Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, February 28, 2014

2013-14 Utah Basketball Preview #2

It's that time of year, time to start keeping one eye on the action, and one eye on Bracketology.  Yep, I'm talking bubbles.

Much of the panicked, uninformed thought is that tomorrow's affair with Utah is a 'must-win' game for CU. That, for them to sneak into the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd consecutive season, necessitates, at least, a win over the Utes, maybe even another win or two the rest of the way. That conventional wisdom is wrong.

Colorado continues to be in fantastic position for the Tournament, thanks to some typically brilliant scheduling from Coach Boyle.  With a Strength of Schedule in the nation's top-15, and an RPI in the top-30 (along with protection from another year of an ugly, soft bubble), they're in, no questions asked.

'But what if the Buffs lose-out?'  Even in that scenario, CU is still in.  The RPI would remain in the top-40, and no power conference team with a top-40 RPI and a top-15 SOS is going to be excluded. What's more, Colorado has no bad losses.  Not one.  Their worst to-date is a road loss to Washington, which doesn't even qualify as the Huskies are solidly in the RPI top-100.  The Committee isn't going to hold a top-100 road loss against you.  Utah is on the fringe, but a win over CU would prop them up above the Mendoza line for good.  The resume is clean.  It's not perfect, but clean.

Now, without a single win the rest of the way, is CU going to get a good seed?  No, and it could inch them towards the dreaded play-in trip to Dayton.  Not an ideal scenario, and it would behoove the Buffs to get at least one over the next week, but that's not the point.  The point is that Colorado, regardless of what they do the rest of the way, is in the Dance. With that knowledge, they should be able to just go out there any play free, easy basketball.

Take a deep breath, the NIT will be reserved for lesser teams this season.


Tip-off from the Hunstsman Center in Salt Lake City, UT is set for high noon on Saturday.  Coverage will be on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2014 Off-Week Preview #2

The Buffs are taking the week to regroup, leaving Western hoops junkies to look elsewhere for their fix. Over the next couple of nights there's a five-pack of Pac-12 games to consume, a few of which might actually worth watching.  After the jump, I'll do a quick run-through of the slate, priming you for the bye-week action.

Click below for the preview...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: AVERT YOUR EYES!

Well, that hurts like heartbreak.  I figured that Colorado would be hard pressed to crack the Arizona defense, even at home, but I was stunned to watch the parade of made baskets from the Wildcats in the second half.  CU got punked in their own gym, no less - something that only happens once a year.  It sucks.

If there's anything defiantly hopeful to be said, it's that we've seen this before.  Only a month ago, CU went down to Arizona, got their ass kicked in the weekend game, and had a week to regroup before a game against Utah. If that sequence is any indication, the Buffs know just what to do with the extra practice time, as they reeled off five wins in six games in the aftermath.  Hopefully, they're capable of a repeat performance, because Saturday's tilt at Utah is huge.


Today in the bag, I'm talking whatever the hell that was against Arizona, the strong showing from the C-Unit, and lacrosse's home opener.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The 2014 Senior Class

It's another year gone by, and another Senior Day to commemorate.  For the second-year in a row, it'll be a Senior Day spent in celebration of only one scholarship player.  That fan-favorite - the one, the only Ben Mills - joins walk-on Beau Gamble as the lone members of the senior class.  For one last time, that pair will get their due. A final standing ovation for consummate teammates who made an outsized connection with the fanbase.
The two seniors enjoying their ride.  From: the CU Independent.
After the jump, I'll give my thoughts on the careers of both Beau and Ben, while also taking a look at what I best remember from their time here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

