Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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...

The Banana Stand is open for business - 

As there's always money in the banana stand, there's always championships in the cross country program. My old trope ran true this weekend, as the CU men's cross country team won their third-straight Pac-12 title.

Ranked #1 in the nation in the most recent USTFCCCA poll, the Buffs defended both that ranking and their home turf by blitzing the competition to claim the conference crown.  All five of CU's scoring runners finished in the top-nine for a 28-point total that was 26 points clear of nearest competitor Oregon.  Junior Blake Theroux led the Colorado herd, finishing third overall with a time of 24:47.  He was closely followed by teammates Connor Winter (4th), Ben Saarel (5th), Pierce Murphy (7th), and Ammar Moussa (9th).
It's important to note in the wake of this third-straight title that the Buffs aren't just dominating some backwater running league.  The Pac-12 is, easily, one of the best running conferences in the nation, and that CU has been able to quickly transition from ruling the Big XII to owning the Pac-12 says something about the enduring strength of the program.  It's also important to note that all five scorers from Saturday look to return in 2014 (one junior, three sophomores, and a freshman), leaving the Buffs sure-fire frontrunners to four-peat.  #RollBananaStand!

The women, still in re-loading mode, were slightly less successful, finishing second, but only six points behind the champion Arizona Wildcats.  Considering that CU came into the meet ranked 16th nationally, fourth in the Pac-12, it was actually a satisfying finish.  Arizona, the national #1, was almost reeled in at the end, as CU placed four runners in the top-14.  Boosted by the home crowd, it was a strong showing that the team can build on going forward.

Congrats to both the men and the women on their efforts!

Next up for the Running Buffs is the NCAA mountain regional in Ogden, Utah on November 15th.

A better effort, but another Pac-12 loss in football -

As predicted, Saturday featured another in-conference loss for the CU football team. This time, however, the team played competitive football for four quarters - an improvement over previous efforts this season.
Signs of life!
In the Rose Bowl against a ranked opponent, and boosted by thousands of local CU faithful, the Buffs put up a fight.  For the first time in conference pla, the defense held an opponent under 500 yards, and Colorado was allowed to play meaningful football throughout the second half.  It wasn't enough, however, as CU still fell 45-23 to UCLA, marking the 13th straight Pac-12 loss for the program.

The Buffs and Bruins put up almost identical yardage totals Saturday night (UCLA 412 - CU 381), Colorado even boasted eight more first downs than their opponent (26-18).  Going off the stat sheet alone, you'd have expected the final margin to have been closer than 22 points.  The reason for the scoreboard discrepancy is simple: CU couldn't finish drives.  In total, they had to settle for Will Oliver field goal attempts five times on the evening.  Those drives of 57, 50, 52, 47,and 60 yards should've been worth more than nine points, a fact which, essentially, doomed CU to a loss. 
Get in the endzone, damnit! 
This is an issue that goes back to the Oregon game, when CU settled for field goal attempts on three first half drives that ended in the redzone.  Colorado struggles with play calling and execution with the goal line in sight, a problem they can't afford as conference foes put up nearly 49 points per game against them.  On the season, CU has more field goal attempts then touchdowns in the redzone (9/8).  By comparison, opponents have found the endzone on 24 of 39 redzone possessions.  The Buffs have proven capable of moving the ball in recent weeks, now they just need to figure out how to capitalize.

A preview to the preview - 

My fourth annual look at the men's basketball team will drop tomorrow at 9AM (may God have mercy on my soul).  To whet your appetite for the 13,000 word virtual tome, I conclude today with a brief excerpt from the player profile section.  For more, be sure to check out the blog tomorrow morning!


- Josh Scott, 6-10, 245lbs - So from Monument, CO - #40

The 'Young Fundamental,' Josh came to Boulder last season with a bevy of lofty expectations in tow.  As a four-star recruit, generally accepted as one of the top-60 incoming freshmen of the 2012 recruiting cycle, he was expected to start and star from day one on a team in desperate need of a paint presence.  While those expectations were high, the lanky big man met them, becoming the silky-smooth interior scoring presence that CU had lacked for decades.

Featuring surprising speed for a man his height, and a full repertoire of polished post moves, 'Jelly' put up an impressive offensive rating above 111 last season.  That was good for second on the team and 9th in the Pac-12, all while posting a shockingly-low 12.6 TO rate (4th in the Pac-12).  His 10/6 nightly average belied his overall importance to the team, and most considered CU possessions without a Josh Scott touch a waste.  For his efforts, he was deservedly named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

The only hole in his resume was a sharp decline in performance as the season wore on.  A result of opponents using physical tactics to abuse the slender-framed Scott, his dwindling numbers took a heavy toll on CU's output later in the season.  The concussion the big man suffered in the home leg of the Arizona State series was probably a larger issue than many realized, as the Buffs were 4-5 after the incident, with Jelly only averaging four points per game in those five losses. Something needed to change, as CU is far too reliant on the big man for him to be taken out by some random Canadian thug.
To combat this, Scott eagerly hit the weight room over the summer, looking to add as much weight as possible.  He was largely successful, adding a little more than 20lbs to his frame, and is now up to about 245.
"I stayed up here in Boulder all summer -- lifted a lot, a lot of protein shakes, a lot of food, changing my diet [...] At first it was kind of an adjustment, but it feels good to be strong and not be able to get pushed around, so I like it."
Josh looks like a man now, with the frame to match his role, yet, most importantly, he doesn't seem to have lost a step.  At the fall scrimmage, he dominated the competition.  No one could guard him, and he wowed the spectators by showing off his scoring, rebounding, shot-blocking, and passing capabilities.  If his performance under live-fire can come even close to what he showed in the pre-season, the Pac-12 is in trouble.


Happy Monday!

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