Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Final Four is set

The Final Four still lies ahead, but my brain is already sneaking peeks over the hill to the oncoming baseball season.  I'm so eager for the return of the National Pastime that I went ahead and did something ridiculous: I booked a ticket home for the home opener for My Sox.

'What's so ridiculous about that,' you ask?  Well, the trip will entail a 1am arrival in my hometown, having to essentially break into my Mom's house (with her permission; she's away that weekend), and an inevitable mad-dash through Chicago traffic to catch my flight back on Sunday.  Logistical acrobatics will be performed, all in the name of consuming baseball at it's blurry, April best.

There is a method to my madness, however.  See, I've never been to an opening day.  Sure, I've been to opening week before, but never an opening day of any kind.  When I went on the Sox website late Sunday night, and found one - and only one - ticket available for the affair, I took it as a sign.  That streak needed to end. So here I go; I hope the weather is passable.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the Final Four, the NCAA and transfer rules, and the football program.

Click below for the bag...

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Attrition Files: Dustin Thomas

After a disappointing season, and with a number of players filling similar roles, there was a shared assumption across BuffNation that someone would be leaving the program early.  That assumption was confirmed when CU accepted two commitments for the upcoming recruiting class, with only one scholarship seemingly to offer.  The only question at that point was 'who will it be?'  The answer is a painful one, as it was announced that forward Dustin Thomas was the domino to fall, with the young Texan deciding to transfer out of the program after just two seasons in Boulder. An unexpected shot to the gut.
But, but... two years of DT is too few! From: the Texarkana Gazette
It would be a stretch to say Dustin was my favorite play this past year, but he was certainly in the top tier.  I was drawn to his effort, versatility, and aggressiveness; some qualities that were sorely lacking amongst his teammates.  Heading into next winter, I would've been predicting big things for the Texarkana product.  It really hurts to see him exit.

The average fan may not have appreciated his contributions, but DT was a hard worker and a constant contributor.  Whenever he came on the court, it seemed as if his energy was contagious.  15-ish minutes per game and 4/2 averages may not sound like much, but he was one of the few reserves that actually appeared to progress this year, and was the most consistent performer from the true sophomore group (which isn't really saying much...).  Believe me, Dustin was not pushed out; there would've continued to be a place for him at CU, had he wanted to stay.
Tireless, fearless, Thomas endeared himself to the faithful. From: the BDC
As far as I can tell, the choice to leave came down to playing time and position.  Coach Boyle said as much when Thomas' decision was announced: "I think he wants to play a little bit more on the perimeter than we were willing to play him."  With Colorado, Dustin was becoming, more and more, a 'stretch-four.' The Buffs were playing him in the paint, and having him guard other power forwards.  With a varied skill-set and a decent handle, it's easy to understand that DT would've preferred more of a small forward/wing role.

In that vein, I agree with Dustin's decision.  In a frontcourt dominated by the likes of Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Wes Gordon, playing time would continue to be an issue for at least another year, besides the fact that he always looked to be out of position at the '4,' anyways. He'd pick up too many fouls trying to grasp defensive rhythm, and, much like former Buff Austin Dufault, seemed to play his best when situation took him out of the role set for him.  Maybe, given a new team and a new system, he'll find the minutes and role that he's looking for.
Whoever ends up getting Dustin will be in for a treat.  From: the CU Independent.
Per twitter, he's already visited Central Michigan, and may be well on his way to picking his new home. Regardless of where he ends up, I'll always think of him as a Buff, and remain a fan.  His best basketball is still in front of him, and I can't wait to see it.

Thank you, Dustin! I would've preferred a few more years of your tenacity in Black and Gold, but sometimes you have to get yours. Good luck in the rest of your collegiate career!


Best Remembered for - 

High energy, blue collar performances.  He took a lot of grief for his continuing foul trouble (over six called per 40 minutes played for his career), but most of those were the result of errors of commission, rather than error of omission.  The kid hustled and tried every minute he was on the court.

Best Aspect of his game - 

Versatility.  He can take guys off dribble (his spin move in traffic is a growing force), attack the basket, shoot (although his shot was always a bit streaky), guard multiple positions, and rebound.  Like a Swiss Army Knife, DT can be whatever you want him to be.  CU wanted him to be a power forward, which may not have been the best use of his skills, but he tried his hardest to fill that role.

Best game as a Buff -  

1/4/15 vs USCStill without Josh Scott, the Buffs needed a little extra from the reserve forwards, and Dustin obliged with a majestic 17/2/2/3 performance.  He posted an offensive rating above 190 for the game, making all three of his three point attempts, and staying away from any turnovers.  It was, by far, his best night in Black and Gold, and seemed to show the way for repeat performances into the future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: ... and the hits just keep on comin'

I'll get to the mess in Seattle in a second, but first: a confession.  This was to be my last season.  With work and other commitments, I felt I was losing my focus and touch, and was prepared to step away from the lucrative world of amateur blogging at the end of the season.