2013-14 Arizona Preview #2

Earlier this week on WANE, the podcast, I mentioned that Arizona State has an uncanny ability to drag the game and their opponent down to their level.  Contests with the Sun Devils are invariably gritty, physical affairs, more reminiscent of the old wars CU used to wage with Kansas State than anything usually found in the Pac-12.  As Coach Boyle said, "They’re a physical team and you’d better buck up and be physical back, otherwise they’ll punk you." Wednesday night, with postseason hopes on the line, Colorado came prepared for this style of ball, and brought a warrior mindset to bear against the visitors.  It worked, and CU out-muscled a team that has recently had their way with the Buffs, earning a vital 61-52 win in the process.
A huge win for Ski and the boys.  From: the BDC
This was a program win, both in execution and result - if this were on the football side of campus, we'd be talking about bricks.  It meant something to the team, from Coach Boyle on down.  You could see as much from the intensity Colorado brought to the court, and the reaction from everyone after the game.  The Buffs wanted this win, bad, and would not accept defeat.  A month after a game with ASU marked the low-point of the season, it was good to see the team play with this kind of intensity and passion to make the statement that Colorado is back(!).

The tilt was defined by the play down low between heavyweight post-men Josh Scott and Jordan Bachynski. These two share a brutal history, and I could tell from the opening possession that Scott was out for revenge. The Young Fundamental gave no quarter to the ASU center, routinely going toe-to-toe in the paint with the hulking brute. For all but a handful of instances in the first half, Scott got the better of the fight, controlling the game with a 13/13/2/1 line that towers over Bachynski's 4/4/1.  Further, while Josh played 35 minutes without a foul, his counterpart battled foul trouble for most of the second half, and left the arena with a bum ankle and a black eye.  All things considered, the judges scored it 12 rounds to 0: utter domination. While Josh can't remember the last time these two met in Boulder, he came up with a performance on Wednesday that will be hard to forget.
Scott dominated Lurch.  Wasn't even close.  From: the BDC
If Scott's dismantling of Bachynski wasn't enough, CU controlled all other phases of the interior game.  They finished +21 on the boards (+20 in the second half alone), shut out the Sun Devils 12-0 in second chance points, and finished +8 in paint scoring.  Add in a level of defense not seen from the Buffs in weeks, and there was no chance ASU was going to steal this one.

In victory, CU now leap-frogs the Sun Devils into 3rd place in the Pac-12, and takes a major step forward in the chase for their third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.  It also marked their 20th win on the season, making the fourth 20-win campaign in as many tries for the great Tad Boyle.  That's pretty good value for a late-Wednesday evening.

... of course, it also sets the stage for tomorrow's titanic matchup with Arizona.  On a day when the marquee roadshow event in the sport comes to town, CU has a chance to erase all doubts that the late-January hiccup is behind them.  The stadium will be packed, the crowd will be electric, and the Buffs will look to send senior Ben Mills and Beau Gamble out in style.  Whatever it takes, get it done.


Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm on Saturday.  This is it, your last chance to see Colorado in Boulder this season. The Keg should be foaming over for this one, so make sure you give yourself enough time to get to the stadium.  No one wants to be stuck in weekend traffic when the ball goes up...  Oh, and remember to WEAR BLACK for the blackout.  Coverage for those without tickets can be found on ESPN: Mothership, with Mark Johnson and the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2013-14 Arizona State Basketball Preview #2

I know everyone wants to fast-forward to Saturday's tilt with Arizona, but there's some business to handle this evening that could end up being far more important.  ASU comes to Boulder for what could be the biggest game of the week in the Pac-12, with both teams playing in desperation mode for post-season positioning.  A win for either makes for the magical 20th on the season, and, with the Sun Devils still in outside contention for a league title, a road win in Boulder could be a big step forward in that race.

Further, this is a huge game for Colorado's confidence.  They've been much better as of late, going 4-1 over their last five to salvage the season - the trick to that run, however, is that not a single win was unexpected. They've been playing to form, taking advantage of winnable home games, and beating the dregs of the conference on the road.  CU needs to prove that they are capable of more than that, and tonight's game is a good opportunity to do just that.  The Buffs may be 'favored' tonight, but the Sun Devils have had their number over the last two seasons, and a win against ASU is anything but easy.  Should CU win, they greatly improve their Tournament standing, and completely move past injury worries.

With that much on the line, it'd be a shame if BuffNation failed to show up.  The game tonight is a late tip, 9pm, but that's not an excuse.  As coach Boyle said recently, "If we want to be considered one of the best student sections in the country, which I think they want, then it doesn't matter who we play, and it doesn't matter when we play."  That sentiment goes for the entirety of the fanbase.  For the team to be their best, and for the CEC to be as intimidating a travel destination as it has been, it needs to be packed and boisterous. Get your ass to the stadium!


