Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 Diamond Head Classic: Day 3

Honolulu, HI, the Diamond Head Classic, Dec 25th --

Mele Kalikimaka!  I hear there's a white Christmas in Boulder today.  I don't mean to brag, but that is not going to be the case in Honolulu.  80 and sunny.  The sacrifices I make for being a basketball fan...

Of course, all is not well in BuffNation after Tuesday's 53-50 loss to George Washington in the semifinal of the Diamond Head Classic.  After a rough start, CU fought back, and looked to have a shot to win before a final minute letdown saw the Colonials get the 'W.'  A final play that involved Askia Booker going 1-on-2 with a pair of tall GW defenders yield the expected results (a blocked shot), and the Buffs were left wondering 'what if.'
The team played better than a lot are giving them credit for, but the loss still stings.  From: the BDC.
For much of the game, I was pleased with Colorado's play.  They started out like crap - as Tad screamed, 'LOSING THE TOUGHNESS BATTLE' as the team fell behind by nine in the first half - but eventually began to find a comfort level, and closed the halftime gap to only four.  It only got better into the second half, as CU began to really attack the George Washington zone with the returning Booker (two quick fouls in the first had him on the bench).  By being aggressive, and working the ball, quickly, around the perimeter to open up holes, they built a six point lead with 10 minutes to play.  Given a few better bounces at the rim, it could've been more.

Unfortunately, however, timidity seeped back into the minds of the guards, and working the clock - trying to find the 'perfect' shot, rather than just a good one - really stilted to CU offense.  While the defense continued to play well (overcoming a soft whistle from the over-eager officials [to both sides]), points just weren't coming with enough regularity, and rhythm died.  GW would go on to get a few favorable bounces at the end, and made more plays than CU; a familiar story.
It didn't need to be this way.
The stat sheet is very negative on the offensive side.  1-12 beyond the arc, 11-17 from the line (Josh Scott was an uncharacteristic 4-8), and a 4:14 A:T ratio.  Just ugly.  Wes Gordon was fantastic - only 3-8 from the field, but an active presence - but few others come close to that praise.  All-in-all, a forgettable day. GW was throwing a few zone looks out there, but CU seemed capable, at times, of beating it.  Had they stayed aggressive, continuing to dribble-drive at the gaps, I think the team would've won.

The result is that we know no hardware is coming back on the plane with the Buffs, and the non-conference schedule is guaranteed to be devoid of quality wins.  The loss also drops them into the third-place game with the host Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors; an uncomfortable arrangement.  For their end, the 'Bows took the heavily favored Wichita State Shockers to the limit, forcing them into overtime through a joyous effort in front of their faithful fans.  They'd fall 80-79 in the end, but have proven through two games that they will not back down from a challenge.  While not a 'good' team, the Warriors are at least very capable on their home court, and will push CU this afternoon.
Hawai'i nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament against WSU.
Any road game is a terror, but Hawai'i does a few things that will really cause Colorado some problems. Namely, a combination of a 2-1-2 trapping press and a 2-3 zone should wreak havoc with CU's more patient guards.  Given a few consecutive TOs, the crowd will be in it, and runs will happen. The
'Bows don't have a front line to match up, but I'm worried it may not matter if the Buffs can't consistently get the ball up without it becoming a 'thing.'  Accordingly, I'm expecting a loss this afternoon; an unfortunate conclusion to a week that started with a lot of potential.

If you're wondering what happened in the other games... well don't, because they weren't interesting.  Ohio U laughed past DePaul, 99-78, and Nebraska sleep-walked through a 50-42 OT win over LMU.  Neither efforts were worthy of your time or consideration, and paled in comparison to the two from the winner's bracket.  I have higher hopes for Ohio/Nebraska today, however, which could wind up being interesting.

Day 3 -

Loyola Marymount vs DePaul - 11:30 am MT, ESPN3

Ohio University vs Nebraska - 2 pm MT, ESPNU

Colorado vs Hawai'i - 4:30 pm MT, ESPN2

George Washington vs Wichita State - 6:30 pm MT, ESPN2 


GO BUFFS! BEAT THE RAINBOW WARRIORS!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Diamond Head Classic: Day 2

Honolulu, HI, the Diamond Head Classic, Dec 23rd --

I felt a certain amount of relief when I realized, about 10 minutes in, that DePaul had no chance to win yesterday.  Yes, the Blue Demons were able to pull within three points at halftime, but that was more due to silly CU mistakes and poor play from the subs than anything those in black and blue were doing.  With a little help from #TournamentSki, those mistakes were, largely, patched over in the second frame, and the Buffs cruised to a breezy 82-68 win on Day 1 of the 2014 Diamond Head Classic.
Grind of a few gears aside, CU had little trouble with DePaul.
It's important to note that DePaul is just not a very good basketball team.  They're sloppy, don't really play defense, can't shoot - really at all - and could only score by attacking the rim for cheap foul calls.  The Buffs made a significant amount of hay by forcing them to take long jumpers, and collecting on the resulting misses.  Combined with turnovers (DePaul had 18 of them), it helped Colorado kickstart the fast break, allowing them to keep the pace of the game high.  All told, the action in the Stan Sheriff Center went for 75 possessions - a pleasing tempo to ward off any of the occasional offensive malaise common to non-conference tournament play.

Really, though, this game belonged to Askia Booker.  'The little spark plug,' as MommaRumblin coined him, was a constant source of energy for Colorado, forcing the pace, and helping to break the Blue Demon press. He would go for 27/6/6 in 31 minutes, only committing one turnover.  It was the re-emergence of #TournamentSki, as the lead guard played his role perfectly.  It helped that DePaul was compliant in putting him on the line, as Booker went 14-14 from the stripe, but his was a very efficient performance overall (6-12 from the field against one turnover)
Ski had it rolling Monday afternoon.  From: the BDC
Booker wasn't alone, as Xavier Johnson, Wes Gordon, and Jaron Hopkins also cracked double-digit scoring. XJ was particularly effusive, putting up 20/7.  Gordon continues to show offensive improvement, putting up 11/5.  About the only one of the starting five Buffs to struggle was Josh Scott, who still looks to be recovering from his shutout against CSU.  This wide open affair largely passed him by, and he appeared a little lost on select offensive sets.  I hope he hasn't completely checked out, however, as Colorado will need him today against a very good George Washington team.

For their end, the Colonials blitzed a woefully under-skilled Ohio U squad in the early game, 77-49.  I was very impressed by GW's center, Kevin Larsen, who went for 19/15.  Not a big leaper, Larsen is just a quality big man.  He knows his role, demands the ball in good positions, and George Washington does a good job scheming to take full advantage.  He will be tough to contain.
GW is a whole different animal from the woeful Blue Demons.
Generally, I'm really nervous about this one, because the Colonials are not going to beat themselves, as DePaul was happy to do yesterday.  They don't turn the ball over (8 yesterday, under 18% for the season), take a lot of smart shots, and play good defense.  GW may not be a 'good' three-point shooting team, but the ones they take are well worked, and within their offense.  I'm expecting a CU loss, possibly even an ugly one, but would be happy to be proven wrong.  More #TournamentSki would help. Anything from Jelly would be even better.

In the action after dark, the Wichita State Shockers smashed Loyola Marymount 80-53 (raise the roof!), but Nebraska... well, the Huskers ran into a bit of trouble with the hometown Rainbow Warriors. As the red horde struggled against the press (18 turnovers), the feisty hosts scrapped and clawed their way to the only upset of the day, 66-58.  Not that I was biased in any way (*ahem*), but I fell hard for those in white, rooting right alongside with the hometown fans.  There is one downside to seeing Hawai'i win, however. With the loss, Nebraska falls to the second tier, leaving the afternoon games today significantly less dramatic. I guess you can't have everything.

