Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Basketball season is off and running

It's damn good to have basketball back in my life.  I spent all weekend on the couch, watching a myriad of games from across the nation.  Not all of it was perfect, in fact some of it was outright unwatchable, but I enjoyed every second, none-the-less.  Welcome back, basketball, you were sorely missed.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the Buffs' win over UT-Martin, basketball notes from around the nation, and the football team's big loss in Seattle.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Baylor wrap and UT-Martin teaser

Well, that didn't exactly go according to plan, did it?

The Buffs, fighting through season-opening jitters, had a hard time getting shots to fall yesterday night against Baylor.  For the game they shot 33% from the floor, 21% in the first half, and only made 2 of 19 three-pointers attempted.  Wasting a strong defensive and rebounding effort (including 18 offensive rebounds), the shoddy masonry laid the foundation of a 72-60 loss in Dallas.
*sigh* ... Not a good start.
Early on, it was simply ugly to watch.  The ball was moving well enough, but everyone looked jelly-legged when going up for a shot.  Moving from the intimate setting of collegiate arenas to an NBA cathedral probably didn't help, but I'm going to chalk the misses up to over-excitement.  Finally in the second half, some shots did fall, but Colorado could never seem to get the stop they needed to gain some traction against the Bears. When old nemesis Scott the Dick started hitting from deep in the waning minutes of the contest, the losing fate was sealed.

Josh Scott, as promised, was the best player on the court, opening the season with a 15/11 double-double that included five offensive rebounds and a 7-8 shooting performance from the line.  Baylor, however, did a good job denying him paint touches, and CU wasn't able to take enough advantage of his strong game.  The heralded veteran guard duo of Spencer Dinwidde and Askia Booker slogged through a combined 7-28 shooting night, which seems more flukey than anything else.  The pair didn't get do a good enough job of attacking the rim, and far too often settled for jumpers, particularly in the early going.
Spencer struggled for much of the night in Dallas.
Both teams had to play through some early foul trouble.  Seven total players finished with at least three fouls, and many were quick to blame the 28 new rule tweaks.  Nothing I saw was overtly atrocious, however.  It just looked like a tightly called contest to me, and both sides suffered. The calls weren't the reason CU wasn't hitting shots.

All five freshmen saw the court for Colorado, with many playing extended minutes (freshmen accounted for 35% of available minutes last night).  Wesley Gordon, a redshirt frosh who will be a starter most nights, put in the best performance, going for 9/8.  For stretches, the Colorado Springs product dominated the Bears down low, and he was a large part of the reason CU had any hope at all of crawling back into the game.  True freshmen Dustin Thomas and Tre'Shaun Fletcher also played well in their first collegiate minutes, but you could tell they were nervous early.
Freshmen like Dustin Thomas saw plenty of run against Baylor.
The loss stings - how could it not - but it's only one night, and, as I said in my preview, the team will improve as the season goes on.  Coach Boyle is still feeling out the rotation, and there's no reason that yesterday night spells doom for a campaign still filled with promise.  Brighter days are ahead...

Which brings me to Sunday afternoon, and the home opener against the UT-Martin Skyhawks.  It's a quick turnaround, but the games are going to be coming fast and furious for the rest of November.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I don't know much about the Skyhawks.  They were one of the nation's worst in 2012-13 (Kenpom had them as #332), but they went 5-5 over their final 10, and return almost everyone of importance.  Their best player, junior forward Myles Taylor, is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered in March, leaving key returners like Justin Childs, Tobias Dowdell, Dee Oldham, and Terrence Smith to translate that late-season improvement into a run in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Tobias Dowdell is one of several key returners for UTM. From:
Still, given their 9-21 record of a year ago, UTM was in need of some fresh blood.  Head coach Jason James obliged by signing early contributors like freshman Javier Martinez and JuCo transfer Marshun Newell.  Look for them to play big minutes tomorrow.

Last night, they opened their season with a 78-60 loss up in Laramie against the Wyoming Cowboys.  Hot shooting in the first half (46%, 5-10 from deep) turned cold in the second (24%, 2-11), as the effects of altitude dug in.  In the game, Boulder's own Riley Grabau posted a career high 17 points for the Pokes.  Oldham and Newell combined for 29 in defeat for UTM.

No reason to think there's much danger from the Skyhawks tomorrow, particularly with the quick turnaround at altitude.  Tip-off is scheduled for 4pm MT, with coverage on Pac-12 Networks and AM 760 (... fucking Broncos).  I expect a solid Buffs victory, anything less would be a massive disappointment.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Beer Post: Friday Beer Post: 2013 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Washington 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!"

