Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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


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