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Day 2 -

Ohio University vs DePaul - 12:30 MT, ESPNU

Colorado vs George Washington - 2:30 MT, ESPNU

Hawai'i vs Wichita State - 7 pm MT, ESPN2 

Loyola Marymount vs Nebraska - 9:30 pm MT, ESPNU


GO BUFFS! BEAT THE COLONIALS!

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Diamond Head Classic: Preview/Day 1

Honolulu, HI, the Diamond Head Classic, Dec 22nd --

Aloha!  This post comes to you from the island of O'ahu in the great state of Hawai'i. Mele Kalikimaka, BuffNation!

Of course, I'm here for the Diamond Head Classic (well, not just the Classic, but you get the point).  Three days of basketball spread out over four days of Christmas vacation sounded like a hell of a deal to me, so off I went.  Regardless of how the on-court action goes, at least I'm in paradise, relaxing in the Pacific breeze.  It sure beats working.

I'm very interested to see how the Buffs take to this tournament.  The season hasn't gone as planned, but there's a prime opportunity here to right the sinking ship.  In Honolulu this week there are a host of RPI prizes waiting to beef up the resume, if only the team can just get their shit together.  To my mind, this can only go one of two ways.  The team is going to be forced to share the same space for the better part of a week, which adds a certain dynamism to recent rumors of a discordant locker room and various levels of in-fighting amongst roster and staff.  That close proximity can either cause a blow up, leading to three straight games of horrific basketball, or force the team to look within, possibly helping them to refocus on playing their best basketball. ... and, no, I have no inkling of which one will be the result; your guess is a good as mine.

The field for the 2014 Diamond Head Classic is littered with strong basketball programs.  There aren't any national title contenders in this group, but there are at least three Tournament teams, and another couple who should challenge for titles in their smaller leagues.  In the end, I see the field split into three groups - the proverbial favorite, the flawed second tier, and the also-rans.

The favorite - 

The best on the island are, of course, the WSU Shockers.  A Final Four participant from just a few short years ago, they remain a strong program, one of the best mid-major names around. Head Coach Gregg Marshall, the Shocker successor to Coach Boyle's mentor, Mark Turgeon, is the goods, legitimately one of the best coaches in the country. He's lead them through a progression of NIT champion in 2011, to conference champion in 2012, to the pinnacle of the sport in 2013, and a #1 seed in 2014. For the record, KenPom has them as the #11 team in the land this season, and only an overtime loss @ Utah has kept their record from perfection.
Marshall is going to make a ton of money in this game.
WSU plays a little slow, savoring possessions (almost 19 seconds per).  Don't let that fool you, though, as they are deadly efficient with the ball.  Lead by All-American candidate Fred Van Vleet, their top three in the backcourt can rival any Power 5 trio, and can beat you in a number of ways with their fluid sets.  Off-guard Ron Baker is a deadly outside shooter, combining well with Van Vleet and Tekele Cotton.  All told, they average about 40 per game.  About the only thing I don't like about them is their inability to get to the line enough, but that can be addressed in the future.
Van Vleet may be the best player in the State of Kansas.
Van Vleet has been struggling a bit this year, possibly in reaction to a mountain of pre-season hype.  His ability to fill-up the stat sheet has a direct correlative effect on how far the Shockers can go this winter. Even without him playing his best ball, however, Wichita State looks to be the prohibitive favorite to earn the Classic's trophy on Christmas Day.

The second tier - 

One of the reasons the Shockers seem to have such an easy path in front of them this week is that each of the teams in the second tier is flawed.

Take for instance BufNation's old 'friends,' the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  They were solidly in the preseason top-25, expected to push for a top three spot in the B1G.  What has developed, however, is that Tim Miles' bunch can't really score.  They're just over an adjusted .98 ppp, struggling with turnovers (21.5%), offensive rebounding (28%), and three point shooting (30.7%).  Add to that and embarrassing loss to something called 'Incarnate Word' in Lincoln, and the pre-season luster has quickly faded.
Tim Miles is the main reason for optimism in Lincoln.
Sharing the bottom half of the bracket with WSU, the potential Day 2 matchup between the Huskers and the Shockers seemed like a doozy when the bracket was first announced.  It should still be pretty good, as Nebraska defends enough to stay in games, and swing forward Terran Pettaway is legit, but I don't expect the fireworks I once did.

On the other side of the bracket, the second tier includes our own Buffaloes and George Washington.  As we all well know, Colorado is a schizophrenic bunch with the talent to compete, but they've yet to put it together on the court.  About the only surprise from them this week would be an 0-3 record, or a win over Wichita State in the final. Just as I could see them beating the other two in the second tier, given a good performance, a loss to DePaul and/or Ohio isn't necessarily out of the realm of possibility, either.  Really, anything is conceivable.

I like GW more than either CU or Nebraska, but I still see them as a solid step below the Shockers. Lead by coach Mike Lonergan, the Colonials project to be one of the stronger sides in the A-10 this season, and have a good shot to get back into the Tournament for a second-consecutive season. Kethan Savage is a really nice, athletic guard, Patricio Garino is a good scorer off the wing, and Kevin Larsen is a double-double threat up front (assuming both win today, Larsen/Scott should be a treat tomorrow).  Still, they don't have a lot of depth (only about 6.5 deep), and can tend to be a little one-dimensional.
Savage is a solid lead guard for the Colonials.
Their Achilles heel is outside shooting, as not one of their main starters has hit more than four treys this season. Looking ahead, this may be CU's best out against them, as teams routinely get at the Buffs from beyond the arc. Colorado has made even average three-point shooting teams look great this fall, however, so maybe this is GW's opportunity to stretch their legs a bit

Any of these three teams could wind up winning the Classic, but I just don't see how they hold a candle to the national power from Kansas.

The also-rans - 

What remains: DePaul, Ohio, LMU, and Hawai'i.  There seems to be a definitive gap in talent between the other four and this grouping.  That doesn't mean their can't be a 1st day upset, but the closest prediction of the opening round is Nebraska/Hawai'i (64% NU win probability, per KenPom), which is really only because the Rainbow Warriors are playing at home.  I'll pass on the lot; expect them all to lose day one.

Of passing interest would be the Blue Demons from DePaul, but moreso because CU drew them for the opener.  DePaul, once a regional power, suffered greatly over the last decade between the decline of their relationship with the Chicago Public League and the transition to the Big East.  Talent just isn't winding up in the Allstate Arena as it used to, and they haven't had the firepower to play the teams they've been scheduled against.
GAH! What the hell is that?!?
Coach Oliver Purnell brought in a decent recruiting class last fall, but Blue Demons haven't had a winning record since 2007, and I don't expect that fact to change in 2014-15.  Into the future, however, things may be different.  With the re-configuring of the Big East, the idea idea is that they may have a chance to get back into the race - leading to a new, dedicated $173 facility for the downtown Chicago program.

