Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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. 


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