Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Grab Bag: Football?

Another week, another snow storm.  I can now set my watch by these things.  Upwards of nine fresh inches of powder for Boulder by tomorrow afternoon.  *sigh*

Today's grab bag is filled with... wait, this can't be right... football talk?  There must be some mistake, as this is clearly still April.  Regardless, I'll also be talking sinkhole, and touching on basketball recruiting.

Click below for the bag...

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Attrition Files: Andre Roberson

Note: Grab Bag tomorrow.

It's official, Andre Roberson, Tad Boyle's first recruit, and the most dynamic defensive force in the West, is turning pro... that sound you hear is scoring forwards across the Pac-12 breathing a sigh of relief.
LOL, Jacob Pullen.  He should've recognized.
It's not easy, from a fan's perspective, to say goodbye to 'Dre.  He brought passion and energy with him to the stadium each night, and made it a joy to watch the affairs on Sox Walseth's hardwood.  In future years, it will be impossible to discuss the legacy of Colorado Basketball without bringing up the name Andre Roberson.  Simply put, he's one of the best to ever don the Black and Gold.

An integral part of the RollTad era, Roberson has been on the court for all but one of CU's 69 wins over the past three seasons, while helping to lead the program on historic runs at a conference title and three straight postseason appearances.   A proven master of the defensive arts, he finishes his collegiate career 2nd in program history in rebounds, 3rd in blocks, and 7th in steals (he lead the team in all three categories for three consecutive seasons), all while becoming only the second player in program history to accumulate both 1,000 points and rebounds (Stephane Pelle).
The old adage 'defense wins championships' applies.
The ultimate diamond-in-the-rough story, CU managed to find this program-defining talent almost purely by chance.  New to the job in the spring of 2010, and desperate for a boost in the paint after years of neglect by Jeff Bzdelik, Coach Boyle turned to the lone holdover from the Bzdelik staff, Tom Abatemarco, for a recruiting target who could rebound in the rough-and-tumble Big XII. Abatemarco responded by saying, "a guy I trust in Texas told me that Andre can really rebound," and CU, essentially sight unseen, beat out Penn State for 'Dre's services only two weeks after Boyle had signed on.  The rest, as 'they' say, is history.

Almost immediately, those paying attention could tell that 'Dre was special.  While most of the headlines from the 2010-11 season revolved around the scoring prowess of Burks, Higgins, et al, it was Roberson who did the dirty work on the defensive end to help that group win games.  By the end of the season, he was almost single-handedly holding teams like Texas and Kansas St off the boards, while Burks and crew ran up the score.
'Dre would even beat out his own teammates for boards.  GET OUT OF THE WAY, SABATINO!
Over his final two seasons in Boulder, he became a star. Using his high motor and superior athleticism, Roberson could dominate games even if he wasn't scoring.  He could guard seemingly anyone on the floor, and, once a missed shot was forced, it only became fodder for his ever expanding highlight reel of high-flying rebounds.  While 'Dre's offensive game never exploded the way many had hoped, his ball hawking abilities on the defensive end helped the other four guys on the court up their games.  Said Askia Booker:
"It still happens to this day. I'll go up for a rebound, and he'll come from nowhere and just snatch it. That's why I always look for Andre. If he's going up, I get out of there and run the lane. [...]  Once I see Dre going for the ball, I don't even go for it anymore. I know he's going to grab it and my job is to get out and go. It speeds the game up a little bit." -link
It's not easy to make a name for yourself doing the little things on defense, but Andre was the exception that proves the rule.  A two-time All-Conference selection, he also stands as the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the-Year, an honor he probably deserved in 2011-12 as well.
Yet another victim.
With his announcement yesterday afternoon, Roberson became only the fourth player in CU history to leave early for the professional ranks, following in the footsteps of Chauncey Billups, David Harrison, and Alec Burks. Unlike those three, however, Andre probably won't enjoy the security of a guaranteed contract offer that comes with a first round selection, as most draft experts view him as an early-to-mid second round pick at best.