Their best player is probably Illinois transfer Myke Henry.  Averaging 16/6, the junior stretch forward takes a lot of shots, and is very active defensively.  He works well with sophomore guard Billy Garrett, who is more of your typical, slashing wing.  Up front is big 6-11, 255 lbs center Tommy Hamilton.  Garrett and Hamilton each draw a lot of contact, helping the Blue Demons get a lot of points with the clock stopped. Along with another wing, Jamee Crockett, all can shoot from outside (*gulp*), and make the defense uncomfortable.
Henry can ball, and needs to be canceled out.
Losers of their last three, including an embarrassing 31-point blowout in Corvallis, but holders of a very nice win over Stanford, I look at DePaul as a very inconsistent group.  On their best day they can make you pay for lethargy, but those best days are few and far between.  They love to play fast (15th fastest adjusted tempo), but don't rebound well (in the 290s both offensively and defensively).  That tells me that, barring a hot run from outside (certainly possible, as this team loves to bomb), one of their best days won't be today, as CU should have plenty of opportunities to counter-punch (27.5% of opponent's attempts come in transition).

The Buffs shouldn't lose today, but you never know with this bunch.  My breath will be held all the way up to tip, but I'm expecting a 'W.'

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Day 1 - All games on ESPNU

Ohio University vs George Washington - 12:30 MT 

Colorado vs DePaul - 2:30 MT 

Loyola Marymount vs Wichita State - 9 pm MT 

Nebraska vs Hawai'i - 11 pm MT 


GO BUFFS! BEAT THE BLUE DEMONS!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: Relief Before Finals

It's off to Hawai'i for yours truly.  Having planned this for the last few years, I'm traveling to Honolulu to take in the Diamond Head Classic for Christmas.  Mele Kalikimaka, indeed.
Honolulu, here I come!
While in the 50th state, I'm going to try to tease each day of games.  The Islands being what they are, however, you never really know how much time I'll find to write.  At the very least, I'll have a preview up later this week to break down the tournament, and explain how I see it going down.

--

Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over Northern Colorado, the goings on with the rest of the Pac-12, and a Heisman for the Conference of Champions.

Click below for the bag...


Saturday, December 13, 2014

CSU Wrap and 2014-15 CU vs Northern Colorado Basketball Teaser

Pain.  Just a hollow, numb pain.  That's all I have to describe how I felt after the clock hit zeroes on Wednesday.  The 62-60 loss itself isn't that bad - CSU is a good ballclub, after all - but the final realization that I was wrong, and this team, as currently constituted, is absolutely incapable of living up to their ability, sucked the energy out of me.

The issues are many, that much is obvious.  In this single stretch of 40 minutes alone, the shocking lack of anything from Josh Scott was paramount.  Both on the Colorado Springs product, his teammates, and his coaches, for the best post player in the West to not have a single meaningful touch within 10-feet is inexcusable. But this is about larger faults in the foundation.  What had been the hallmark of the RollTad era - the sum being larger than the whole of the parts - is just no longer the case; in fact, the reverse may be true. The pieces don't fit (well, at least), and the whole operation is too disjointed to work properly.
Whither Josh Scott?  From: the BDC
This is not a Tournament team, and, while there are no bad losses yet, I'm starting to really worry about what will happen once conference play starts.  From what I've seen to-date, I wouldn't expect a road win over anyone (save maybe Washington State and USC), and more than a few teams will be able to walk into the CEC and secure a win.  If the Buffs take two losses in Hawai'i, they could find themselves at season's end at .500, or worse.  ... and now I'm having a 'sad.'

Getting better?  Well, it's going to take something completely different.  Disparate attempts to infuse off-ball movement and passing into the offense seem to go nowhere (quickly forgotten under pressure), and good teams are getting better at denying Josh the ball, daring CU to shoot themselves to victory.  After eight games, it's pretty clear that the backcourt mix can't cut it, leaving rhythm to sag.  Outside of Askia Booker, no one in a guard spot seemed to have any ideas on Wednesday.  You just can't win games like that, especially as the defense is no longer dynamic enough to cover continuing offensive struggles up.

Don't get me wrong, what I'm talking about here is all the expectation game.  This is not a 'bad' team by any measure.  They'll win some games, put some scares into teams, etc.  But this is not a group that is playing up to the level of Colorado Basketball that we've all come to expect.  After four years of some of the most entertaining hoops in program history, a mulligan is due, but it's going to be an uncomfortable one, with repercussions to follow.

--

*sigh*

Negativity disposed of, it's time to turn to today's game against Northern Colorado.  I think for everyone - players, coaches, fans, ushers, etc - the opportunity to get the taste of the CSU game out of the mouth will be a welcome relief.  Make no mistake, however, the local Bears are a feisty club, capable of making things uncomfortable for the reeling Buffs.
Coach Hill brings his Bears to Boulder for the first time since the start of the #RollTad era.
Of course, this is the program that gave us Coach Boyle.  The Greeley native coached his hometown school in the years immediately proceeding is tenure in Boulder, and avoided a meeting for four years while the players he recruited matriculated through the system. There's still a strong connection between Boyle and current UNC head coach BJ HIll (once an assistant under Tad), and I expect today's affair to be hard on both. Said Hill:
"There is nobody that I owe more in my professional career than Tad Boyle. He paved the way for me to be the head coach at Northern Colorado. I owe him everything. So that is not going to be easy. There is a different pull there, and it makes it difficult."
Coach Boyle reciprocates, saying, "I wouldn't be at Colorado if it wasn't for B.J. Hill," but maintains that "there is no friendly rivalry."

On the court, the Bears are a deep bunch.  Only one player, senior Tevin Svihovec (the lone remaining Boyle recruit), has played more than 60% of available minutes this season, and 10 players average double-figures in playing time.  They also spread the scoring around, with nine of those averaging more than six points per game. That said, the 6-2 Svihovec leads with over 11 points per game.
Svihovec is the last on-court reminder of Boyle's tenure in Greeley.
Generally, they're a good offensive team.  UNC is 23rd nationally with a 57% eFG, and rarely turns the ball over (16th in TO rate).  While not slow, per se, they play measured basketball, working to find good shots within their sets.  It's all mostly inside the arc, as, surprisingly for a small conference squad, they only get about 25% of their scoring from deep. The biggest knock against them is their defense.  311th nationally, with and adjusted 105.6 points per possession is just not good.  With those numbers, maybe Coach Hill's hairline will start to resemble his mentor's.

Part of the core is built around a pair of Mountain West transfers: Cameron Michael and Dwight Smith. Michael, from Air Force, and Smith, from CSU, each bring different things to the table.  Cameron is a good scorer, adding 11 points per game, and taking over 35% of shots when he's on the court.  Smith is more defensively minded, posting a nice steal rate. The remainder of the starting lineup features Jordan Wilson and Cody McDavis.  Wilson, a 5-7 sophomore, is a jitterbug of a point guard, while the 6-8 senior McDavis plays in the paint.  Off the bench, Dominique Lee is a good rebounder (7th nationally in rebound rate).

As efficient on offense as the Bears are, their defensive inefficiency leads me to believe all but a train-wreck performance from CU will earn the 'W.'  Additionally, UNC doesn't have a lot of real good outside shooters, meaning the perimeter defense shouldn't be as under threat as usual.  At this point, all that really matters is the win.  Get that, and the team can release a little pressure before finals break.  After the scholastic distraction, the little trip to Hawai'i may do us all some good.

The last home game before the new year tips-off from the CEC at 4pm this afternoon.  Televised coverage is on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

GO BUFFS!  PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE BEARS!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014-15 CU vs CSU Basketball Preview: Return of the Blackout

This is a friendly reminder that, while I don't give two shits about any other sports they may play, I heartily acknowledge and encourage the understanding that, not only does CSU have a good basketball program, they are, unequivocally, a rival for the Buffs.  It's the nature of the beast in college basketball, you need regional, out-of-conference rivals to spice up November and December, and the Rams fit the bill to a 'T.' They're a decent RPI prize, a draw at the gate, and an opponent that will push the team.  What more could you ask for?

