Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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...

Buffs blown-out in Laramie - 

After halftime on Saturday, with the Buffs still only down two points to the Cowboys, I witnessed a very troubling sight.  CU waited for an extended amount of time to re-emerge from the tunnel (which is not necessarily out-of-the-norm), and just slumped to the bench while waiting for the horn to sound. There was no warmup lines, no energy, no excitement.  At that moment, Colorado looked like they wanted to be anywhere but at 7,200 feet on the wind-swept plains of Wyoming.  What was worse, they would proceed to play like it over the final 20 minutes of the game, en route to a cowing 56-33 defeat.
The looks from Pri and Rohn say it all.  Also: Tad was Pelini-level pissed. From: the CU Independent
It was ugly.  CU reverted to the listless, perimeter passing, laissez-faire bullshit that dogged the team throughout he 2013-14 campaign.  At no point did they Buffs try to dictate terms, to create off the dribble, or force the action.  The Cowboys clogged up the middle, and Colorado made no attempt to earn back the ceded territory.  Passing turned stale, and interior threats like Josh Scott were quickly forgotten.  They became an easy team to defend, and Wyoming took advantage.

The Buffs had hung on through the first by squeezing out some open shots from Xavier Johnson (individual effort) and freshman Dom Collier (off-passes to the open corner).  Those open looks vanished after half, and CU didn't put in the work to find them again.  For the period, the Buffs would shoot 2-20 from the floor, only get to the line five times, and cough up seven turnovers. That's how you go an entire half of modern basketball only scoring nine points.  The result: as Ryan Koenigsberg pointed out in his write-up, the fewest points scored by a Colorado team since the Truman administration. *woof*

On defense, it wasn't much better.  The Cowboys were whipping the ball all over the place, making inventive pass after inventive pass to spring open looks (22 assists on 22 made baskets, *blur of obscenities*).  For the game, Wyo shot 52% from the floor, including 24 points in the paint, and 22 off of turnovers.  In a game played to a lethargic pace (only 52 possessions, which makes me wonder if the shot clock was turned on), that's death, and the Buffs just couldn't shoot enough harried jumpers to recover.  Colorado high school product Josh Adams was particularly good, pouring in a game high 14 points and seven assists.
Tip of the hat to Adams, who was far too good for CU's backcourt on Saturday
I said before the game that the trip north would tell us a lot about this team.  Through two home victories against middling opponents, CU had looked real good, and the fan base was starting to get ahead of themselves.  Now, the whole of BuffNation has been brought back to earth.  This team has flaws, and has to continue to work to overcome them.  Passing and distribution looks abysmal when the forwards aren't involved, there is no scoring from the backcourt unless jumpers are falling, and defensive effort is spotty (at best).  Those are crippling problems on the road against a quality opponent, like Wyoming,  Thankfully, this lesson came in November, when there's plenty of time to step back and reassess.  The Buffs will have three winnable home games before their next road test at Georgia.  I look for marked improvement, both over this upcoming home stretch, and the trip to Athens.  Everyone gets a mulligan, and CU just spent theirs.  Now, it's all about how they respond.  Next up: Air Force, tomorrow night.  My teaser will drop in the morning.

About what you'd expect in Eugene - 

It's hard with games against the Ducks, because this program isn't, yet, in a position to even be a threat to the champions of swoosh.  Still, the fact of the inevitable defeat remains, as the Buffs fell 44-10 on the road to the #2 team in the country.

CU came out aggressive, at least, recovering an onside kick to start the game. But they couldn't convert on the drive (moving backwards to a 3-and-out), and never came close to a foothold for the rest of the afternoon.  After that, it was about what you'd expect - the Ducks put up just shy of 600 yards of offense, ticking off 7.8 yards per snap.  Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, in a dogfight for the Heisman with Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, recorded 404 yards of combined offense and four total touchdowns. Generally, an onslaught of ball movement.
About what you'd expect...
For those in the Jordan Gehrke camp... well, maybe you won't be so quick to call for the banishment of Sefo Liufau anytime soon.  The JuCo transfer looked out of his depth in his first start, going 9-18 for 64 yards in just over a half of play.  With him at the helm for most of the action, the Buffs slid to season lows in plays (46), yards (226), and points (10).  Liufau may not be a complete quarterback, granted, but he can at least move the chains, and put Colorado in a position to score and be competitive.  With Gehrke, I just don't see it.

After a number of near misses through the first 2/3rds of the year, the season has finally come down to one final game, against 'rival' Utah, to stave off a winless conference campaign.  The difference between 2-10 and 3-9 may not sound like much, but, after repeatedly proving that they are better than they have been, for the Buffs to go 0-9 in the Pac-12 would be demoralizing.  It feels silly to say, but I'm going to consider it a must-win, just because the alternative is so unpalatable.  That preview will be up Friday.

There's always championships in the Banana Stand - 

In happier news, the cross country program (aka, the Banana Stand) did as they are wont to do, as the men captured their second-consecutive national title this weekend in Terre Haute, IN.  It's the program's seventh-overall title (five men's, two women's), all within the last 15 years.  Coach Mark Wetmore is a magician.

Not to take anything away from the accomplishment, but anything else but a title from the men would've been an upset.  Returning everyone from last season's championship squad, they started the year as the #1 team in the country, and stayed there throughout the season.  It all culminated in a dominating run for gold, with the Buffs finishing 33 points clear of second-place Stanford.  With all five scorers finishing in the top-40, they all earned All-American honors, showing the depth of the team.
As if two in-a-row wasn't enough, the men are set-up for another run next fall.  They'll lose seniors Blake Theroux and Jake Hurysz, but will return Ammar Moussa, who paced the team Saturday with a 5th-place finish, Ben Saarel, Connor Winter, and Pierce Murphy from the championship group.  Morgan Pearson and Zach Perrin, who were part of the 2013 title, will also return.  A three-peat is possible, if not probable.

The women also had a strong day, finishing seventh-overall in their race; for the record, Michigan State were the winners.  Sophomore Erin Clark paced the squad, winding up in 31st.  The women are also set-up for a strong followup 2015 season, as all but one of the scorers from Saturday, Sara Sutherland, return.  As always, the Banana Stand rolls on.

Happy Monday!

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