Jackson State Teaser

Just keep repeating: a win is a win. Without that mantra, CU's 63-58 Wednesday night win over Wyoming is almost too ugly to pocket.  With it, it's another beautiful day in Boulder.

The game was what we've come to expect when watching the Buffs and the Cowboys - frustration, zone defense, turnovers, and poor officiating.  Through it all, CU got next to nothing from their bench (three points), shot only 25% from deep, turned the ball over 14 times, and only recorded 4 assists (tha fuck?).  Winning yesterday evening was like battling a medieval case of consumption - blood letting and leeches were certainly involved, and mal humors ruled the day.  That the Buffs survived was a matter of grit and determination, rather than any palpable sense of 'playing well.'

The game started out innocuous enough, with Colorado holding a see-saw lead for most of the opening minutes.  Then the Cowboys switched to zone, and my hair started to fall out.  While CU was able to get the ball into the high post, they seemed unable or unwilling to make anything of it, and the resulting passivity and confusion lead to a quick shift in momentum towards Wyoming.  Colorado would go without a field goal for nearly eight minutes, as the Pokes pushed a lead out to as many as 10 points.  The gap closed a little moving towards the break, but the Buffs were still down 31-26 at half.
CU needed to capitalize on touches in the paint a little more in the first half.  From: the BDC
I know Coach Boyle loves to save his timeouts, but it looked to me as if the team could've used a quick blow to reassess their plan of attack against the Cowboy zone defense.  Guys were passing up solid chances inside the paint out of timidity.  A little push in the huddle to attack the rim from the high post may have lead out of the zone-induced fog a little sooner.  Considering Coach left the arena with three in his back pocket, an additional timeout spent in the first half would've been worth it.

That message, once passed along in the half time locker room, certainly seemed to pay off.  The Buffs were much more aggressive to start the second half, going on a quick 8-3 run by generating quick-hitters in the paint.  But that effort only got the Buffs back to level-footing with Wyo.  For the rest of the game, it was a battle of wills and free throw attempts.  By my count there were 33 combined attempts from the charity stripe off of 27 fouls in the second half.  The whistles were tight, even considering the new rule tweaks, but CU was able to take advantage, shooting 19 more free throws than the Cowboys, and draining a total of 24.  Payback for Wyoming's parade to the line last season in Laramie.

Colorado was lead on the scoresheet by Spencer Dinwiddie, who struggled from the floor to a free-throw-aided 15 points on 2-9 shooting.  With Dinwiddie still struggling, best player honors go to Xavier Johnson, who did a great job slicing to the rim for 13 points.  Josh Scott also played well, adding 12/9 to the cause, continuing his run of strong play to start the season.
Josh Scott continues to rule the paint in 2013-14.  From: the BDC.
The win was certainly ugly, but aesthetics don't matter right now.  At the end of the day, without playing anywhere near their best basketball, CU improved to 2-1 on the season, exorcising some ancient demons along the way.  It was Colorado's first win over the Pokes in nearly two decades, after all.  With the season still developing, I'll take it happily, ugliness notwithstanding.

Attention now turns to Saturday morning, and Jackson State.  Let's be honest, the JSU Tigers are not a very good team.  A prime candidate for RPI 300+ status, they hit 2013-14 with a new coach - Wayne Brent - and return only one starter - junior swing forward Derrell Taylor - from their 11-18 squad from a season ago, but even he now has to come off the bench.