While I patiently wait the return of Nebraska to the football schedule, I look forward to the energy of the crowd tonight as they watch the two best teams in the state duke it out.  I'm actually excited to welcome the Rams to Boulder this evening - imagine that!  I've been at each iteration of this tilt since 2006, and rarely has it failed to entertain.  Can't wait, let's get it on!

--

Niceties aside, fuck those guys.  Fuck 'em, fuck 'em, fuck 'em.  The Buffs need this win, bad, and they're going to have to go through those shit-heels to get this season back on track.  Daggers drawn, blood in the water, I expect a brawl.  Whatever it takes!

It's important to note that tonight is a BLACK OUT, so you should wear some.  Don't have any black?  No worries, because the athletic department is handing out 10,000 black t-shirts. If there was ever a time when we needed the blackout mojo, it was for this one.  I don't want to think of the consequences should the Buffs fail to convert this game into a win... That means BuffNation needs to step up.  This ain't Lipscomb, my friends, we need the return of the best home court advantage in the West.  Loud and proud!

Tip off from the roiling Keg is set for 7pm.  See, unlike little brother, we hold our rivalry games at a reasonable hour, to let all who can attend without breaking traffic laws, or running over pedestrians. We also give away parking spots for free, like civilized adults.  The Rams, heathens and charlatans, move the times up to 6, and make you pay $5 (if they don't 'run out of spots').  I guess that's the difference between a flagship university, and a glorified University of Phoenix Online; we respect our patrons.  

Anyways, CU is suggesting that you arrive early, as traffic flow in and out of campus will be rough with rush hour, classes getting out, etc.  The Club Room and the lots open at 5pm, with the main gates opening at 6.  There's also free shuttle from East Campus, should you not want to fight the 36 mess - again, respecting our patrons.

For those without tickets, the action will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.  The radio call is on 850 KOA.  Mark Johnson!

Click below for the preview...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Forever

If you haven't seen it yet, the latest from @CU_Video - "Forever" - is fantastic, and worth your time. Give it a look:
FOREVER from CU Football Video on Vimeo.

Lawrence Vickers is the best!

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Today in the Bag, I'm talking another disappointing road trip for the basketball team, the volleyball team making us all proud in Ft Collins, and the college football playoff.

Click below for the bag...


Saturday, December 6, 2014

San Francisco Wrap and 2014-15 CU vs Georgia Basketball Preview

Something is up with the usually defensive-minded Buffaloes.  While defensive rates are (mostly) on par with what we've seen with in the #RollTad era, the on-court play has been strikingly inconsistent.  A new-found tendency to switch on screens has everyone in Black and Gold confused, leaving opponents bizarrely wide open, and the rim, oftentimes, unprotected.

This was on full display in the first half of Wednesday night's game with San Francisco, as CU's defense took on a Benny-Hill-ish tone.  Would-be defenders ran scrambling around, especially on transition, while numerous Dons got free releases to open space (including a number of runouts after missed shots, which nearly killed Tad). One possession even saw Josh Scott, Colorado's great post defender, lost (like a little puppy) some 30+ feet from the basket trying to defend a guard.  He looked as confused as those in the stands did. Capitalizing, San Fran would take the shambolic misadventures of the Buffs, and turn them into a 10-point lead at about the nine minute mark of the first half.
Tad was less than pleased with the defensive effort in the first half.  From: the BDC
Luckily for CU, this did not turn into a repeat of the Wyoming debacle.  After a pair of first half timeouts (a rarity for Coach Boyle), the Buffs did a better job sticking with their assigned Dons, at least to the point that the run of broken possessions stopped.  They started forcing some turnovers, too, scoring 29 points off of 18 TOs for the evening.  From then on, it was a matter of reclaiming normalcy via the offense, which the Buffs did, climbing back to within two points at the break.

In the second half, it was all about Askia Booker, who, if you're counting (and I am), has now produced three-straight efficient outings.  With Xavier Johnson out of the lineup with a hamstring tweak, CU needed someone to step up with the ball, and the lone scholarship senior was happy to oblige.  Booker would score 21 points on 8-12 shooting (5-6 from deep), leading the Buffs to a 72-55 win.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Colorado is unbeatable when Ski is going 5-6 from three point range.
#SkiSeason is starting to heat up!  From: the BDC
Certainly, lapses like the second half against Wyoming and the first half against San Francisco are concerning, but not all is bad.  One of the big keys coming into this season was sharing the basketball, and the Buffs have been pretty good through six games.  They're 112th in the nation in assist:field goal ratio, which is a massive improvement over the 247th the team posted a year ago.  Since the trip north, where they couldn't generate anything on offense, CU is actually assisting on 64% of their made baskets, which is unheard of from #TadBall.  A positive reaction to the Laramie nightmare.

Of course, that has all happened against some (mostly) underwhelming competition.  The lax portion of the schedule is about to come to an abrupt halt, however, as the team will now embark of their toughest pre-Hawai'i stretch.  First up: the Georgia Bulldogs, and the longest true road trip of the season.

Tip-off from Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, GA is set for 10AM MT tomorrow.  Coverage is on the SEC network, which will finally give me reason to tune into that channel.  Station #s: Dish - 404, DirecTV - 611, Comcast (Boulder) - 706.  For those who can't figure that mess out, or don't otherwise get any of those, the radio call will be on 760 KKZN.

Click below for the preview...


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2014-15 CU vs San Francisco Basketball Teaser: A Turn Inside

With a difficult stretch on the horizon, the Buffs are back in the CEC this evening for a tough game against the San Francisco Dons.  No pushover by any measure, San Francisco appears, at least to me, to be the strongest opponent to visit Boulder, so far, this fall.  Colorado would be wise to take this matchup seriously.
An intense Rex Walters brings his Dons to the CEC tonight.
Leading the Dons is Head Coach Rex Walters.  Once a national power, scandals forced the San Francisco program to shutter in the early-80s, and it's only been recently that they've begun to make some noise in the always difficult WCC.  A 21-win season last winter signaled a rebirth of relevant hoops on the hill, a testament to the job Walters has been doing; his peers agreed, and named him WCC Coach of the Year. That prize came with some warts, however. As good of a campaign as the Dons enjoyed, Walters came under fire for some overly intense tactics that have driven 21 players to transfer away from his program during his tenure, including recent starters Cody Doolin and Avry Holmes.  It's hard to continue to build a program when you keep driving talent away...

Of those still there, the best are forwards Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen.  The junior Tollefsen is a dynamic threat, capable of playing almost every position on the court with his 6-9 frame.  He's long, athletic, and a good shooter.  Pinkins, a 6-7 senior, will be more attached to the paint than Tollefsen, but can also stretch out to the perimeter.  Combined, they average 32/13 each night.  Big 6-10, 242 lb transfer center Darrell Robertson will also feature up front.
Tollefsen is a high flyer.
The backcourt is centered on another pair of veterans, junior Tim Derksen and senior Matt Glover.  Derksen is the better scorer.  Both rebound very well for their size and position. Past them, the Dons have a deep bench, with 11 players having appeared in all six of their games this season. Expect a heavy rotation from the southern end of the CEC, especially with the altitude factor in play.