His decision to enter the professional ranks is final, but the arguments will continue into the future.  The unfortunate reality of this moment is that many will choose mark it not with praise for one of the program's all-time best, but by deriding his choice.  The cynics, the haters, look at the second round grade, and dismissively slam the young man as immature and greedy.  Conversely, I think there's more than enough justification for him to turn pro, with only his loyalty to his teammates, and the chance to be a part of what could be the best team in program history, making him pause.  Regardless, this isn't about his decision, and whether or not it was 'right,' it's about remembering one of the best to ever walk out of the north tunnel at the CEC.

The only disappointment in this situation is that he spent the final homestand on the bench, rather than receiving the raucous sendoff he so richly deserved.  CU will just have to have him back to make up for it.

Thank you, Andre! You kick-started the Tad Boyle era, and helped redefine basketball on the Front Range.  Whatever team ends up selecting you in June will be getting a hell of a player.


Best remembered for - 

Being a double-double machine.  He finished with 37 for his career (CU was 28-9 in those games), while averaging one in both his sophomore and junior campaigns. 

Also, his magical penguin hat.

Best aspect of his game - 

Rebounding.  I think this quote from Coach Boyle sums it up pretty well: "You can teach and coach positioning and blocking out, but you can't teach going up and getting it. That's an instinct. And it takes a lot of heart, a warrior attitude." -link

Best game as a Buff - 

Plenty to choose from here.  Part of me wants to say his 11/14/3 against K-State in the 2011 Big XII tournament, or his ridiculous 12/20/3/3 against Stanford this past season, but I have to pick his performance against UNLV in last season's NCAA Tournament.  Not only did he put up a 12/16/2, but he held heralded Rebel forward Mike Moser to 10 points on 4-15 shooting.  Moser hasn't been the same since.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quick Post: So... about 'Dre's decision...

Hey, remember when the news broke that there was a press conference set for 9am this morning, and that we were finally going to hear whether or not the reigning Pac-12 defensive player of the year would be back for his senior season?  Well, not so much

After talking it over with Coach Boyle last night, Andre Roberson has apparently decided that he needs more time to decide.  Regardless of which way he's leaning, he has until Sunday night at 9:59pm MST to declare, or the choice will be made for him.

I honestly feel bad for 'Dre, because the decision isn't an easy one.  He has prepared his entire life driven by the hope of becoming an NBA star, but he's stuck in the second round no-man's land, with cloudy prospects of improving his stock.  With influential camps pulling him both directions (Father: go pro, Coach Boyle: stay in school), it's only complicating matters further.

My suggestion: flip a coin.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quick Post: 'Dre's decision set for Friday

Since the final seconds slipped away in Austin, the big story hanging over the CU basketball program has been the pending decision from Andre Roberson concerning his professional status.  Tomorrow morning at 9am, BuffNation will finally get the answer it's been waiting for, as 'Dre will announce whether or not he will be entering this summer's NBA Draft.

Those able to can catch the announcement live by clicking here.

The more prominent rumor has 'Dre turning pro, but I haven't heard definitively one way or the other.  Coach Boyle was meeting with Andre earlier this evening, so it's still probably still anyone's guess at this point.

For the record, while I would selfishly prefer that he stays, I've long since come to terms with the idea that 'Dre would jump into the Draft, even without the 'guarantee' of a 1st round selection.  I've heard plenty of people say that this would be a terrible choice, but, as I said earlier this month, I'm not convinced that another year in Boulder would necessarily improve his professional stock.

If 'Dre does indeed declare for the Draft tomorrow, the choice will essentially be that he would rather spend 2013-14 developing in a professional atmosphere (NBA, NBADL, or Europe), than in Boulder, struggling to balance scholastic endeavors and gym time.  I think that's fair, as long as he is properly informed that an NBA roster might not be attainable right away.

I'll have more on 'Dre's decision tomorrow.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: More Snow?

Ha-ha.  Very funny, Mr. weatherman.  'More snow' on the docket for this evening.  Sure there is.  Wait, you're serious?  Another 2-4 inches?  OK, the weather gods are just trolling us now.