Over the last few months, however, it dawned on me that I'd be quitting after a rotten egg of a year.  Not one to give out a last shriek on the retreat into irrelevancy, I've reversed decision. As a result, I will be back next year for at least one more go at chronicling Colorado Basketball.  If this thing is going to crater, I'm going to ride the bomb all the way down, a la Slim Pickens:
Hopefully, however, a return to form will follow, and I can ride off into the sunset with a clear conscience. We'll see...


Today in the bag, I'm talking the loss to a WAC school, the Pac-12 in the Dance, and a surprising coaching move in the desert.

Click below for the bag...

Monday, March 23, 2015

2015 CBI: Gardner-Webb Wrap and CU vs Seattle Basketball Teaser

Well, as compared to some other teams in the state, at least you can say the Buffs didn't take their presence in a lesser tournament lightly.  In their CBI Round 1 matchup with the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Colorado came out guns blazing, lighting up the scoreboard to stave off any potential upset.  Offense, offense, offense - that's really all that was on display in this one.  Both teams shot over 50% from the field in a game played to over 70 possessions.  Not the defense and rebounding test-of-wills that Coach Boyle would prefer, but, for entertainment value, you could do a lot worse for $15. Overall, a happy little performance in front of a few of the diehards last Wednesday night, as CU cruised to a 87-78 win.
Tory Miller took flight last week against GWU.  From: the BDC.
This whole tournament run is about the future, particularly Dom Collier and Tory Miller, and both were on display for large chunks of the game.  While Collier sat the bench early for showing up late to shoot-around, he eventually got into the action, and started giving those in attendance a show.  A little passing here (five assists), a little dribble-drive there (six points), and he contributed the best 10-minute stretch of his time in Boulder.  A little slower after the break, but still a promising game from the Denver East product.  Miller was similarly active, dropping 12/6 in 18 minutes, but really struggled defensively, helping to allow Bulldog forward Tyrell Nelson to put up 27 on perfect 10-10 shooting from the field.  Tory has had more matador then bull in him on the defensive end this winter, and his progress here is one of the things I'm really keying on going forward. In both cases, there's still miles to go, which is why there's hope that extra minutes now will equal better performances come November.

Outside of the freshmen, however, the game turned on the inside play of Josh Scott.  His 23/15 not only more than canceled out the efforts of Nelson, but set the tone for the entire evening.  Behind 'Grandpa Scott' (Miller's nickname for the junior forward), CU exploded the soft GWU zone, leading to a ridiculous 66-30 advantage in interior scoring.  You simply cannot beat Colorado in Boulder when you allow them to score 66 points inside, and the Buffs were able to coast in the second half, as a result.  Coach Boyle even had time to throw in walkon Brett Brady for extended, leveraging minutes midway through the final 20, which went about how you would expect.
The Bulldogs had no answer for Scott.  From: the BDC
The win over Gardner-Web, of course, means the Buffs advance to the second round of the CBI.  As Colorado would rather not cut another check for a home game, CU will hit the road this evening to take on the Seattle University Redhawks up in the State of Washington.  It's probable that most of you don't realize that something called Seattle U has a basketball team, that they're Division I, and that they were good enough to make a post-season tournament this season, but they are... apparently.

Once upon a time, Seattle U was a regional basketball power.  They're one of the lucky few to claim a Final Four berth (1958), and went to 11 NCAA Tournaments over a 16-year span in the 50s and 60s.  At one point in the 60s, they were even producing more NBA talent than any other school in the country.  Then, suddenly, it all stopped.  A financial slide in downtown Seattle eventually lead the school to de-emphasize their athletic programs, including men's basketball, and move to NAIA play in 1980.  It wasn't until 2001 that they returned to the NCAA, and have been slowly clawing their way up from Division III ever since. Now back in the WAC (a conference that I was surprised to learn still exists), they're hungry for a statement win, an opportunity for which Colorado brings with them tonight.
The Buffs haven't played in a gym this small since high school.  Even then...
This will be an interesting affair, as it'll be played in one of the tiniest gyms in all of Div I.  Normally, local Key Arena (former home of the SuperSonics, RIP) is Seattle's home court, but that's being used for the Big Dance.  With their regular court unavailable, Seattle turns to the Connolly Center, a 1,050-seat facility on their main campus.  It's where their women's team plays, and will make for an incredibly intimate setting.

It'll be in that tiny facility that CU will be tasked with taking on Coach Cameron Dollar's Redhawks.  Dollar, a key player on UCLA's title run in 1995, is a former assistant under Washington's Lorenzo Romar, and has been doing a decent job building up the reincarnation of the once-proud Seattle U Basketball program. They went 17-15 this season, finishing a distant fourth behind conference power New Mexico State, among others. He had his team playing pretty slow this winter, even going so far as to average under 60 possessions per game in conference play.  They rely on their zone defense and three point shooting (*double-gulp*) to get their wins, and otherwise look like a new-era WAC team.
Coach Dollar is in the midst of a massive rebuilding project at Seattle U.
The big name to remember is 6-0 senior guard Isaiah Umipig.  A transfer from Cal State Fullerton, Umipig is a nasty three-point shooter, making 117 of his 273 attempts from deep this year.  That's good for third in the country, and a 43% clip.  As if one shooter wasn't enough, the Redhawks also boast 6-3 senior Jarell Flora, who also hits over 40% of his three point attempts.  Overall, Seattle gets over 32% of their scoring from three point range, which is really the only area of their team that scares me.  Umipig alone, going full Scott the Dick, would push CU to the brink.  If both Isaiah and Jarell are lighting it up from deep, the Buffs will be in trouble.  Luckily, they're the only shooters on the roster.