After weeks of playing games against teams with a perimeter focus, tonight's against San Francisco will be a different story.  The Dons possess a strong front line, and are more than willing to lean on them throughout 40 minutes of action.  To-date, they're only allowing 40% shooting on all 2-point attempts, and take over 55% of their shots at the rim (best in the country, at the moment). They're also a good rebounding team, easily the best that has come to the CEC this season. San Fran has been particularly strong on the defensive glass, where they've been cleaning up over 75% of all missed-shots.  Sure, a factor of who they've played compared to their size, but that's not an outlier, compared to recent years.  Generally, they're a tough team inside the paint, a reality that will push the Buffs this evening.
Good forwards, like Pinkins, will make life in the paint difficult for the Buffs.
Another thing that pops off their stats page is that, with all those forwards getting touches, they really struggle from the line. Through six games, they're shooting under 56% on their free throws, good for 343rd nationally. That's small sample size, certainly, as Tollefsen, Derksen, and Glover, while not great from the stripe, are not nearly as bad as they've shown.  Still, as they're top-50 in FTA/FGA ratio, I expect foul shots to have a say tonight; the longer San Francisco continues to brick freebies, the better for CU.

I think the Buffs will struggle with this one.  This is a forward-focused roster, meaning Colorado's best players will be in focus, both offensively and defensively, tonight (assuming the guards can get them the ball...). If the Dons can come in, and prove to be effective up front (checking that front-line strength), it could make for a nervous evening.  I think the game hinges on Wes Gordon, who practically sleep-walked through portions of the Lipscomb game. His effort on the offensive glass and defending San Francisco's versatile forwards will be vital. The Buffs should still win, but Gordon will go a long way to defining the timbre.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 8pm this evening.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, for those without tickets.  The radio call, with no football to compete against, is back on 850 KOA.

GO BUFFS!  PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE DONS!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: 70% Good

Late on a Tuesday, I'm straight to the action today.

In the bag, I'm talking the bored shrug against Lipscomb, the 70% good of the football program, and women's action against little sister.

Click below for the bag...


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Air Force Wrap and 2014-15 CU vs Lipscomb Basketball Teaser

I'll admit to being a little nervous in the opening minutes of Tuesday night's game against the Air Force Falcons.  How could I not be, having returned from the poor showing in Wyoming, only to bear witness to five consecutive CU turnovers over the opening possessions against the Academy?  It was more of the same; lazy passing, an inability to cut into the lane, passive action off the ball. Throw in another round of discipline issues - Askia Booker was bench for academic 'issues,' Wes Gordon for repeated tardiness - and there was more than enough reason for the low murmurs and harried glances from those in attendance as the Falcons took a quick five point lead.

Then, the red sea parted, and Dom Collier stepped onto the court.  In only his second game as a collegian, the freshman from Denver East entered the fray to serve as a salve to the lackadaisical offensive action of his teammates. The difference was night and day.  Collier had no problems making the extra pass, the simple pass, to pop open a teammate.  More than that, his efforts were contagious.  Suddenly, everyone in white wanted to move without the ball, fire off the smart pass, and put in the work to break down the defense. He forced the action and the pace, uplifting the Buffs, and igniting a 25-0 run that all but ended the competitive portion of the evening.  CU would slack back off in the second half, but cruised to a comfortable 68-53 win.
Collier came in like a breath of fresh air.  From: BuffStampede.com
Dom's final line: three points, six assists, zero turnovers, and four rebounds in 23 minutes.  Outside of the A:T ratio, nothing really pops off the page, but if you watched the game, you know exactly what he meant to Colorado on Tuesday.  With Josh Scott getting the shackles treatment from his hometown Falcons, Booker on the bench for the first 20 minutes, and turnovers plaguing the others, CU needed a spark, and Collier provided it.  The power of a dedicated point guard (and the simple play) at work.  I'm not ready to put the cart completely before the horse, but I feel the more I see of the composed freshman on the court, the better at this point.

Of course, going forward, the emergence of Collier as a necessary component to the offense has created a log jam for minutes at the point guard spot.  Ski Booker (assuming he can clear his way past repeated benchings to get back onto the court), Xavier Talton, Jaron Hopkins, and Collier are all fighting for playing time running the offense.  My argument would be that none of the other three have proven capable of running the show this fall - Ski would be better used as a '2' guard, Talton seems hesitant with his passes, and Hopkins has been inconsistent with his dribble-drive; none seem able to feed the fronted post - but the fact remains that all are expected to get their time at the point.  With non-conference play ticking down, today's game against Lipscomb marks an interesting opportunity for that rotation to shake down a little bit more.

Speaking of, the Bisons (sic) come to Boulder, having left their Nashville home for the first time this season. They've yet to beat a Division 1 team in 2014-15, having clipped two D2 schools (Berry and Transylvania, who, unfortunately, are not the Vampires), but lost to Vanderbilt and Belmont (twice).  Not much is expected of them nationally, but, within their depleted Atlantic Sun Conference, they could challenge for a league title.
Coach Alexander is relatively new at Lipscomb.
Coach Casey Alexander is on his second season at the helm of the Bisons (the added 's' is their style, but it makes me think they don't have an English Department), having come over from fellow A-Sun also-ran Stetson.  He began his career, however, at rival Belmont, his alma mater, so it's like CU hiring a Jayhawk to lead things... oh, wait...  Their 10-8 finish last season was good value from his first run at Lipscomb, and they return four starters from '13-'14.  Overall, Alexander likes to play fast (*rubs hands together*), usually playing to just over 70 possessions, at about 16 seconds per.  Expect a lot of threes from this bunch, as they're 16th nationally in 3PA/FGA ratio.

The Smiths, twin senior forwards Martin and Malcolm, headline the roster.  Each a four-year starter, Martin is probably the better of the two, and finished fourth in the A-Sun last winter in scoring.  They work off of the sophomore backcourt duo of Josh Williams and J.C. Hampton.  Both a conference All-Freshmen selection a season ago, I think they're better shooters than they've shown so far this fall.  All four are capable of chipping in double-digit points on a given evening.  Sophomore power forward Brett Wishon is probably their biggest threat up front, but nothing that CU hasn't seen before.
Martin Smith is Lipscomb's best.
These Bisons (still sic) are not a complete pushover, and could make some noise once they get to conference action.  However, they play at a pace which should be comfortable for the Buffs, and are making their first true road trip of the year.  Unless they get red hot from behind the arc, they're going to struggle at this altitude, with that pace.  Even if they keep up through the first half, I expect CU to roll big into the final minutes of the second.  The focus today should be personnel rotation, defense (big test for the close outs on the edge), and dominating the glass.  The win shouldn't be that big of a sweat.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for high noon today. For those without a ticket, coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks.  The radio call, because of the Broncos, has been pushed to 760 AM, but don't let the Donkeys be your excuse to miss the Buffs.  They won't kick off til 6:30, so get your ass to Boulder!

GO BUFFS!  PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE BISONS (sic)!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Beer Post: 2014 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 the Bruery in Plascentia, CA.  I was thinking about all the frustration of the 2014 football season - the near misses, the quarterback controversy, and the seventh straight year of mounting losses - and my mind, somehow, turned to sour beers.  The Bruery has some great ones, and I'm tabbing their Sour in the Rye as this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.

I'm not a huge fan of sours.  If I'm going to wreck my palate, I usually want to do it with a blast of hops. Every now and then, however, a good sour - made by letting wild yeasts and bacteria into the brewing process - can make for an appealing taste adventure.  Sour in the Rye fell into this category yesterday afternoon, as the itis from Thanksgiving dinner gave way to a jonesing for pie.  As I was putting away portions of my famous rum-cherry concoction, I was told to try it with some of this.  The flavors paired magnificently, and I was immediately sold.  In true Turkey Day tradition, give me more, give me more, give me more.

