Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Grab Bag: Off and Running

Whooo, it was good to get back into the CEC Friday night!  It may not have had the feel of a big game night, but it certainly felt like basketball season; a long overdue return. I'm excited to get back in there this evening for the CU hoops sleep over against Auburn.  I'm bringing my blanket and pillow, you bring the s'more fixings.
The Keg is open for business.  From: the BDC
Today in the bag, I'm talking the opening win over Drexel, a fantastic weekend across the entire athletic department, and a quiet signing day.

Click below for the bag...

Dragons Dealt With - 

I told you we'd be getting an classic dose of #TadBall.  With the offense hiccuping through stretches of good and bad play in the season opener against Drexel, it was up to the old, trusted tenets of defense and rebounding to give CU a victorious start to the campaign.  Thanks to a little of both, a four-point halftime lead ballooned to a 17-point decision, and the Buffs claimed a 65-48 win to start 2014-15 off on the right foot. Not too shabby.
KABOOM!  Basketball is back.  From: the BDC
As difficult of an opponent as the Dragons are, they just didn't seem to have what it takes to win in Boulder. Their depth was severely limited, their stars got into foul trouble early, and they winded easily at altitude.  By the second half, all three factors combined, clearly, to tilt the table in CU's favor. While the new offense showed flashes, it was, for the most part, demure.  The defense, however, wore Drexel down completely, and was decisive.  Overall, Colorado held the wayward Dragons under 30% shooting, and finished +9 on the glass (which, I'm sure, put a grin on Coach Boyle's face).  What had been a competitive game through the first 20 minutes devolved into a blowout pretty quickly, without the Buffs really having to play their best basketball.

The opening tip of any season is accompanied by uncertainty, and this one was no different.  The assumed starting five - Askia Booker, Xavier Talton, Xavier Johnson, Wes Gordon, and Josh Scott - was almost completely scrapped in the locker room, with Booker, Johnson, and Gordon opening the game on the bench to the surprise of everyone in BuffNation.  Ski, it seems, has been dealing with some injury concerns, and had been missing practice, but the others - along with freshman Dominique Collier, who didn't dress - were held back for 'internal reasons.' Thankfully, the roster juggling didn't seem to affect the team, as the surprise lineup, buoyed by strong play from Dustin Thomas (who chipped in seven boards and four assists), played well in the opening minutes, and seemed to give the team a spark whenever it reappeared.

Of course, it's hard to get too shaken from your moorings when you have an All-American-level star like Josh Scott at your disposal. The Big Fundamental had a monster game, going for 21/11/3 in under 30 minutes of action.  Drexel made the odd decision not to double-team the superlative forward, and Scott made them pay.  He brutalized the Dragons' undersized forwards, and seemed to be able to get whatever shot he wanted.  Josh also displayed a turnaround baseline jumper that had my eyes popping, and a three-point shot that has the potential to keep defenders honest.
The turnaournd baseline jumper is a cheat code for Scott. From: the BDC
Play-by-play man Mark Johnson likes to say 'Death, taxes, Josh Scott,' but this was more than just a typical Jelly performance.  Scott was everywhere, sprinting down the court to tire out defenders, playing at the top of the key to help ball movement, and locking down the paint defensively. We've seen a lot of good performances from the big man before, but this was next level.

On the flip side, senior Askia Booker struggled.  He only shot 2-14 from the field, including 0-6 from three point range.  Nothing we haven't seen before - when Ski is good, he's real good; when he's bad, he's real bad - but I do want to note that, as hard-luck of a night as Booker had, shooting wise, he didn't turn the ball over once, handed out three assists, and played strong defense.  He was pressing, to be sure, and claimed over 51% of shots taken while on the floor, but Askia didn't seem to let it bleed into the other parts of his game.

The attention now turns to this evening, and a visit from the Auburn Tigers.  I'll have a preview up shortly, but, believe me, the competition level is about to shoot up.  The Buffs will need their 'A' game for this one.