Up front, things are significantly less scary.  Only two members of the rotation stand over 6-6, lead by 6-11 junior Jack Crook. A European product from Manchester, England (someone ask him 'United, or City?'), he's not something that a now healthy Josh Scott can't handle.  Maybe not a repeat of 66-30 show we saw against GWU in Boulder, but the Buffs should, once again, own the paint.
Umipig may be the best guard in the state of Washington. Be afraid.
On paper, CU should win this, probably pretty easily.  But, without Ski or extra defensive depth in the form of Dustin Thomas, I'm a little worried about a true road game being played in a veritable bandbox.  Does Umipig go bananas?  Can the Buffs shoot well in an uncomfortable environment?  Will the defense show us anything tonight? There's a lot of question marks headed into this one.

In the end, I think talent and inside play carries CU to another win.  Probably won't be pretty, and the two outside shooters scare the living daylights out of me, but the Buffs' zone offense has been looking good, and they should be able to lean on an advantage in the paint.  I'll say a two possession win which keeps everyone nervous until the end.

Tip-off from the telephone-booth-cum-basketball-arena called the Connolly Center is set for 8pm this evening.  There is no TV, but there is an online stream available here.  You do have to sign up, but it it's free registration.  As for radio, I think it'll be on 850 KOA, but don't quote me on that.  Check 760, if that doesn't work. Either way, iHeart radio has you covered there.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 CBI Teaser: CU Basketball vs Gardner-Webb

Well, this is awkward.  At 15-17 (8-12) on the year, the Buffs should, by all rights, be done with the season.  Were they still in the Big XII (or if Oregon State and Cal hadn't turned down their own invites) they would be.  But, Colorado's nightmare 2014-15 basketball season rolls on, with Coach Boyle accepting a bid to play in the College Basketball Invitational.  And so here we are.

This is not 2011.  Back in the final year of the Cory Higgins era, the Buffs shook off an NCAA snub to roar into the NIT.  That run meant something.  It was the first time in five years that the program had made the post season, and they deserved to be there.  Not so in 2015.  Colorado does not deserve to still be playing basketball right now.  I honestly believe this.  If you can't even manage to go .500 or better, you go home. End of story.  By pure virtue of their willingness to participate (and their willingness to write a check), the Buffs survive.
This visit to the invitational side of the post season is not as glamorous as it was in 2011.
How else can you look at this but as a glorified set of scrimmages?  While Coach Boyle says the primary goal is winning (and the Buffs are the prohibitive favorite to win the tournament), he's also said that the reason CU accepted the bid (bought the bid?) was to try some new things out with the roster, and focus on next season.  That's why Askia Booker and Dustin Thomas aren't playing, after all.  These, then, are the first practices of '15-'16, only without Fortune, King, Guzonjic, or Akyazili.  That's a quarter of next year's roster unavailable, so this is more like a Spring Game than anything else.  By now I think everyone reading this blog knows my feelings about those...

I guess, at this point, all that's left is to accept, and move on.  Fair enough.  Tonight brings us game #33 on the year against the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs from Boiling Springs, NC. The 6th-place finisher in the Big South (really?), comes to Boulder for the first time since December of 2004 (the only previous meeting).
The Buffs catch a break in not having to worry about Jerome Hill.
Almost as if to offset the absences of Booker and Thomas, the Bulldogs will also be without one of their big guns.  Jerome Hill, an all-conference selection at forward, didn't make the trip, and won't be playing tonight.  A real good one, the Buffs catch a break without him in the fold. Beyond just his 19/10 averages, Hill's absence also means that the Bulldogs will only have two players listed as taller than 6-7 available.  This is an exploitable physical advantage for the Buffs, one that could keep the game from being close.

Outside of Hill, the key players to watch out for are Tyrell Nelson and Tyler Strange.  Nelson is what remains of the front line, as the 6-7 sophomore center is the closest to what you would call a post threat.  He averaged 14/7 this season, including near 60% shooting from the field.  Strange is one of the nation's best pure point guards, dishing out over seven assists per game, and posting an assist rate over 38%.  He a good shooter, too, hitting 37% of his 143 attempts from deep.  Beyond Strange, there are four other shooters who took over 95 three point attempts in the year - Jarvis Davis, Harold McBride, Adonis Burbage, and Dylan Potson.
Strange can sling it and shoot it.
Overall, GWU is a pretty good offensive club.  They like to share the ball, handing out about 16 assists per game, mostly around the perimeter.  The 'Dawgs also love to shoot the three ball (33.7% of all scoring), making about eight each night.  Currently 30th nationally in points per game (74.7), it's more about pumping out possessions than anything else. They grab about 68 per game (38th in the country), at a clip of under 17 seconds per on offense. Under the tutelage of head coach Tim Craft, the Bulldogs play fast, desperate to score enough to cover up their most glaring weakness: defense.