Tip-off from the CEC is set for 9pm this evening.  Get home early, take a nap, and make sure you are revved up for the tip, because the late hour is no excuse for a half-assed atmosphere.  For those without tickets, you can catch the action on ESPNU, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview of the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Grab Bag: a SoCal split

I hope everyone enjoyed a happy and safe President's Day weekend!

It's a huge week, not only for the men's basketball team, but the program and athletic department at large. Fighting for their postseason lives, CU welcomes both a pair of rivals from Arizona and a national television extravaganza to Boulder.  Oh, and did I mention it was senior week?  If that wasn't enough, the lacrosse team is also hosting their first-ever home game at Folsom on Saturday.  I've already thrown out any hope of getting work done this week, and it's only Tuesday.


Today in the bag, I'm talking CU's win over USC, something new from the Athletic Department, and a little Olympic hockey.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2013-14 USC Basketball Preview #2: Mal-Ski's revenge

And now, for something completely different...

One month after playing through an error-prone home loss to the UCLA Bruins, CU decided to come out with a different tack in Westwood.  They went against convention, playing run-and-gun basketball, trading shot-for-shot with the effusive home team.  At least for 30 minutes it worked, and it was glorious.  The Buffs were playing beautiful, offensive basketball, and held a lead over the heavily favored Bruins on the road. Unfortunately, as is often the case when you try to out-shoot a shooter, Colorado tired out, and the Bruins just kept right on making shot after shot.  It was only a matter of time, and CU succumbed down the stretch, falling under the tide of a 56-point second half.  The 92-74 final was not indicative of the run of play, but that matters little.  A loss is a loss.

Overall, UCLA shot 57% for the game, and scored 1.3 points per possession. Even without another team guarding them, Colorado is going to be hard pressed to maintain that kind of pace. That doesn't mean they didn't try.  Behind a transformative performance from Askia Booker (who finished with 16 points and 12 assists), CU scored 40 first half points on only 16 shots.  It was probably the best the offense has looked all season. We'll always have that first half Paris.
Ski had a beautiful game in defeat.
The second frame was less-positive.  With 13 minutes to play, Colorado clung to a 53-52 lead.  UCLA proceeded to make seven of their next eight shots, including three of Bryce Alford's four made three-pointers, to take a 10-point lead that all but ended the game with 10 minutes to play.  It didn't help that, over this same stretch, Colorado began to panic and try to make up the gap with hasty three-pointers.  For the second half, CU would finish 3-15 from beyond the arc, forsaking the interior completely, and becoming very easy to guard.

With their three best defenders on the bench due to injuries, guarding the Bruins was always going to be an issue.  Coach Boyle admitted as much in the opening minutes, when he had the team come out in a loose and ineffective 2-3 zone.  Because they don't know how to play a zone properly, that idea had to go, and CU played man-to-man the rest of the way.  But that only accentuated the matchup issue, and players like Kyle Anderson and Travis Wear took advantage of playing against smaller defenders.  Anderson was especially magnificent, going for 22/11/7 without Wes Gordon to guard him.
Coach Boyle could only watch as Kyle Anderson gashed his defense.
I will cop to becoming seduced by the offensive fireworks.  Twice I tweeted about how much fun I was having watching the game, which, while true, covered over my knowledge that the pace and style of play was not sustainable for 40 minutes.  It may have been fun and entertaining, but that kind of basketball is not winning basketball for Colorado against the better teams in this league.  They have to play defense, they have to stick to their principles.  The simple fact is that CU isn't going to win many games played in the mid-160s, especially on the road.

The result against UCLA, on its own, is not devastating, it's not even really all that painful.  A winless trip to SoCal, however, would probably put the Tournament out of reach.  CU has a solid opportunity to salvage the necessary split tomorrow night against the Trojans.  The game is not only winnable, it's probably the only date the rest of the way that the Buffs will be favored in.  They need to take advantage.