The beer is aged in oak barrels, which, to my tongue, mellows out some of the sharper, more acidic flavors. I got notes of vanilla, sour apple, and cherry, combined with a slightly spicy/woody tone.  As I said, it goes very well with fruit pies.  For sipping only, it comes in at 7.6%.  Brew shops with a deep bench might have some, so ask for it, if you're open to something different.  It'll go great with those leftovers still sitting in your fridge.


Happy Friday! Go Buffs, beat the Utes!

2014 Utah Football Preview: the Finish Line

Finally, the finish line.  It's been an interesting year, football, but I think we're all in need of a palate cleanser. At least I am.  See you in March.

Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 11am on Saturday.  Yes, tomorrow; just like last year, we can't have Friday football after Turkey Day.  Everyone was so intent on killing this rivalry before it started that it's just another Saturday game now. Sure glad we chose to dismiss, out-of-hand, the only geographical rivalry that made sense in this league. *sigh*  Let's just keep waiting for USC to give a shit about the Black and Gold... still waiting...

Anyway, the game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.  The radio call is on 850 KOA.  AKA, the usual.

Click below for the preview...


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

2014-15 CU vs Air Force Basketball Teaser: Why Do We Fall?

"Why do we fall?" The classic question from Batman Begins leads to the knowing response, "So that we can learn to pick ourselves up."  The Buffs certainly fell hard Saturday in Laramie, getting smacked around by the Cowboys in a game that ranked up there with the Kansas trip two years ago, or the Tournament letdown against Pitt last March.  My view of this team is not essentially changed by Saturday, but my eyebrow is raised.  I saw regression, I saw exhaustion, I saw questioned looks, rather than leadership.  As Will Whelan said, I'm just confused; for a veteran group who has been through the wringer before, I didn't think what we saw over the weekend was possible.

Luckily, that is not the final word on the matter.  Given a few days of practice, and few sessions in the video room, CU has an opportunity to learn an early lesson about responding to adversity.  The team on the floor in Wyoming is not the team that I expect to see tonight, next week, next month, or beyond.  I expect them to force tempo through their dedication on defense; I expect them to share the ball, and be aggressive on offense; I expect them to dictate their will, rather than accept what's at their feet.  I expect the Buffs to learn from what happened, and pick themselves up.
Pilipovich is up against a wounded CU team, looking to regain their mojo.
Hopefully hitting the reset button, the Buffs welcome the Air Force Falcons this evening.  This is head coach Dave Pilipovich's fourth season at the helm in the Springs.  While he seems to be a much better (certainly, better received) option that predecessor Jeff Reynolds, he's struggled to keep up with the surging Mountain West, and has posted a sub-.500 record since taking over.  This season, Pilipovich is at the head of a team in search of confidence and consistency, despite returning four starters.  While the Falcons are 3-1 on the year, they've only played two Division I opponents - splitting with Army and The Citadel in the All-Military Classic.  I'm not sure anyone has a great read on them yet, but it'd be a stretch to assume that they'll go on to sniff the upper table in the MWC.

The Falcons lost a lot when their leading scorer from 2013-14, 'Tre Coggins, and an emerging post threat, Darrius Parker, decided to transfer.  Coggins, who already seemed to be on his way out after an extended suspension last season, would've been particularly useful as a reliable scorer.  In his stead, senior guard Max Yon is headlining the show in Colorado Springs, chipping in over 17 points per game.  The 6-4, 200 lb Texan is over 50% from three through four games, and will need to be watched off the screen.  That actually goes for all of the Falcons, as 95% of all their attempts from deep are assisted.
Yon is the best the Falcons have to offer.
Yon pairs with 6-5 senior Kamryn Williams.  A local kid from the Springs, Williams boasts a high work rate, and is currently 7th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (yes, I know, sample size...). The undersized forward picks his spots, but is the kind of player who loves to frustrate you with his hustle and positioning.

Beyond Williams, the team really only has two other forwards of any size - 6-9 senior Marek Olesinski and 6-11 junior Zach Moer (a role player who should see a little more action against the taller Buffs). Neither, however, should be much of a challenge for the CU front line; watch Olesinski on the perimeter, though, as he takes almost half his shots from beyond the arc.
Olesinski is one of few Falcons with any real size.
Beyond the obvious, the departure of Coggins also opened the door for freshman Matt Mooney to lead the team from the point guard spot.  He's still struggling with the transition to collegiate ball, particularly on the defensive end, but does have a nice assist rate (3:1 - A:T).

There's a few similarities to Wyoming, at least stylistically.  The Falcons will play slow (282nd in adjusted tempo), throw some zone out there, shoot a lot of threes, and move the ball around.  Athletically, however, the similarities cease to exist. The Cowboys are a much more dynamic team, have a lot more inside the paint, and hit the boards with much more authority.  Hell, Air Force gave up 12 offensive boards of Colorado Christian; there's just no excuse for the Buffs not owning the post tonight.

As a result, I just can't see anything but a solid CU win coming out of this one.  My guess is that Colorado will storm out out of the gate before hitting a lull, giving Coach Boyle just enough ammunition for halftime. The final 20 minutes will be a measured pounding, nothing too obscene, that gets the Buffs back in the win column.  It's all about speeding the game up from the defensive end, and using the home crowd.  Let's see how nasty CU is after getting bruised up north.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm this afternoon. Ah, finally, back to normal service!  For those without a ticket, coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks.  The radio call, now with more Mark Johnson (!), is back on 850 KOA

GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE FALCONS!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: The Return of the Wyoming Curse

I'd like to first state, for the visiting fan, a roadie from Denver/Boulder to Laramie is ridiculously easy, given good weather.  The total round trip is four hours, and, if you take 287, the drive is worth it from an aesthetics standpoint.  Laramie itself is little but a blip on the map, but it has some nice spots to hit and hangout before the game (I went to the Crowbar).  The Arena-Auditorium is also a nice place to watch a game; a comfortable Pit-esque facility with good sight lines.  It it weren't for CU constantly getting their ass kicked up there, I'd have no problem with the series getting extended.

That said, however, after what I saw this weekend, it'll be a cold day in hell before I'll want the Buffs to trek back up there.  I give in, the Wyo curse is real and insurmountable.  I'd rather go back to Lawrence.

--

Today in the bag, I'm talking the debacle on the high plains, the perfunctory loss in Eugene, and the Banana Stand salvaging a tough Saturday.

Click below for the bag...


Saturday, November 22, 2014

2014-15 CU vs Wyoming Basketball Teaser: the First Road Trip

This will be the last meeting for CU and Wyoming on the hardwood for some time.  Coach Boyle, having sweated it out against the Cowboys the last three meetings, has decided to let the series expire after the four-game contract concludes on Saturday.