The Bulldogs leak like crazy against even soft competition.  They coughed up an adjusted 1.08 ppp this winter, and allowed all opponents to shoot near 47% from the floor.  Combine with some middling rebounding numbers, and it's not a recipe for success against better competition.  Considering that, it's easy to understand their season - streaky runs, splashed around games where the shooting let them down.
Don't take them too lightly, as the bulldogs can sneak up on good teams, like Purdue.

At the end of the day, these things are all about who wants to be there.  In both cases - Colorado and Gardner-Webb - I have no idea.  While much of the coaching staff and roster may like the idea of the CBI, I really don't know what will happen when the ball tips this evening.  I think the Buffs will take to this (and even if they don't, they still should beat GWU), but you never know.  There are scenarios bouncing around inside my brain where lackadaisical perimeter defense leads to a downpour of points.  Just look at GWU's best win from the year - 89-84 against Purdue in West Lafayette, IN.  The Boilermakers, now in the NCAA Tournament, were swarmed by 14-25 shooting from deep, and were never able to assert their authority.  That, too, can happen to Colorado this evening if they are not careful.

Rebounding and paint touches are the firewall, though.  Assuming the Buffs aren't completely asleep at the wheel, I see them winning by 10+.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm this evening.  Tickets are still very much available, are all GA, and can be had for $15 a pop.  There is no TV coverage (although a stream will be available), and I'm not even 100% sure about the radio broadcast on 850 KOA, so actually being there will be your best bet to keep up with the action.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Brackets!

This weekend was just too busy.  From travels to and from the Pac-12 Tournament to news breaking across the basketball landscape, I'v never had so much to throw in one grab bag.  It's so stuffy in here that I even had to leave a couple of important items on the cutting board.

For example, did you know CU is scheduled to play a non-conference basketball game with Iowa State in South Dakota this November?  They are!  In a tiny-ass gym, no less.  That's pretty cool and newsworthy. Arielle Roberson isn't returning for her senior year.  Also newsworthy, but far more sucky.  Or, what about the Spring Game? Didn't watch, didn't care, but I know a lot of people do.  There was so much breaking news this weekend that I don't even have time to halfheartedly struggle through three paragraphs on that!

The point is, there's a lot of stuff after the jump, each item worthy of its own, dedicated column.  Please, bear with me as I dive through everything from an insane weekend. I'm talking the Pac-12 finale, bracket snubs, the CBI, a pair of new basketball recruits, and the Frozen Banana Stand winning number 20.  *whew*, let's get started.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, March 14, 2015

2015 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 4

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 14th --

Chalk reigned, once again, on day three of the Pac-12 Tournament, but not as overwhelmingly as it did in the quarterfinals.  The two top seeds, Arizona and Oregon, each survived to live another day (by the skin of their teeth) to set up a dramatic final on Championship Saturday.

In the opening game, Arizona saw their first test in weeks from the UCLA Bruins, who held a solid lead deep into the second half.  The underdog utilized a changeup 3-2 zone to confuse the 'Cats, holding them to 36% shooting in the first half.  Suddenly, the physical, slashing Arizona offense was reduced to a jump shooting apostay.  While UCLA struggled with foul trouble, and the 'Zona defense stayed formidable, it at least made an upset conceivable.

The inevitable - a dramatic, table-turning run from Arizona - always seemed to loom, however.  Eventually, the moment came, as the 'Cats raced into a 15-0 sprint midway through the second half to turn a seven point Bruins' advantage into a 55-47 Arizona lead.  Based on the efforts of Brandon Ashley, who's having one of the best runs in Vegas, momentum was flipped on its head.  UCLA still had some fight left in them, and even brought it back to within two with 20 seconds to play, but the Wildcats hit their free throws to win a 70-64 final.

In the night cap, a back-and-forth affair between Utah (the lower seed, but betting favorite) and Oregon stayed tight until the end.  Neither team ever pulled away by more than six, and the fans were treated to seven ties and four lead changes.  With the Utes only leading by one at the break, this one had all the makings of a dramatic finish.

Just as they had against Colorado, Oregon would utilize a second half surge to gain an advantage.  They upped their shooting percentage to 58% from the floor, and cracked down on the Utes' three point looks. This flip helped make up Utah's dominance on the glass, where they were +12.   In the end, it was the Joe Young show, who capped his 25 point performance with a game-winning three pointer in the final seconds. 67-64, Oregon.  Bring on the 'ship.