Since the softball season started in early March, snowfall has been so frequent that I've only been able to work one night of umpiring out of nine scheduled.  That means a serious loss of second-job income for yours truly, which has left my pocketbook hurting.  How am I supposed to afford my rock-'n-roll lifestyle on the pittance I receive from the corporate reptile alone?  Worst. Spring. Ever.

Today in the bag, I'm talking Nick Hirschman, Ryan Thorburn, and the high-flying Rox and Nuggets.

Click below for the bag...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quick Post: Proving Grounds 2013

I have been continually amazed by the work the CU Video team puts in to show the Black & Gold in the best light possible.  To my eye, they're the best in the business.

Their most recent efforts, the spring football-centric 'Proving Grounds' series, have lived up to their atypically high standards, and are powerful enough to make even this football grouch yearn for the calendar to speed into fall.  If you haven't watched it, I encourage everyone to check out the three-part series, including the recently released third episode.  You can also follow them on Twitter @CU_Video.

Proving Grounds - Episode I from @CU_Video on Vimeo.

Proving Grounds - Episode II from @CU_Video on Vimeo.

Proving Grounds - Episode III from @CU_Video on Vimeo.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: All the snow!

Seriously, more snow?  We've had a storm per week for almost two months now.  This is starting to get ridiculous.

Today in the bag, I'm talking the spring game, the Masters, and pro decisions from Spencer and 'Dre.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, April 12, 2013

The 2013 CU Garage Sale

Once again, the folks at the CU athletic department are opening their warehouse for a garage sale.  Those who have taken advantage of it in the past know that it is an incredibly cheap way to load up on Black and Gold gear for the upcoming year.  T-Shirts?  $5.  Pants?  $15.  Track jackets?  $20.  They even have game-worn jerseys from most sports, available to you, the CU fan-on-a-budget, for low, low prices.

Unfortunately, it's getting harder and harder to find anything if you're normal-human sized.  By 12:05 today, essentially right as the doors opened, anything from men's sizes S through XL was already gone, and shoes were only available in sizes approaching SHAQ. Bad luck for many bargain hunters.

Luckily, I am not sized like a normal human, and I was able to score some great deals.  I may not have found the game-worn Nate Tomlinson jersey that I was looking for, but it was still worth the trip up to campus.

This is my haul from today:

An official jersey from the mountain man himself, Ryan Miller.  The slim-fit is a little small for me.  In retrospect, I may have to gift this.

This is what I came for: NCAA Tournament wear!  Combination Pac-12 Champion and Tournament participant track jacket for only $20.  BOOM!
More Tournament wear.  This time, a fleece for $10.  I had to size-up on this one, but it'll be worth it when it's November, and I'm headed to the CEC.  This was the last one they had in stock, and I had to stare-down a dude who was looking at it.
A pair of track pants, one with logo, the other without.  My lounge-wear needs are officially taken care of.

I got two pairs of these golf pants.  Luckily, our football coaching staff is made of of appropriately-sized gentlemen.

 And, finally, a pair of t-shirts, both basketball themed.  Items right after my heart.

Grand total for nine items: $110.  I'd have paid that for the two Tournament tops alone.  I love the garage sale.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Quick-Post: Lofty Expectations

The one thing I know about next year is that the Buffs will enter it with a bucket-full of lofty expectations. 

Just released today are the far too early top-25 rankings from CBS and ESPN.  Both include Colorado in their top-20, with CBS going so far as to list CU as the #12 team in the nation.  The goes along with the fact that Vegas has the team as 20-1 to win the national title, good for a tie for 9th favorite.

I knew this was coming.  The Buffs have been recognized as a program on the rise for a while now, and far too many people are aware of how talented players like Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson are.  Especially considering that the team probably returns every major contributor from last season (still waiting on 'Dre to make it official), a little pre-season pub is to be expected.

But, top-12?  That translates to a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament.  God help me, I'm getting verklempt (talk amongst yourselves).