Part of me is sad to see this series fade away.  I look at it as a tough, regional rivalry that adds character to the non-conference schedule, if not gravitas.  It's a good contrast in styles, and generally an entertaining contest. Of course, the other part of me is more than happy to put the 'Pokes in the rearview.  With the home win last November, the Buffs improved to 7-16 against Wyo since 1982.   I've taken it as a humbling test of will; CU has a nemesis, and it wears Shit Brown and Piss Yellow. They've always played Colorado tough, and the risk involved at this point - a win over the Cowboys usually doesn't do much for the RPI - just isn't worth the effort required.
Who wouldn't like to keep fun moments like this one on the schedule *sigh*
Going forward, Boyle hinted that he wants to get other regional programs involved.  Specifically, he name-checked Northern Colorado and Denver.  Fair enough, but, if CU is going to stay in region, I'd much rather them aim higher, like New Mexico, or even, *cough*, Nebraska.  Why not play the Lobos at the Pepsi Center?  I bet that'd draw a decent crowd. (Look at me try to give away the best home court advantage in the West, *sigh*)

But, that's for the future; the present is all about this afternoon's visit to Laramie.  It's an important game for both sides.  Obviously, for CU, this is all about resume building, and, as the first road test of the season, it marks an important right of passage on the path to the Dance. For the Cowboys, this is the red-letter date of their non-conference schedule.  They have some tough games remaining on the road (against SMU and Cal), but the visit from Colorado is, by far, their sexiest home game before New Year's Day.  Not only is this a big rivalry game for them, but also a big night for their fan base, who will have to sit through a slew of contests against teams currently in the KenPom 300+ in the coming weeks.
Shayatt's second run in Laramie has been increasingly successful.
Much like with the Buffs, the soft home schedule is probably a factor of teams simply not wanting to climb up the 7,000+ feet of altitude to take them on.  With good reason, as, not only is the trip to the Gem City of the Plains a difficult one, but the Cowboys are a good team this year, to boot.  Head coach Larry Shyatt, who has had his bunch in the CBI each of the last three seasons, may finally have the pieces in place to break into the NIT, or even, *gasp*, the NCAA Tournament.  They return four of five starters from '13-'14, and should contend in the top-half of the Mountain West.

Key to their success is the healthy return of senior forward Larry Nance, Jr.  The lanky 6-8 Ohio product was First-Team All-MWC a year ago, as he lead the team in points (15.4), rebounds (8.6), blocks (2.1), and steals (1.4) per game.  An ACL tear in his right knee, however, derailed what was a strong junior campaign, and really hurt the Cowboys.  Without him, Wyoming went 1-6, and tumbled out of NIT contention.
Nance, Jr. is easily the best player on Wyoming
Assuming he's made a complete recovery, the senior's presence in the lineup makes the 'Pokes a much more difficult animal to take on.  A completely different challenge from Auburn Cinmeon Bowers, Nance will give multiple looks from the forward slot, shifting from the post to the wing as necessary.  I still would take either Josh Scott or Wes Gordon over him, but there's not many other forwards in this timezone who can hold a candle to Larry. Nance will pair up front with Derek Cooke, a bulkier forward who stays inside.

The backcourt features Colorado native Riley Grabau.  The hero of Boulder High's 2011 run to the state final is a strong shooter (shot 42% from deep last season), and really feeds off of kick-outs from forwards like Nance and Cooke.  He pairs well with another Colorado product, junior Josh Adams.  The 6-2 spark plug is also a good shooter, but aditionally adds an athletic dimension to the guard corps. Between them, they can rain threes if you're not closing out the perimeter.
Boulder's own Grabau has come into his own at Wyo.
What makes this matchup so difficult for CU is the slow, measured pace that the Cowboys like the employ. They revel in possession basketball, and generally take over 20 seconds per set.  Since Shyatt came back to Laramie, the Cowboys have finished no higher than 343rd in average possession length, making every trip down the court a battle of wills.  For a team like Colorado, who likes to get out and run a bit, it can be very frustrating. The 'Pokes will also throw some zone out there, which really gets in CU's head.  If the Buffs can steal out of Wyoming with a win, it will tell us a lot about this team.

It's going to be tough, but I think the Buffs should be able to earn that big victory.  A good, deep veteran team like Colorado should perform well on the road, and the forward strength on the team should neutralize the versatile Nance.  Believe me, it's going to be ugly, it's going to be tense, it's going to be #TadBall, but I see a close CU win.

Tip-off from the Arena-Auditorium in beautiful Laramie is set for 4pm this afternoon. For those making the drive up, it's supposed to be a clear day, so we all caught a break. Coverage for those who aren't making the drive can be found on ESPN3 (the streaming service).  The radio call, sans Mark Johnson, will be on AM 760 - because: football.

GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE COWBOYS!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Beer Post: 2014 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Wyoming 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!"

All apologies to the football team, but I'm headed up to Laramie tomorrow for the basketball game, leaving any hope of a football watch party non-existent.  That doesn't mean that beer isn't on the menu, however.  I fully plan on getting up to the home of the Cowboys with more than enough time to put away a few before entering the stadium.  When in Rome...

So, what will I be drinking?  Well, I think it needs to fit with the ouvre of the region.  I hate to be stereotypical, but, when I think Wyoming (after I get past the gusting winds and barren terrain), I think rednecks hunting game.  With that in mind, there's only one option: Busch in a trophy/camo can.  It's this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.

Oh my, is this a nasty pick.  Not only am I painting with a broad brush about our rural neighbors to the north, but Busch is a truly horrible beverage.  This is the stuff that Budweiser doesn't think is good enough to get the full 'King of Beers' treatment, watered down and re-packaged for consumption.  An 'economy' version of an already terrible product.  *LOL*, I bet you weren't expecting to see this pop up in the beer post today.

This is, of course, an American adjunct lager, otherwise known as a macro-brew.  The ingredients are sub-par and homogeneous, the taste is off-putting and slightly metallic, and it'll give you a wicked upset stomach. If that isn't a hard sell for this beast, I don't know what is!  You can find it everywhere third-rate beers are sold, often in quantities you'd rather not admit to purchasing.  Why not buy a rack of these, and get weird!


Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Cowboys (and Ducks too)!

2014 Oregon Football Preview

Not much to say before this.  The Buffs face a massively difficult road test in Eugene this weekend, in essentially an 'us against the world' scenario.  No one thinks CU has a chance in hell of even competing for a few minutes tomorrow, and the rest of the college football landscape sees this one as a rest stop on the way to Santa Clara for the Ducks.  But, as Chris Berman famously says, 'that's why they play the game.' Weirder things have happened...

Kickoff from the house that the Swoosh built is set for 2:30pm on Saturday.  Televised coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Quick Post: Auburn Wrap

I tweeted out mid-way through the first half that the Auburn Tigers were in a bad spot.  While only down a few at the time, it was clear to me that, with a lack of interior size, and absolutely no ability to defend Colorado up front, it was only a matter of time before the flood gates broke open.  While they would find a way to get some joy on the boards (thanks to big Cinmeon Bowers), Auburn's defensive level continued to be atrocious throughout the game, and CU was able to get whatever they wanted in the paint.  As the Tigers, who had, predictably, tried to run with the Buffs at altitude, began to tire and lose interest in the second, the game began to get out of hand.  By the end, all that was left was a resounding 90-59 Colorado victory, and a very happy, if sleepy, crowd.
Coach Pearl knew he was in trouble from the opening tip, and so did his shirt.  From: SBNation
Speaking of the crowd, they were fantastic last night/this morning.  The students did their part, as the C-Unit was packed and rowdy from well before the opening tip through the final whistle.  Even the rest of the stadium was mostly full, which surprised me for a 11pm tip.  BuffNation did themselves proud with this one, and the team was appropriately grateful.

The Buffs certainly needed the support, as, don't forget, this was a four point game at halftime.  It took a dominating performance over the final 20 minutes to turn it into a 31-point blowout.  In that second half, CU shot over 65%, living in the paint against the smaller Tigers, while holding the slumping shooters from the SEC to only 18% from the floor (58% to 29% for the game). That discrepancy keyed a 24-0 run that ended all doubt, and had those in attendance on their feet. If there's been a more perfect half played in the Tad Boyle era, I'd like to see it.

