Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Saturday, December 13, 2014

CSU Wrap and 2014-15 CU vs Northern Colorado Basketball Teaser

Pain.  Just a hollow, numb pain.  That's all I have to describe how I felt after the clock hit zeroes on Wednesday.  The 62-60 loss itself isn't that bad - CSU is a good ballclub, after all - but the final realization that I was wrong, and this team, as currently constituted, is absolutely incapable of living up to their ability, sucked the energy out of me.

The issues are many, that much is obvious.  In this single stretch of 40 minutes alone, the shocking lack of anything from Josh Scott was paramount.  Both on the Colorado Springs product, his teammates, and his coaches, for the best post player in the West to not have a single meaningful touch within 10-feet is inexcusable. But this is about larger faults in the foundation.  What had been the hallmark of the RollTad era - the sum being larger than the whole of the parts - is just no longer the case; in fact, the reverse may be true. The pieces don't fit (well, at least), and the whole operation is too disjointed to work properly.
Whither Josh Scott?  From: the BDC
This is not a Tournament team, and, while there are no bad losses yet, I'm starting to really worry about what will happen once conference play starts.  From what I've seen to-date, I wouldn't expect a road win over anyone (save maybe Washington State and USC), and more than a few teams will be able to walk into the CEC and secure a win.  If the Buffs take two losses in Hawai'i, they could find themselves at season's end at .500, or worse.  ... and now I'm having a 'sad.'

Getting better?  Well, it's going to take something completely different.  Disparate attempts to infuse off-ball movement and passing into the offense seem to go nowhere (quickly forgotten under pressure), and good teams are getting better at denying Josh the ball, daring CU to shoot themselves to victory.  After eight games, it's pretty clear that the backcourt mix can't cut it, leaving rhythm to sag.  Outside of Askia Booker, no one in a guard spot seemed to have any ideas on Wednesday.  You just can't win games like that, especially as the defense is no longer dynamic enough to cover continuing offensive struggles up.

Don't get me wrong, what I'm talking about here is all the expectation game.  This is not a 'bad' team by any measure.  They'll win some games, put some scares into teams, etc.  But this is not a group that is playing up to the level of Colorado Basketball that we've all come to expect.  After four years of some of the most entertaining hoops in program history, a mulligan is due, but it's going to be an uncomfortable one, with repercussions to follow.



Negativity disposed of, it's time to turn to today's game against Northern Colorado.  I think for everyone - players, coaches, fans, ushers, etc - the opportunity to get the taste of the CSU game out of the mouth will be a welcome relief.  Make no mistake, however, the local Bears are a feisty club, capable of making things uncomfortable for the reeling Buffs.
Coach Hill brings his Bears to Boulder for the first time since the start of the #RollTad era.
Of course, this is the program that gave us Coach Boyle.  The Greeley native coached his hometown school in the years immediately proceeding is tenure in Boulder, and avoided a meeting for four years while the players he recruited matriculated through the system. There's still a strong connection between Boyle and current UNC head coach BJ HIll (once an assistant under Tad), and I expect today's affair to be hard on both. Said Hill:
"There is nobody that I owe more in my professional career than Tad Boyle. He paved the way for me to be the head coach at Northern Colorado. I owe him everything. So that is not going to be easy. There is a different pull there, and it makes it difficult."
Coach Boyle reciprocates, saying, "I wouldn't be at Colorado if it wasn't for B.J. Hill," but maintains that "there is no friendly rivalry."

On the court, the Bears are a deep bunch.  Only one player, senior Tevin Svihovec (the lone remaining Boyle recruit), has played more than 60% of available minutes this season, and 10 players average double-figures in playing time.  They also spread the scoring around, with nine of those averaging more than six points per game. That said, the 6-2 Svihovec leads with over 11 points per game.
Svihovec is the last on-court reminder of Boyle's tenure in Greeley.
Generally, they're a good offensive team.  UNC is 23rd nationally with a 57% eFG, and rarely turns the ball over (16th in TO rate).  While not slow, per se, they play measured basketball, working to find good shots within their sets.  It's all mostly inside the arc, as, surprisingly for a small conference squad, they only get about 25% of their scoring from deep. The biggest knock against them is their defense.  311th nationally, with and adjusted 105.6 points per possession is just not good.  With those numbers, maybe Coach Hill's hairline will start to resemble his mentor's.

Part of the core is built around a pair of Mountain West transfers: Cameron Michael and Dwight Smith. Michael, from Air Force, and Smith, from CSU, each bring different things to the table.  Cameron is a good scorer, adding 11 points per game, and taking over 35% of shots when he's on the court.  Smith is more defensively minded, posting a nice steal rate. The remainder of the starting lineup features Jordan Wilson and Cody McDavis.  Wilson, a 5-7 sophomore, is a jitterbug of a point guard, while the 6-8 senior McDavis plays in the paint.  Off the bench, Dominique Lee is a good rebounder (7th nationally in rebound rate).

As efficient on offense as the Bears are, their defensive inefficiency leads me to believe all but a train-wreck performance from CU will earn the 'W.'  Additionally, UNC doesn't have a lot of real good outside shooters, meaning the perimeter defense shouldn't be as under threat as usual.  At this point, all that really matters is the win.  Get that, and the team can release a little pressure before finals break.  After the scholastic distraction, the little trip to Hawai'i may do us all some good.

The last home game before the new year tips-off from the CEC at 4pm this afternoon.  Televised coverage is on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.



Aaron Jordan said...

In previous games this season, if Josh was 1-on-1 with a defender he could just bully them backwards until he got close enough for a layup. At CSU, he wasn't do that, do you know why?

RumblinBuff said...

First, it's important to note that #15 for CSU played really well; impressed the hell out of me. It was hard for Josh to move him. A little undersized, but a solid block of a forward.

A lot of the issues were based around the fact that the Rams were fronting the post, and both the team and Josh were not doing enough to counteract. Josh was not getting good position, or fighting enough to keep it when he had it. His teammates did a terrible job trying to beat the front, and never looked to reverse and create a new angle. A lot of it was schematic, a lot of it was on Josh.