Post-Championship Thoughts

What a way to end the basketball season!  Other than a photo finish, the Louisville/Michigan title fight had everything: speed, scoring, stars playing great, role players stepping up, and a righteous outcome. Sure, it also featured more than a few blown calls and some poor endgame strategy from the Wolverines, but I'm not going to complain too loudly.  The Cardinals deserved their 82-76 victory, and they earned it in thrilling fashion.
Last night was about how great college basketball can be, when coaches set their players loose, and let them win or lose on their own merits.  Far too often in the college game, coaches pump the breaks by slowing possessions down in a desperate attempt to keep their kids on a short leash (Coach Boyle is often guilty of this; we call it Tadball).  But not once last night did either Rick Pitino or John Beilein excessively slow the game down.  Both teams were well over one point per possession, and, as a result, basketball fans across the nation were treated to a beautiful exhibition of speed, athleticism, and effort.  It was joyous to watch.

Did Michigan get screwed by a couple of calls, particularly the phantom foul called on Trey Burke?  Yeah, but I'm begrudgingly resigning myself to the fact that basketball played at anything close to a high level is impossible to officiate cleanly.  I'm just glad that, for the most part, the zebras stayed out of it.
Notice the ref screened by the play.  He had to guess.  He guessed wrong.  From: Deadspin.
I just hope this tournament serves as a lesson to coaches around the nation: you don't have to play negative basketball to win.  Run, score, be aggressive on defense.  Play fearless, play to win.  Don't look at Bo Ryan, as he is clearly the devil in disguise. 

So, now the long wait for November officially begins.  205 days.  *sigh*

After NBA decisions are made next week, and barring any surprise transfer news, things should be pretty quiet in Boulder until October practices start up.  There's a good chance that the intervening months will be filled with talk of a top-25 team, and the potential for the greatest season in CU basketball history, but, for now, we'll just have to wait patiently.

I hate waiting patiently.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Championship Monday

The college basketball season will finally come to a close this evening.  The only downside is that, after Louisville and Michigan decide things in Atlanta, it'll be a long 206 day wait for November to arrive.  I guess I'll just have to bide my time watching the red-hot Rockies!

 In today's bag, I'm talking national title, Metro State, and those damn Rox.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Attrition Files - Jeremy Adams

The news dropped yesterday: reserve guard Jeremy Adams is transferring out of the program.

The 4th-year junior, who originally transferred into Colorado basketball, was already going to graduate this year.  Despite playing for three different schools over his career, the Mississippi native had stayed on the four-year plan, and was investigating his post-degree options.  Unfortunately, CU doesn't offer the graduate program he's looking for (industrial organizational psychology), so he will make use of the NCAA graduate transfer exemption, with an eye towards playing immediately.
The third departure is: Jeremy Adams.  From: the BDC
It's the perfect story of a player leveraging his talents to put himself ahead. Jeremy never let health concerns or unfamiliar surroundings deter himself from his ultimate goal. Said Boyle, "[...] he made the decision to use basketball to maximize his educational opportunities."  Damn straight.

The move marks the third departure from the program this spring - all graduates (one senior, two juniors in terms of eligibility) - which means that the Buffs officially have enough open scholarships for the 2013 freshman class.

Jeremy's time at CU was never easy.  Health issues plagued him from the start; in fact he would miss the first five games of his Colorado career with a concussion, setting an unfortunate tone.
Jeremy had to play through some serious pain.
Knee issues?  Check.  Foot Pain?  Check.  Hand surgery?  Check.   Concussion?  Check.  Oh, and he discovered he has diabetes, to boot.  And through it all he battled, day-in-day-out, to earn minutes with one of the best squads in the region.  Some guys play through pain, this guy lived it each and every day.