Today's action

- #1 Arizona vs #2 Oregon - 9pm MT, ESPN - 

The Ducks are hotter than hot right now.  With Joe Young scoring seemingly at will, they've looked like the two-seed they earned in the regular season.  The Wildcats are an intimidating presence, however, and will only further leverage the rebounding deficiency that Oregon showed against Utah.  Between the length, activity, and physicality of the Arizona defenders, I just don't see a way that the Ducks can pull this off, even if Young goes bonkers.  Give me Arizona - maybe not to cover, but to finally break through in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Friday, March 13, 2015

2015 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 3

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 13th --

A top-heavy league showed its true stripes in the quarterfinals. The Pac-12 Tournament, that had started out bonkers, slumped under a wave of double-digit blowouts. Heavy favorites Arizona, Oregon, Utah, and UCLA all rolled - after some early nervous moments - setting up a chalk pair of semifinals this afternoon.

For Colorado, they had their shot against the Ducks.  They lead by as many as 11 in the first half, and were up by three at halftime.  For much of the game, they were not only playing with favored Oregon, but beating them. Through the opening 20 minutes, the Buffs had held UO to only 33% shooting from the field, and largely kept one of the nation's best offenses silent.  But, as would be expected, you can't keep a good team down for long, and, eventually, Oregon began to find traction against the porous CU defense.  A wave of UO points in the second half proved to be too much, and the Buffs saw their season end to the tune of a 93-85 final.

The big problem was defensive switches - some of them unintended.  In the second half, Oregon was able to get whomever they wanted on their elite set of guards - particularly the great Joe Young - by running a screen off a Colorado forward. For his end, Young dropped 30 points, including a back-breaking layup off of a bad switch from Askia Booker, to knife the Buffs.  In total, the Ducks would shoot 76% from the floor in the second half, en route to a painful 59 points over only 20 minutes of action.

This was never the type of game that CU could win.  Played to 75 possessions, this was to Oregon's tempo and style.  Colorado kept running into mistakes, keyed by coughing up turnovers against the Ducks' trapping press.  The Buffs would commit 13 TOs for the game, leading to 27 points for the league's two-seed.  Not only were the turnovers ugly, but they were fueling the Oregon attack.

There was some late hope, as Colorado managed to cut the deficit to only four in the waning minutes of action. But any dreams of the great Booker single-handedly leading a noble comeback to stave off the end of his career were short lived.  Booker did get a little warm down the stretch, finishing with 12/5/5, but it wasn't enough.

At their best on Thursday, CU was going through Josh Scott.  The Colorado Springs native was nigh unguardable against Oregon, dropping 16 mostly-early points.  He helped get elite rim protector Jordan Bell in foul trouble quickly, and was a terror in the paint.  The Buffs struggled to get him the ball in the second half, however, and his post touches diminished.

Overall, this was Colorado's season in a nutshell.  Good enough to compete, but not focused or composed enough to get the needed results on high leverage possessions.  It's a frustrating end to a frustrating year.  CU now heads into the offseason needing a lot of reformative work.  Unless I've completely overestimated Coach Boyle, the version of the Buffs we will see in November will be a completely different animal.


Today's action

- #1 Arizona vs #4 UCLA - 7pm MT, Pac-12 Network - 

Now we get serious.  Arizona has looked unstoppable in recent weeks, crushing all comers by buckets of points.  These next two games, however, will decide how we perceive the league champs.  The Bruins have been the ones to take out the Wildcats each of the last two years, and they may be the only hope to do so this season.  They're young and inconsistent, however, and I'm not expecting any dramatics in the first semi. Give me the 'Cats and the under.

- #2 Oregon vs #3 Utah - 9:30pm MT, ESPN - 

Utah looked refreshed and reinvigorated against Stanford last night; a complete reversal from their slumping effort in Seattle last Saturday.  With their length and activity on defense, they should prove to be a much tougher challenge to the Ducks offense than Colorado.  I like the Utes, behind another Delon Wright explosion, to slip into the final.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2015 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 2

VEGAS, The Pac-12 Tournament, March 12th --

March - n. - A time of year where insanity becomes the norm.

March descended on Vegas with a crashing bellow yesterday, with all four games defying expectations. Overall, it was a rough day for the overachievers, as Washington State, Arizona State, and Oregon State - teams that all finished above their predicted place - fell out of the Pac-12 Tournament to teams that had underachieved this season.

For the Buffs, that meant a win over the OSU Beavers, and it took an extra special dose of Askia Booker to make it happen.  The senior spark plug, who had struggled in the first half, came alive over a three minute stretch in the second.  Out of the under-twelve timeout, with the Buffs trailing 52-50, Booker hit on a pair of free throws to even the score.  He then proceeded to nail a trio of three point attempts and a slashing layup to sling-shot CU into a nine point lead.  It was a lead the team would never relinquish, skating home with a 78-71 final.

The previous meeting in Corvallis was a fit of frustration, as Colorado never found traction against the Oregon State zone.  Yesterday, however, CU played particularly well on offense, using incisive passes to carve up the Beavers.  Eventually, OSU had no other option but to ditch the zone for man-to-man, as CU shot 50% from the floor against one of the nation's best defenses.  That effort was supported by fantastic free throw shooting, with the Buffs getting near full value out of their 26 attempts.  Just an outstanding performance all around.

For Booker, his 20 points lead the team. He had been off his game in the first half, finishing without a made field goal, but still found a way to contribute by repeatedly catching the Beavers in the air on pump fakes. Josh Scott, continuing his recent run of strong play, was vital in support, posting a 16/14 double-double against zero turnovers.