A Perfect Weekend for the Athletic Department - 

Beyond just the strong performance from the men's basketball team Friday night, the whole of the CU Athletic Department was firing on all cylinders this weekend.  From cross country, to soccer, women's basketball, to volleyball, anyone wearing Black and Gold was cruising to victory.

It started Thursday night in the CEC, where the volleyball team took down the #2 Washington Huskies in five sets.  UW had been dominant in recent weeks, having not dropped a set since late October.  But, a trip to Boulder can fuck with even the best of teams, and the vaunted Huskies are no different.  For the second straight year, the Buffs earned the upset on their home floor.  CU had to survive a furious comeback after taking the first two sets, but closed well in set five, culminating in a 15-11 win.  The Buffs followed up that headline-making upset with another five-set win over Washington State on Sunday.
Volleyball earned a key sweep this weekend.  From: the Times Call
The good vibes continued Friday afternoon, as the men's and women's cross country teams kicked to a sweep of the Mountain Region Championships.  The dominating men placed all five of their scoring runners in the top-15, and held off a strong Northern Arizona side by 23 points.  It was closer for the ladies, who had to survive a charge from New Mexico (who had runners finish first and third), but they still were 13 points clear after all was said and done.  The wins ensure that both squads will make the National Championships, being held in Indiana this Saturday.  The men are expected to win their second-consecutive national title, while the women are expected to fight for a top-five finish.

Out on the pitch, the women's soccer team, having made the NCAA Tournament, were playing host to BYU in the first round.  On a snowy, blustery day, a pair of goals from the Buffs were all that was needed, as a tight seal around the net from goalie Kate Scheele kept out any challenge from the Cougars.  Olivia Pappalardo opened the scoring early in the first with a brilliant curler from the top of the box, and Madison Krauser added some insurance after halftime with a cheeky slice across the face of the goal. The 2-0 win gets the Buffs a date with 2-seed North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Friday.
Survived and advanced.  From:
Finally, back inside the CEC, the women's basketball team dispatched South Dakota 68-59 in the first game of the preseason WNIT.  The forward duo of Jen Reese and Jamee Swan lead the way, combining for 37/17 in the win.  It took a little bit for the Buffs to get going, but, when they did, they blew past UND by 12 in the second frame, holding them to just under 30% shooting after halftime.  The ladies will be back in action Monday night, tipping off against Western Kentucky before the men play the late-night cap.

Singing Day came and went - 

In a departure from the norm, the CU men's basketball team failed to sign anyone in last week's early signing period, and still hold their lone available scholarship for next fall.  This was not unexpected, as the only verbal commitment the program had been able to secure in this recruiting cycle was from 2016 recruit Deleon Brown.  Still, the quiet signing day left me a bit restless.

Recruiting is not done, however, as Coach Boyle and staff still have some irons in the fire headed towards the late signing period in mid-April.  Most notably, the pursuit of Tyler Dorsey continues, as the five-star guard out of Pasadena, CA has delayed his decision, despite making all five of his official visits. CU is jostling with Kansas, Cal, Oregon, and ASU for his signature, and the Buffs are considered a strong contender, but the assumption is that Dorsey wants to play wait-and-see with the programs as they run through their schedules.  In this case, a strong season in Boulder could be the key to landing this national recruit.
Frankamp is an interesting option for 2015's open scholarship, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
Dorsey isn't the end-all of this recruiting class, however.  The staff has other options, should that battle not go their way.  Particularly, CU will be receiving a visit from former KU sharpshooter Conner Frankamp.  A 6-0 guard out of Wichita, KS, Frankamp recently decided to transfer out of Camp Jayhawk, and offers a tantalizing infusion of 2.5 years of shooting prowess to whoever can secure his services.  To that end, Wichita State seems like the likeliest destination for the former top-50 recruit, but you can never tell in these things.  Coach Boyle certainly seems intent on getting more shooters in the program, and he may try to pull out all the stops to convince Conner that CU is the best place for him.

Regardless, the quiet early signing day is not the final word on the matter for the class of 2015, and I would expect some good news from the recruiting front over the next few months.  There's a lot of talent still out there, and someone is going to find CU's combination of success, coaching, and location irresistible.

Happy Monday!

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