Those health issues stunted what most insiders tell me was a superior level of athleticism.  Anecdotally, I would hear stories of how he was capable of dominating practices when healthy.  On the court, you could only see occasional flashes.  Those flashes were particularly evident the last few games of this year, where, after starting acupuncture treatments, Adams was able to play without near-constant pain.
"That was probably the best I've felt in a long time. The pain was a lot more bearable.  There was still pain. Early in the season I'd be walking and my legs would just give out. I'd tell my dad sometimes, 'Hey, I want to stop right now. I pushed through and luckily I got a little healthy towards the end and helped the team out."(-link)
Adams would average 6/2 over the final seven games leading up to the NCAA Tournament to finally give the Buffs some scoring punch off the bench.
Jeremy ended up being one of the only reliable bench options at the end of the season.
I can't help but find Jeremy to be an inspiring person.  He never gave into the temptations of the easy way out, and continually looked to make the most out of his situation.  Despite skills diminished by pain, he persevered, focusing on his studies while still striving to squeeze whatever game he could out of his often unwilling body.  He makes most other college students, players or otherwise, look awful in comparison.

Thank you, Jeremy! Despite never being healthy, you ran out and filled your role.  Good luck to you, I hope you find a great situation to finish off your collegiate career.


Best remembered for - 

The burly 6-5, 220 body that seemed more at home in Folsom, then in the CEC.  It earned him the nickname "Jerry Football," and I bet more than once CU's failing football coaches looked forlornly at Jeremy's football-ready frame.

Also, this:

Best aspect of his game -

Solid man-to-man defense, perfect for Tad Boyle's system.  He also brought a slick dribble-drive ability that could've wreaked havoc if only his body would've allowed it.  On the bench, his veteran presence was sorely needed on the youthful CU roster of 2012-13.
Jeremy was always one of the best defenders on the roster.

Best game as a Buff -  

2/21/13 vs Utah - CU was playing with a shortened bench, thanks to the Bachynski incident, and the team needed someone, anyone to step up from the normally quiet bench mob.  'Jerry Football' answered the call to the tune of 9/3 with two steals and a block over 17 minutes.  It was the start of a brilliant run of play for Adams, which ultimately closed out his CU career.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On 'Dre and the Draft

For most of the year, the working assumption had been that Andre Roberson was going to turn pro.  It was seen as such a foregone conclusion, that Coach Boyle went ahead and spent a 3rd scholarship on the 2013 recruiting class, even when there was only two known to be available (all indication is that Shane Harris-Tunks' graduation and departure were known well in advance of the announcement last month).

Recently, however, there has been a hitch in that plan, with many draft experts predicting that Roberson will land as a second round draft pick at best, with a decent chance that he'd see draft day roll by without hearing his name called.

The problem isn't his defense and rebounding.  The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player-of-the-Year has lead the program in rebounds, steals and blocks each of the last three seasons, and has cemented his status as one of the nation's premier defensive forces.  NBA scouts recognize these skills, and they are unquestioned (and even earn him the heralded 'high-motor' designation). 

No, the problem is that his offensive performance in his junior season slipped from the numbers he put up as a sophomore.
He stopped getting to both the line (where he also slipped to 55% shooting) and the rim (a career-low 51% of attempts), shot the ball at career low rates, and posted a declining O-Rating for the second consecutive year.  Part of the decline may be attributed to Josh Scott 'stealing' interior touches, continuing to play out of position, and a team-wide move away from the rim on offense, but the statistical decline shrieks 'look at me,' and NBA GMs are listening.

Given this shaky offensive track record, the conventional wisdom becomes, 'Roberson needs another year in college to improve his draft stock.'  I, however, remain unconvinced that another year at CU would do anything to move the draft needle, and may in fact be harmful to his overall NBA prospects.

For me it comes down to this: even assuming he reverses the trends and improves offensively, NBA GMs are still going to look at him as offensively deficient.  He just doesn't have the game for the small forward role that CU continues to play him in, and it's highlighting the weaker aspects of his game, rather than emphasizing what he does best at.  Barring some ridiculousness where he breaks out a la Derrick Williams, that narrative can't change. 

