Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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:
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!


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