Seattle and Washington aren't the brewing powerhouses that neighboring Portland and Oregon are (unless you count the brewing of coffee, which I don't). In fact, the local market is dominated by conglomerate brands like Redhook who distribute through the InBev consortium.  Lame, I know.

Still, since RedHook is one of the few Seattle breweries that distributes out here, in honor of CU's trip to the Queen City, I'm tabbing their ubiquitous ESB as my gameday beer-o-the-week.

Redhook's ESB has been around for more than 25 years, having been brewed since 1987.  The ESB stands for 'extra special bitter,' an English style of pale ale that favors a high-alcohol balance between strong malt flavors and base hop characteristics.  Redhooks version, coming in at a little under 6% ABV, is a passable take on the style, about what you would expect from a corporate-backed brewery.

A six-pack is easy enough to come by at most liquor stores across the county, leaving it one of the wider-reaching selections of the season.  Give it a go, and take a break from the more complicated tastings of my usual picks.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, FUCK BAYLOR (also beat Washington, or whatever)!

2013 Baylor Basketball Preview

Breathe it in.

You know what that smell is?  It's the intoxicating aroma of leather and hardwood.  It can mean only one thing: basketball is back!  Let it ring!

I can't hold it in any more: IT'S GAMEDAY! We made it folks!  It's finally November!  Hit the lights, lace up the sneakers, and let's get this party started!

Coach Tad Boyle (praise be his name), in all of his wisdom, has decided that Colorado should begin 2013-14 on the road by playing hated rival Baylor in the semi-neutral setting of Dallas, TX.  This is quite a step out of the norm for CU, as the program hasn't started the regular season away from home in a decade.  You have to go back to November of 2003, when the Buffs traveled to Evanston, IL on opening night to take on Northwestern.  Behind 21 points from Michel Morandais, Colorado claimed a solid 67-56 victory.

However, even in that year, CU hosted a pair of exhibition games at the CEC before their opening road-trip. To find the last time CU played their first public game of the year outside of beautiful Boulder, CO, you have to go back to 2000, when the Buffs opened the year against the University of Alaska in chilly Fairbanks as part of a non-conference tournament.  They won that one, too, 79-68.

Certainly, tonight will be a much tougher matchup than either of those two were.  Baylor starts the season as #25 in the initial AP rankings, and has all the pieces for a run to a good seed in the NCAA Tournament.  But this is what we as fans should want - marquee matchups with some of the best in the nation.  I wish it was at a more convenient locale, but I'm heartened to see that the Buffs have the cachet to pull in these kinds of showcase events.

Tip-off from American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX is set for 8pm MT.  Coverage can be found on ROOT.  Mark Johnson and the radio broadcast will be on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 Washington Football Preview

Last night, while laying exhausted in the wake of facilitating my fourth annual Massive Basketball Preview, my computer died.  Like won't start up, unrecoverable data died.


Undeterred, I quickly bought a replacement, and am back in the game after only one night incommunicado.  Huzzah!


Last week, CU put in a rare complete performance against a Pac-12 opponent.  On the road no less!  Yes, the Buffs still wound up losers by over 20 points, but for them to be playing competitive football well into the fourth quarter is a massive improvement.

Looking to build on that improvement, Colorado travels up to Seattle this weekend to face off against the Washington Huskies.  The odds are still stacked against them, but another week of solid gains on the gridiron is within reach, even if the scoreboard tilts strongly the other way.

Kickoff from newly renovated Husky Stadium is set for 6pm MT Saturday evening.  Television coverage can be found on good ole Pac-12 Networks, with the radio broadcast on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Massive Basketball Preview: 2013-14 - Welcome to the fast lane

“This is the fast lane, folks...and some of us like it here.” - Hunter S. Thompson

It's been too long since our local heroes, the University of Colorado men's basketball team, took the court in anger.  288 days have passed since CU walked away from the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas, having suffered a fatal blow from the University of Illinois.  A bitter end to a season spent dealing with growing pains.

2012-13 was, by all rights, a phenomenal year in the history of Colorado Basketball.  The Buffs finished 21-12, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a decade.  Buoyed by a strong opening run to non-conference play, they claimed a number of eye-opening wins, a non-conference tournament title, and the program's first national ranking since 2006.  From season's tip-off in November, to senior night in March, the stadium was packed, and the denizens of BuffNation were treated to a show.
From: the BDC
Yet, something was missing.  The team struggled early in conference play, and had to turn to grind-it-out basketball (that many fans termed 'Tad-Ball') to win games in February and March.  There was nothing free-flowing about this style of play, and it redefined the old phrase 'winning-ugly.'  The Buffs just didn't seem ready for the expectations that early success placed on their shoulders. They weren't there yet. 