Further, how is he going to show offensive improvement on next season's deeper, more balanced roster?  Who will he be stealing points from, since the majority of the roster that put points on the board will be returning?  Scott is only going to improve, Spencer Dinwiddie, assuming he returns, is only going to improve, and Askia Booker probably (*cough*) won't be in a season-long slump.  The scoring situation only becomes more crowded when you consider incoming freshmen like Chris Jenkins, Tre'Shaun Fletcher, and Jaron Hopkins, in addition to the front-line touches that Wes Gordon will be pushing for.  There's just not enough water left in the stone for 'Dre to squeeze out eye-popping numbers.

Sure, 'Dre coming back makes a lot of sense from a non-NBA point-of-view.  Not only would it make the team better - possibly Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight better - but he'd also get another year as the BMOC, a final dose of accolades and awards, the opportunity to pursue a league title with a special grouping of talent, a chance to ascend to the Mt Rushmore of CU basketball, and, last but not least, a degree... but I just don't see how all of that would improve his draft standing.

Talk about the benefits of staying in school if you must, but don't tell me it'll make him better in the eyes of the NBA.  From my perspective, it won't.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

On Ed Rush, Pac-12 officiating, and how to fix the situation

... and suddenly, it all makes sense.

Late in the Arizona/UCLA semifinal at the Pac-12 tournament, Wildcat Mark Lyons was called for a suspect double-dribble, turning momentum in a game that had been trending Arizona's way.  UofA head coach Sean Miller was livid, repeatedly saying 'he (UCLA guard Jordan Adams) touched the ball, he touched the ball,' to any official he could find.  One ref, Michael Irving, took offense to the rather demure argument, and awarded Miller his first technical of the year.

It was a weird situation, and, apparently, it was all a setup.

Jeff Goodman at CBS Sports reported yesterday that Ed Rush, the Pac-12s Coordinator of Basketball Officials, had instructed his crews to go after Miller that week, even going so far as to offer $5,000 or a trip to Cancun to the ref who 'ran him.'

That report, if true, is tantamount to Rush fixing one of the league's semi-finals... in Vegas... a stone's-throw from a sports book.

Oh my.

Officiating has long been a problem spot for one of the nation's premier hoops leagues - a fact of life that CU fans are all too familiar with - but this takes the cake.  No longer is this a quirky little issue that fans across the West wryly discuss over adult beverages.  No, this is now an embarrassment that needs immediate addressing.

So, here's my two-fold prescription.

1) Fire Ed Rush

This should go unsaid, as, whether in jest or not, officials, especially the damn Coordinator of Basketball Officials, cannot be allowed even a whiff of impropriety.  Integrity is non-negotiable; he needs to be fired, forced to resign, whatever.  So far, it seems that the only punishment has been a stern talking to, which is grossly insufficient.

Get it done, fire his ass.

2) Shake up the system by hiring and maintaining an exclusive stable of officials.

While we're at it, why not actually do something to improve the on-court performance of the league's officials.

Currently, college basketball referees operate as independent contractors, officiating across the region, for as many games as they can schedule.  They work for multiple leagues, with multiple partners, and are largely overworked.  This system breeds inconsistent officiating, with communication, comfort, and fatigue often being a hurdle both within the crew, and between the crew and the players.

So, why not do away with this failing system?  Why not hire and maintain a stable of Pac-12 exclusive crews, that do nothing but officiate Pac-12 games?  Pay them well, expect the best.  Use a grading system like the NBA uses, and hold them accountable.  Replace those that can't hack it.

Yes, it'll be expensive, with the league having to pay the equivalent of 4-5 games per week for only two actually worked, but, if that's the price of a well officiated game, I'll happily pitch in to help defer the cost.  Maybe partner with the Mountain West to both open up spots for more crews, and to defer costs, but the point is: create consistent crews, hold them accountable, and don't overwork them.

C'mon, El Jefe!  You and the Pac-12 are better than this.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Final Four Set

I don't mean to undersell baseball's Opening Day, but I'm just not ready for it.  Could you check back in a week when basketball is over, and I can devote my entire being to the sport I've loved since birth?
Today in the bag, I'm talking Final Four, Steve Alford, and Mike Alvarado.

Click below for the bag...