The starting backcourt of 6-1 seniors Jeff Stubbs and Julysses Nobles is slightly intriguing, especially Nobles who used to play at Arkansas, but nothing CU hasn't seen before.  Up front, 6-10 5th-year transfer Brandon West will challenge on the boards, but there's not much behind him on the depth chart.  Other than those four upperclassmen, it's all freshmen, and none very impressive.
The former Razorback Nobles is one of few scary pieces on the JSU bench.
No excuses, no qualifiers.  Even with a dreadful performance, CU should roll Saturday morning.  The early start could lead to more than a few stretches of sleep-walking, or even sleep-inducing play, but, as I re-stated at the top, a win is a win.  Bank win #3, and move onto Arkansas St.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 10 am Saturday morning.  Yep, you heard me, 10 AM.  Get up bright and early, and head up to Boulder for the #RollTad express.  They'll have bacon for you!  Football later in the day, if you must.  Coverage is set for Pac-12 Mountain, with the radio call on 850 KOA.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wyoming Teaser: the Cowboy Curse

It's that time again.  Time to pay the piper and play the Wyoming Cowboys.
Uh oh, here comes Wyo.
I don't know if you realize it, but CU hasn't beaten Wyoming in men's basketball since their 84-68 win over the Pokes at the start of the Chauncey Billups year of '96-'97.  Since then, the two regional rivals have met six times, all culminating in a Wyo victory.
Even more than that, the Buffs are only 6-16 against the Cowboys since 1982. I mean, what the hell? I know CU hasn't been a hoops power house, but neither has Wyoming.  How is it that the wearers of Shit Brown and Piss Yellow enjoy such command over the series in recent years?  It's been a Cowboy Curse.

At least in the last two meetings, it's been because they were able to out-work the Buffs on both sides of the ball.  Driven by bullish power forward Leonard Washington, the Cowboys pushed around the wilting Buffs through two upset victories over Tad Boyle's much more heralded squads.  Big Leonard roughed CU up for 38/14 over the two games, and set a physical tone for play that the Buffs were never able to match. Thank the basketball gods that Washington is gone and graduated, never to torment Colorado again.
CU is glad to have Leonard Washington in their rear-view.
It also hasn't helped that the Buffs have been playing selfish, turnover-prone basketball against our neighbors to the north.  A combined 16:32 assist-to-turnover ratio has turned into 40 combined Cowboy points over the last two games.  As coach Boyle said after last season's stumble in Laramie, 'it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why we lost this game.' With that in mind, you have to expect that the focus in practice the last few days has been protecting the basketball.  CU was far too lax with the rock Sunday afternoon against Tennessee-Martin, and similar effort against the Pokes this evening will spell disaster.

If there's any hope that Colorado can shake their Cowboy Curse tonight, it rests in the fact that the heart of the Wyoming roster from the last two seasons is gone.  Key stars like Washington, Luke Martinez, and Derrious Gilmore are graduated, and with them much of the institutional memory that ground CU into powder.  They're much more guard oriented now, without the interior strength of previous seasons.  That's not my way of saying that the Cowboys no longer have the talent to pose a threat - quite the contrary, in fact.
Luke Martinez aint coming through that door.
Behind Boulder High's own Riley Grabau, Wyo looks to push the pace more this season. The former Panther star seems to have taken the reins in a crowded back-court, along with sophomore Josh Adams. More than just the pair, however, the Cowboys send waves of guards at their opponents, including senior Nathan Sobey, freshman Trey Washington III, and junior transfer Charles Hankerson, Jr. It's a deep group that can withstand fatigue and the occasional spate of foul trouble.

In contrast, the front lines have been wracked by roster turnover.  Almost alone upfront, Larry Nance, Jr is the only remaining serious threat in the post.  Nance, the son of a former NBA star, enjoyed a solid 14/7 game against the Buffs last December, and is looking to live up to the legacy of the departed Washington.  He won't be enough on his own, however, and the Cowboys will need someone else to step up in the box.

The change up front is enough of a reason for me to feel that CU should break their Cowboy Curse this evening.  There's a cautious side of me that looks at the series history, and freaks out with Wyoming coming to town, but, this isn't the same bunch of Cowboys that has taken the Buffs out behind the woodshed. They're a team in transition, and, at home, Colorado should find a way to win.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm this evening.  No Bronco game excuses, I expect a full stadium to greet the Buffs when they charge out of the tunnel.  Coverage for those who can't make it can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio coverage on 850 KOA.