Tip-off from the Galen Center in downtown Los Angeles is set for 6pm tomorrow evening.  The run of coverage on the ESPN family of networks continues, as the game can be seen on ESPNU.  Mark Johnson and the radio call will on 850 KOA, per usual.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

2013-14 UCLA Basketball Preview #2

Well, a fortnight can certainly change a few things.  Only two weeks ago, CU was down and out, sliding to 4-4 in conference play, and adrift in a sea of questions.  After a 3-0 home stand, suddenly the ship appears righted, and the Buffs actually find themselves only a half game out of second-place. Huzzah!

Of course, that's the key phrase - home stand.  All the gains over the last two weeks were made in the friendly confines of the CEC.  Considering that Colorado remains 1-3 away from Boulder in 2014, without a strong showing in the bunch, it's hard to take this team all that seriously without some substantial gains on the road.

Which is where tonight's game comes in.  The Buffs travel to Westwood to take on the UCLA Bruins in a matchup for 2nd place in the Pac-12.  We've left the post-injury phase behind now; it's all about the players on the court.  This is their opportunity to define the club that they want to be apart of. A win, coupled with a series completion over USC this weekend, silences critics, and flips the narrative on its head.  Wouldn't it be a hell of a thing if they could do whatever-it-takes this evening to redefine the 2013-14 basketball season?


Tip-off from the re-vamped Pauley Pavillion is set for 7pm this evening.  The fate of Western Civilization will hang in the balance, as the great Bill Walton has the color on ESPN2.  For those who hate fun, you can hide from the the Grateful Red-head with Mark Johnson on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: My lawn, get off of it.

The topic du jour on twitter today was student attendance at basketball games.  The conversation was too sprawling to succinctly link, but a perusal of the timelines of @TZiskBuff, @William_Whelan, @RyanKoenigsberg, @CUGoose, @AngryAndy720, and @JGIsland from this afternoon will get you caught up to speed.  To summarize: the student attendance this year is disappointing to the point that a handful of grown men spent a portion of their work day discussing it.

Was there sarcasm?  Oh yes.  Catty generalities?  You betcha!  Allusions to ski slopes and pot smoking?  Indeed. And those were just my tweets!

Having covered this territory last year, I'm disinclined to waste another 1,000 words on the subject, so I'll abbreviate. Suffice to say: kids aren't coming in the ways they used to.  Whole swaths of the south end of the arena were bare over the recent homestand, and it's only getting worse. At a time when the loyal and the passionate are trolling for votes, the empty seats undercut any claims of being the 'Student Section of the Year,' and generally elicit eye rolls.
The students at tip of the Utah game.  It was worse on Sunday.
Are there reasonable excuses for an individual student to not attend a given basketball game?  Of course there are.  Life is a varied, wonderful thing that your average 20-year old would do well to pursue to its fullest.  But how, why 10% of the student body at a flagship university can't be bothered to support a winning basketball program - incidentally, in spite of injuries, off to their best start in 45 years - is beyond me.  Complaints of 'lack of administrative support' and 'reduced incentive to attend' strike me as entitled and soft.  We, as in BuffNation as a whole, should be better than this.

This frustration is not leveled at those who show up.  The 500-1,000 kids who work their butts off in support of the team deserve the traditional kudos.  It's the other 2,000 fans who have decided to spend their hoop nights elsewhere that are raising my temperature.  At the end of the day, on a night when the founding fathers of the C-Unit were being honored, the student section was maybe 1/3 full... for a team with 18 wins in 3rd place in the Pac-12.  Simply inexcusable when compared to where the kids were only a few months ago. The team deserves better.

90% of life continues to be showing up... so, you know... show up.  No excuses, play like a champion.  Also, get off my lawn.