After a summer spent regrouping and redeveloping the roster, 2013-14 looks to be a season spent fighting the ghosts of that campaign.  Expectations will be just as high, if not higher, and much of the season will be defined by the team's ability to wear the burden of those expectations with a little more grace than their predecessors.

While the veteran heart of last season's squad has drifted away to professional opportunities, four starters return for 2013-14.  That fact alone has lead many to laud the Buffs' pre-season chances. Early indications were even that CU could be in line for their first pre-season top-25 ranking since 1969.  The departure of Andre Roberson to the NBA may have thrown a wrench into those plans, but the AP still lists CU at #29, while the coaches poll has Colorado coming in at #27.   The Buffs have even been picked by most pundits to finish in the Pac-12's top-three, and contend for a third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.  Slight disappointment aside, that is, by far, the rosiest pre-season projections of the modern era.

This is an entirely new feeling for BuffNation when it comes to basketball.  Gone are the days of the plucky little underdog, fighting against the world for recognition and respect.  The Colorado Buffaloes, once the hunters, are now the hunted, widely perceived as one of the best teams in the West.  They won't be sneaking up on anyone anymore.  In fact, teams will be circling CU on their calendars as an opportunity to make a statement.  
Welcome to the fast lane, folks.  Traps abound.

It's a double-edged sword.  You'll see Colorado highlights on SportsCenter, College Gameday may make an appearance in Boulder later this season, and the national media will be fully up to date on the comings and goings of the program.  On the flip side, the team now carries with it the weight of expectations.  That weight has buried promising teams throughout the history of organized athletics, and it'll be up to the Buffs to prove themselves worthy of the hype.  As Coach Boyle said a few weeks ago, "We're excited to be in the hunt, we're excited to be in the conversation of one of the better teams in this league. Now we've got to go out and prove it." 

In this virtual tome, I attempt to preview the season from a variety of aspects, and predict whether the team will, in fact, be able to 'go out there and prove it.'  I'll look at the roster, profiling the players, and discussing how the coaching staff could enjoy some bench depth for the first time in their tenure.  I'll look at the schedule, touching on both the non-conference and conference slates, and announcing my baseline win projection for the campaign.  I'll look at the Pac-12, noting how our rivals have developed over the offseason.  And, finally,  I'll take a brief look at the future by breaking down the incoming 2014 recruiting class.

Those of you who have been here before know that the word 'massive' in the title is not a misnomer.  I'm long-winded to a fault.  Consider yourselves warned.  If, after reading that, you're not dissuaded, if you love Colorado basketball too much to let a thing like 'TLDR' get in front of a good time, then grab a beer, strap in, and click below for the preview...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Game Week, at last.

To answer your question, yes, in fact, it is November.  Rejoice, basketball fans, we've made it.

While the men won't get the season started for another four days, the women were actually in action this weekend.  In an exhibition with the Colorado School of Mines, the 18th ranked Buffs kicked the tires and shook off the rust en route to a commanding 91-42 victory.

Sure, the competition wasn't close to what the team will face when playing D-1 opponents, but there were plenty of positives to take from the first public action of the season.  Arielle Roberson dropped 20 points in as many minutes, Lexy Kresl posted a 6-0 assist-to-turnover ratio, and the team shot nearly 48% from the field.  Good job all around.

Exhibition season concluded, the ladies will now have to wait until next Tuesday for the official start of 2013-14 when they head up to Fort Collins to take on the Rams.  I expect raw carnage, get it done, Buffs!


Today in the bag, I'm talking a cross country championship, another Pac-12 loss in football, and a little basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Beer Post: 2013 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - UCLA 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!"

Happy All Saints Day! Falling the day after Halloween, All Saints Day is an annual feast day named in honor of all the saints, known and unknown.  While it isn't widely celebrated in the US, the occasion does set my mind to a familiar, smiling monk who graces a famous line of Belgian beers.

The St Bernardus Brewery, located in Watou, Belgium, is renowned for bringing secular-brewed, abbey-style ales to the world.  One of their more notable varieties, the St Bernardus Tripel, is my gameday beer-o-the-week.

The name Tripel is a marketing style, used to denote the strongest beers of an abbey-style brewery's range.  St Bernardus' doesn't disappoint, coming in at a hefty 8% ABV.  Don't let that large number dissuade you, however, as the beer masks the high alcohol content quite well.

Fruity and spicy notes greet the nose.  On the tongue, I get the familiar sweetness and ester flavors commonly associated with Belgian beer, which play off of a slight bitterness.

If you've never had a Belgian beer before, it's hard for me to describe the flavor profile exactly, but, suffice to say, it's extremely distinctive.  Short of sours, Belgians are about as 'left field' as the beer world gets.  For the adventurous, they're a delightful departure from the often-times formulaic world of American brewing.  It's worth a try.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Bruins!