Leading the way for Colorado, and exemplifying the ease with which they controlled play on the block, was Wesley Gordon.  The redshirt sophomore had his best game in Black and Gold, claiming a 16/12 double-double, his first, while only committing one foul.  Beyond just Gordon, however, the whole forward corps had a fantastic night. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott chipped in 17 points a piece, and the trio combined for 50 points, 26 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, and NO turnovers.  Seriously, Auburn needs to beg, borrow, or steal a forward to help, and soon.
We Gordon had a monster game.  From: the BDC
The problem is, with the Tigers as roster poor as they were, it's hard to take this win with anything but a grain of salt.  In fact, through two games, the Buffs have not faced the level of challenge that they will walk into Saturday afternoon in Laramie.  Facing the Cowboys has always been a program bugaboo, and this year looks to be no different.  I'll have a preview up later this week, but, sufficed to say, the upcoming road trip will be the first true test of the season.  We'll know much more about this team after those 40 minutes have been played.

Monday, November 17, 2014

2014-15 CU vs Auburn Basketball Teaser: Late in the Evening


So, just why is this game tipping off at 11pm?  Well, because it's part of ESPN's seventh-annual Tip-Off Marathon, a yearly showcase of more than 24-hour of continuous basketball action to celebrate the start of the season.  It's actually kind of an honor to be chosen to participate, even as part of the night shift. Believe me, it could be worse - Iona and Wofford tip-off at 7am ET.  I don't even want to think the student section would like with a early-morning tip.

Speaking of the students, this is their game tonight.  There's no doubt in my mind that the attention-span of the few adults in attendance will wane as the game progresses, so it'll be up to the C-Unit to keep the energy ramped up throughout the contest.  In fact, the more of them, the merrier.  If you're not going to the game tonight, because of the understandable intersection of work effectiveness and sleep, why not find a helpful young'un to give your ticket to?  It's what Coach Boyle would want.

But, enough of that noise, onto the matter at hand: Bruce Pearl, and his Auburn Tigers.  Basketball has never been all that much of a strong-suit on the Plains.  Outside of the brief blip of the Charles Barkley era, the program been largely indifferent, even though they play in the hoops-shallow SEC.  That's where the introduction of Bruce Pearl comes in.  Coach Pearl is a known quantity -  a proven winner at the higher levels of the sport. During stints at UW-Milwaukee and Tennessee, he routinely had his teams in the Dance, and winning. While basketball will always be second-fiddle at Auburn, the high-priced hire of Pearl (six-year, $14.7 million) signifies an honest investment in the sport.  Especially in a league that struggles to place more than a few teams at the big boy table, it seems like an opportunity for a high ROI.
Pearl's hiring signals a newfound commitment to hoops at Auburn.
There is some risk, however.  Even in the bootstrapping world of recruiting in the southeast, Pearl carries with him the stigma of a convicted rule violator, stemming from a few recruiting violations picked up during his time on the bench at Tennessee.  In the eyes of the SEC, it's only cheating if you get caught, and Pearl... well, got caught.  Covering up a few kids at a barbecue isn't the worst crime ever (hell, Baylor once picked up a couple cheating on equestrian recruits), but the fact remains. His show-cause penalty just expired a few months ago, but I wouldn't be surprised if the NCAA keeps their eyes on him, especially as he has immediately improved recruiting efforts at the school.

Those recruits won't matter much tonight, but the Tiger program has already been invigorated by the presence of a big time basketball persona.  It seems like just Bruce's name alone has gotten them on some pre-season watch lists.  Certainly, Pearl has a proven track record of coming in and making teams better in a hurry.  Case in point, at his previous stint in Knoxville, he took a team what went 14-17 the year before to 22-8 and a 2-seed in the Tournament.  With his hard pressing, wing-cutters style of play, teams are liable to look different overnight with Bruce at the helm.
The Tigers barely managed to escape the Panthers on opening night.
Still, there's a long way to climb for a program that hasn't had a winning season since 2009, and lives with the TCU's and DePaul's of the world in the hierarchy of major conference basketball.  It won't help their cause that the Tigers lost three high-profile seniors from last year's squad (14-16, 6-12), and are trying to improve a defense that finished at or near the bottom of the SEC in several major categories (allowing over an adjusted 1.06 points per possession).  They're off to a good start, at least, as the team kicked off the Pearl era in style with a 83-73 win over UW-Milwaukee.  In victory, however, you could see some growing pains. They were down by as many as 12 in the second half against their coach's former school, and had to get red hot from the floor to pull off the comeback (over 54% from the floor in the second half). There's nowhere to go but up, but there's a lot of up to go.

Luckily for the Tigers, there's a chunk of guard talent still in the cupboard.  While they lost those three senior starters from a year ago, one starting piece that remains, wing KT Harrell, is a star ready to shine.  The 6-4 senior from Montgomery, AL is a little undersized for his position, but stands as a pure shooter, and a capable scorer.  With a strong frame complimented by great form on his jumper, he averaged 18/4/2 a year ago, and looks to only improve on those numbers this winter.  He is, undoubtedly, the team leader, and the Tigers will need a lot from him if they want to do anything this season. As good of a bucket-getter as he is, however, his defense is suspect, and I'm interested to see what the Buffs can do to exploit him.
Harrell is one of the best scorers that CU will see all season.
Playing off of Harrell is transfer Antoine Mason.  The 6-1 guard comes to Auburn as the nation's leading returning scorer, having averaged 25.6 ppg for Niagra last year.  Of course, life in the MAAC isn't nearly what it is in the SEC (such as it is), so most expect that Mason will be taking a back seat to Harrell.  The pair combined for 39 points on opening night, mostly thanks to 16-22 shooting from the line.

Rounding out the backcourt is the other returning starter, 5-9 sophomore Tahj Shamsid-Deen, who also happens to be a good shooter, and 6-0 sub KC Ross-Miller, another incoming transfer.  With Shamsid-Deen running the point, the other three form the backbone of an intriguing 4-out-1-in attack that loves to get to the line.  Free throws could be key tonight, as Auburn's small guards look to penetrate and draw contact.

Really, about the only threat up front is massive 6-7, 270 lbs bruiser Cinmeon Bowers.  The dude is a classic inside banger, the type of player who used to give this program fits.  He's big, strong, and active, and went for 18/17 on opening night against UW-M.  The problem is, he's the only forward of any note for the Tigers, a fact which CU should be able to exploit.  While standing up to Bowers will be a challenge, the rest of Auburn's talent will defend and attack at a height disadvantage.  Aggressive Colorado forwards should have huge games inside.
Bowers is a BIG boy.
It's because of the interior disparity, and Coach Pearl's history, that you should expect to see a lot of press, and a lot of long- and mid-range jumpers this evening.  Bruce will take one look at CU's front line, and immediately try and neutralize them with tempo and outside play.  A possession game would be death, so #TadBall need not apply this evening.  The Buffs are going to have to run a little bit, which should suit them just fine at altitude.

Full court press worries aside (Talton will earn his stripes tonight), that defense is unconvincing, and Colorado should be able to take advantage. Barring a barrage of threes (not out of the question, considering continuing perimeter defensive concerns), I have no problem predicting a CU victory in a boat race.  That doesn't mean there won't be some nerve-wracking moments, however, should Harrell get hot, or the whistle start going the Tigers' way... At the very least, this should be an entertaining game to watch, worth the late night.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 11pm this evening (that is not a miss-print). I took the step of telling the boss that I'm not coming in tomorrow, as I would expect this one to go to at least 1:30am. Coverage for those who will still be awake, but not at the stadium, can be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE TIGERS!