Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Bring on the Pac-12!

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

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

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


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

Click below for the bag...

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013-14 Georgia Basketball Teaser

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Oklahoma State Basketball Preview

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

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

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


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

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Quick Post: The year in HOLY SHIT

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bucket gotten.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: On cruise control

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


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

Click below for the bag...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Elon Basketball Teaser

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Askia's Miracle

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


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

Click below for the bag...

Friday, December 6, 2013

UPDATED: 2013 Kansas Basketball Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Quick Post: CSU Wrap

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

2013 CSU Basketball Teaser

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Grab Bag: Cruising through Colorado Springs

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

Go Buffs!  Beat those Cyclones!


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

Click below for the bag...