This was a tight game from start to finish.  Back-and-forth action made for a very engaging affair, and Ski's three minutes of insane brilliance were the only difference.  The Buffs now move on to face Oregon in day two, looking to claim a Beaver State sweep.

In the day's other action:

  • Cal crushed Washington State 84-59 in a game DaVonte Lacy played little to no part in.  
  • USC stunned everyone by storming back in the second half to clip Arizona State 67-64.
  • Stanford survived 71-69 in the day's best finish, thanks to senior Chasson Randle's three pointer in the waning seconds.
Just a bonkers day in Las Vegas, as the muddled middle scrapped for the spoils.  This is a top-heavy league, however, and the behemoths hit town this afternoon.  It's about to get real.


Today's action

- #1 Arizona vs #8 Cal - 1pm MT, Pac-12 Network - 

The red horde is about to wash over the Strip, as the league champions finally start their run.  It's hard not to expect some serious noise from the Wildcats, who dominated competition this winter, winning 16 conference games.  It would take a near-perfect effort from Cal to beat them on their worst day, and I'm not expecting that sort of shenanigans.  Give me the 'Cats.

- #4 UCLA vs #12 USC - 3:30pm MT, Pac-12 Network - 

A surprise LA showdown in the second game won't be much fun for those in attendance.  For all the faults with the Bruins, they should have no difficulty with their cross-town rival.  Give me UCLA, big.

- #2 Oregon vs #10 Colorado - 7pm MT, Pac-12 Network - 

We saw in Eugene what happens if the Buffs try to get into a track meet with the Ducks.  It's not a pretty sight.  Colorado's best chance this afternoon is to bring #TadBall to Vegas, and turn this one into a grind-it-out clencher.  I've been told I can no longer pick CU to win this season, however.  Fair enough.  Ducks and the over.

- #3 Utah vs #6 Stanford - 9:30pm MT, ESPN - 

This one could be interesting, as the Chasson Randle/Delon Wright matchup is fantastic, and Stefan Nastic will be able to use all his wily veteran skill against freshman Jakob Poeltl.  I'm expecting another close finish in the night cap, with the Cardinal covering in a close loss.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2015 Pac-12 Tournament Teaser: Day 1

A little less than a month ago, as CU was wrapping up their win over Stanford, friend of the blog @DavidScarffe and I endeavored to pick the Pac-12 Tournament winner via fantasy draft.  I got first pick (I don't remember how), and selected Arizona.  The rest of the results are as follows:

Team RumblinBuff:                                       Team Scarffe:

Arizona                                                        Utah
UCLA                                                         Stanford
Oregon                                                        Oregon State
Cal                                                              Arizona State
CU                                                              Washington
WSU                                                           USC

What's on the line? A nice cigar Saturday evening in Vegas.  In that pursuit, I think I have a great team.  Not only do I have the front-runner, Arizona, but I also have the two teams I'm actually going to bet money on today: Oregon and UCLA.  I don't like to put the cart before the horse, but I got this one in the bag.


Today's games:

- #8 Cal vs #9 WSU - 1pm MT - Pac-12 Network -

I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be a great game.  Washington State plays with a Devil may care attitude, and Cal can get funky given ample possessions.  This game also features a great upperclass guard matchup: Ty Wallace vs DaVonte Lacy.  If those two get hot, this could get interesting in a hurry.

I'm going to say the tournament gets out of the gate with a cracker, as these two play to a score fest.  I'll even say the Cougars earn the mild upset.  The Golden Bears have just been struggling too much after their win in Boulder for me to take them.

WSU 81 - Cal 79

- #5 Arizona State vs #12 USC - 3:30pm MT - Pac-12 Network -

As much as I am high on the Cal/WSU matchup, I'm down on this potential clunker.  ASU will bring out the worst in you, and USC has plenty of 'worst' to bring to the table.  Certainly, the Devils deserve the five-seed, closing well on the regular season with five wins in seven, but I've just never been enamored with either their personnel or their playing style.

For those who haven't been keeping up with everything Trojan (and why would you), star freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin is out for the remainder of the season with shoulder issues.  That leaves them with precious little talent with which to attack the Sun Devils.  With that in mind, give me ASU in a snoozer.

ASU 67 - USC 55

- #7 Oregon State vs #10 Colorado - 7pm MT - Pac-12 Network -

It's do-or-die time for the wayward Buffs.  They've played better of late, with Josh Scott looking healthier and healthier as the games go by, but are up against a team in Oregon State that seems designed to take advantage of them.  In the first meeting, the Beavers strangled Colorado in the opening minutes, ending the competitive portion of the proceedings before it even began.  Through a combination of devastating zone defense and crystal clear outside shooting, OSU never gave the Buffs a chance.