Today in the bag, I'm talking basketball, basketball, and more basketball.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

2013-14 Washington Basketball Preview #2

Wednesday night up at the CEC, much was stacked against the Colorado Buffaloes.  Playing against a bottom-feeding Washington State squad that had pushed them to overtime in their previous meeting, they took the court in front of a mostly-empty arena almost entirely devoid of students due to some historically frigid temperatures.  As a result, the atmosphere in the arena was mostly listless, and the normally potent home-court advantage was largely negated. What's more, a cynical defensive gameplan from the Cougars stifled Josh Scott, driving the essential big man away from the rim, and reducing him to a glorified decoy. Add in Washington State star DaVonte Lacy having a prodigious night, and the Buffs were without both their best player and their trump card against a red-hot shooter on a team already proven to be capable of making things uncomfortable.
The cold kept plenty of seats empty for tip-off.  From: the BDC
And yet, CU won, easily.  The 68-63 final may not look like much, but Colorado was up by as many as 19 with under seven minutes to go, and, in reality, cruised home.  It was a satisfying result that brought them into a four-way tie for third place in the Pac-12, only a half game back of UCLA for second.  Pretty good value for a game against WSU.

By all rights, the star of the game was Lacy, who got hot early, and stayed in a scorer's mentality for the full 40.  Going 8-13 from beyond the arc en route to 34 total points, he took advantage of CU's notoriously suspect perimeter defense.  That's a little simplistic and unfair to the Buffs, however, who were far better guarding the outside than they were in Spokane.  Lacy was legitimately on fire, and hit some ridiculous shots, but the ball don't lie, and Colorado got lit up once again.
Lacy was on fire.  From: the BDC
For the Buffs, much had to be done with Josh Scott having a quiet evening.  The Colorado Springs native was held to one point and one rebound in 32 minutes of play.  It was eerily similar to the night Spencer Dinwiddie had against the Cougars last month.  Maybe it's time to admit that WSU does a good job isolating the opposing team's best player, and making life difficult on them.  Scott was given no time on the ball, no open looks from 15-18 feet, and was double-teamed at every turn.  Jelly had been the most consistent player in the entire conference, so I doubt he'll be posting 1/1 nights for too long.

In his stead, CU enjoyed superlative performances from Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker.  The pair combined for 46 points, 30 of which were scored in the second half.  Booker was especially potent, going for 26 on 9-12 shooting to go with 5 assists, scoring 21 of his points after the break.  He was as aggressive as I've seen in getting to the rim, and really changed the complexion of the game with his pace.
Xavier Johnson, along with Askia Booker, paced the winning effort.  From: the BDC
As satisfying as the win was, I'm not sure it really changes anything.  For that matter, all three of Colorado's recent wins have been conventional and expected.  Beating USC, Utah, and WSU at home is not exactly a surprise, and won't be enough to get the Buffs into the Tournament.  They need to come up with some wins against stiffer competition.  While not really a shocker, beating Washington tomorrow would be a strong step in that direction.  The Huskies lit up CU in Seattle, albeit due to an understandable reason, and a little revenge would go a long way to keeping the Buffs afloat into the brutal close of their regular season schedule.


Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6pm tomorrow evening.  Coverage will be on ESPNU, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview of the previous game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2013-14 Washington State Basketball Preview #2

Offering a distraction from the chaos that is National Signing Day, the men's basketball team is back in action this evening to take on the Washington State Cougars.  It's an important game for CU, as they can no longer afford any hiccups against the softer-side of their schedule if they hope to make it to the post-season.  The final four weeks of the slate are a nightmare, and the Buffs need a perfect week against the Washingtons headed into that stretch.  On paper, they should be in a good spot to get just that, but you never know...

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7:30pm this evening.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Broncos party like it's 1990

I have a strong feeling many reading this won't sympathize, but I had a pretty solid sports weekend.  All the teams I was rooting for (except for the Blackhawks) won, and I made some money betting on the Super Bowl.  That's about all I could ask for, so I'm counting the weekend as a win.

For the rest of you, pick your heads up.  I've always said that I'd rather get blown out than take a close loss. Whatever it was that the Broncos were doing yesterday will be forgotten by Wednesday, whereas the sting of a nail-biting defeat would've stayed with you for months.  And hey, it could've been worse.  Trust me, I marched at 70-3, there's always a worse...


Today in the bag, I'm recapping the happy little win over the Utes, talking Pac-12 hoops, and putting the Donkeys to rest.

Click below for the bag...