Unfortunately, that's how I see today's affair going.  CU put up a lot of points in Washington last week, but that was against paper-thin defenses.  Oregon State, a top-15 defensive club, is a whole different animal. They play the zone like they've been weaned on it since birth, and will cause the Buffs fits.  On defense, CU still gives up too many open looks, letting the typically sluggish Beavers play like they know what they're doing.  Add it all up, and I'm seeing a game that quickly slips out of control.  Out of the locker room in the second half, Colorado will show some end-of-season spunk, but it'll be too little too late.

For the first time in the #RollTad era, a team not named Arizona or Kansas will beat them in a conference tournament, and the year will end with a whimper.

OSU 67 - CU 52

- #6 Stanford vs #11 Washington - 9:30pm MT - Pac-12 Network -

The night cap is kind of intriguing.  Point guards Chasson Randle and Nigel Williams-Goss are worth the price of admission, and Stanford likes shooting themselves in the foot enough for me to hope that this will be a good game.  Ultimately, however, this game will be won in the paint, and it won't even be close.  Cardinal senior forward Stefan Nastic should have a monster game against the non-existent UW front line, which will end the battle.  Give me Stanford in a landslide.

Stanford 72 - UW 58


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Third Annual Rumblin' Awards

Yesterday, the Pac-12 released their seasonal awards (congrats to Askia Booker, by the way, for being named to the second team). Never satisfied with the musing of coaches and professional pundits, however, I'm going to delve into who I believe should have been honored by the conference this year.

After the jump, find my choices for the All-Pac-12 1st and 2nd teams, along with my Player, Coach, Defender, and Newcomer of the Year.

Please remember that the Rumblin' Awards are a strictly black tie affair.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Grab Bag: On to Vegas

Busy, busy week ahead as the basketball world steams towards Selection Sunday.  I hope to have the Rumblin' Awards up tomorrow, with daily previews posted from Vegas as the week rolls along.  For now, however, it's time for some weekly business.

Today in the bag, it's all about basketball. I'm talking the men's regular season finale in Pullman, the women's statement in Seattle, and how the rest of the Pac-12 ended their seasons.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Washington State Basketball Preview #2 - The End of the Road

As battered and broken as CU has appeared at times this season, they're nowhere near the plummeting depravity of the Washington Huskies.  They proved that Thursday night with a resounding 64-47 win over a team once ranked as high as 13th in the AP poll.  What a difference a couple of months make!
CU was just too much for UW inside.
Given injuries and attrition, UW had next to nothing available from the forward position - they even had to play woeful 7-foot Belgian center Gilles Dierickx 34 minutes.  Against that front court, having Josh Scott available (bad back and all) is like playing with a cheat code.  The prized post, just now starting to regain his sea legs, went for 21/9 with two steals and a block in Seattle.  For much of the time, he was just toying with the Huskies, working off of Wes Gordon (three assists) to knife the zone defense.  Xavier Johnson would hit the paint in support, as well, chipping in 11/7 in 18 minutes.  All told, the Buffs would hold a 40-18 points-in-the-paint advantage.  Honestly, I'm surprised the spread was only 22.

The goings on up front made up for a lackluster game from Askia Booker.  The sparkplug struggled to fire against the Washington zone for the second time this season, finishing 2-10 from the floor with only five points.  With his dribble-drive cut off, he was reduced to being a simple jump shooter, and he just couldn't find a rhythm.  Luckily, Xavier Talton was hitting, collecting 10 points on 2-4 shooting from three, or CU wouldn't have gotten much from their guards.
The defense swarmed from the outset.
A special nod should be made towards the defensive effort put on display by Colorado.  They got physical with their downtrodden opponent, and rarely gave them a moment to breathe.  Overall, Washington was held to just over 30% shooting for the game, 8-31 in the first half.  Outside of a hot spell from Andrew Andrews to start the second frame, CU kept UW in containment, lancing any comeback opportunities before they could fester.


Attention now turns to Washington State and the regular season finale.  At this point, you may be asking: 'So, just what, exactly, is at stake this afternoon?' Well, the murky middle is as muddled as always in the Pac-12, with plenty still to be decided on the regular season's final day. For CU, they can finish anywhere from 8th to 10th.

Here's the standings as of this morning:
  • #5 - Stanford - 9-8 - @ Arizona
  • #6 - ASU - 8-9 - vs Cal 
  • #7 - OSU - 8-10 - No more games
  • #8 - Cal - 7-10 - @ ASU 
  • #9 - CU - 7-10 - @ WSU
  • #10 - WSU - 6-11 - vs CU 
Helpfully, Cal and Arizona State play their game before CU's, so we'll know the nitty-gritty by tip-off in Pullman. Assuming Stanford loses in Tucson, the Sun Devils are playing for 5th, as they would win any tie-breaker with the Cardinal.  A loss by the Devils, however, would make things significantly more interesting, with a four-way tie possible.

Given a three-way-tie with Cal and Oregon State, the Bears jump up to 6th, (thanks to a 2-1 record against the others), ASU 7th (their win over Arizona), and OSU 8th.  Should ASU lose, and CU beats Washington State this evening, then we have that damn four-way tie at 8-10.  Cal still has the advantage here, but OSU would jump up to 7th (their win over the Buffs helps), ASU 8th, and CU 9th.

If ASU avoids that mess by beating Cal and Colorado wins in Pullman, then Buffs finish in 8th (highest possible), as they would lose the direct tiebreaker with the Beavers. Should CU lose today, they'd slip to 10th, as they'd lose a direct tie-breaker with the Cougars - based on their win over Oregon in the most batshit insane game ever played, - and a potential multi-team tie-breaker with Cal and WSU.

Got all that? Good, because tip off from Beasley Coliseum is set for 4:30pm this afternoon. Televised coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Washington Basketball Preview #2 - What happened to the Huskies?

An interesting nugget dropped at Buffzone today, when it was announced that Coach Boyle, in the name of 'recommitment,' will be requiring the team to stay in Boulder over the summer.  On the agenda: workouts with strength and conditioning coach James Hardy, and two hours of gym work with the staff per week. "Their summertime is my summertime."  Indeed.

I'm sure some of the current players will balk, but it's hard not to see something like this coming - the AllBuffs Illuminati had been discussing just such a move before the ASU game on Sunday.  It's clear that all is not well in the State of CU Basketball, and shakeups are to be expected.  Along with that, the prospect of attrition looms large.  Suffice to say, the tone emanating from the program is about to change, for better or worse.


The final week of regular play for 2014-15 starts this evening in Seattle.  Colorado and Washington are each playing out the string on disappointing seasons, leaving the game tonight an interesting study in who still cares. Tip from historic Hec Ed Pavilion, with the slipperiest of floors, is set for 7pm this evening.  Pictures are scheduled for FOX Sports 1, with the descriptions on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first game can be found here.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: A Senior Day Exorcism

I'm late!

Straight to the action:

Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over ASU, wrapping senior day, and looking ahead to Vegas.

Click below for the bag...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2014-15 CU vs Arizona State Basketball Preview #2 - The Final Day of #SkiSeason

Normally in this space - the weekend preview of the Pac-12 two-step -  I would recap the previous game. Well, in this instance, the previous game was utter shit.  CU had nothing for Arizona, dropping their 6th game in seven tries by a 82-54 final. As good as the 'Cats are (they wrapped up the league title last night in Utah), it was a particularly empty performance from Colorado.  So empty, in fact, that I am utterly speechless.

Luckily for me, Coach Boyle was in fine form after the game, and his quote-pocalypse conveys the timbre of the evening far better than I ever could.  Take it away, coach!
It’s February 26th and we’re not executing offensively. We’re not doing the things we’re supposed to do, we’re not making plays and we haven’t gotten any better. If you look at the teams that I’ve had here as a head coach, I feel that each team, outside of my first year, had progress and got better throughout the year. I don’t feel like that with this team. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten any better. We’re still making the same mistakes that we did in November and we’re not any better, offensively or defensively.
The fact is that we didn’t execute. Arizona had a lot to do with that, they’re the No. 7 team in the country and don’t beat themselves. Coming into the game, we knew we had to make shots, but then we couldn’t make a shot. Even passing and catching the ball was in hard whether it was in transition or the half court. It’s just not there right now. 
Ball screen defense was a big part of the game tonight. [Arizona] made plays offensively and they tore us up. We didn’t make plays and didn’t execute. Games like this in February and March are won by the team that execute and Arizona executed offensively and defensively. We didn’t and that’s why we lost the game, but what’s frustrating is that I see us execute in practice against ourselves. When the lights come on for some reason, we don’t. I don’t think that there is one guy that I can look at and say that he played well tonight. Not one. Not one guy. Usually we have one or two guys and if it’s good we have four or five. Looking at Arizona, they had five guys in double figures, we had one. We don’t have guys making each other better, our team just hasn’t improved. That’s on me, that’s the responsibility of the head coach and I haven’t done a very good job. 
There has to be some fight in the locker room and right now there isn’t. It’s like a submissive, beat us now while you can kind of mentality. That’s embarrassing. These guys are young men and they haven’t been through what they’re going through before. They’re finding out a cruel life lesson: life isn’t going to give you anything. Division one athletics teaches you that it’s a very humbling and unforgiving arena. If you want to step into that arena you had better be willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to win and we aren’t willing to do that.” 
I’m tired of this, I am. I want our players to know it, our fans to know it and our officials to know it. I want to fight somebody, I really do, but I know you can’t do that and I won’t do that in the locker room. I’m sick of the way we’re playing. The world doesn’t owe us anything, we have to go out and get what we earn. Right now we’re not earning the scholarships we’re on or the paychecks we get. We have to go out. It’s our pride, intensity, will to win, will to prepare to win and the will to do whatever it takes to get it done. If we play well, play hard, execute and get beat I’ll be the first one to shake our opponents hand and say, ‘You beat us tonight.’ I don’t like teams that beat themselves and we beat ourselves tonight.”
I feel badly for the players that have come before this team - and some of the members of this team were a part of those groups. It's disrespecting what they've done over the last four years, and that's disappointing, I would think that there would be more pride amongst our team, and I don't see that. That's disappointing. That's something that needs to be addressed.


I'm struggling to find some juice for the final stretch of play. To me, there's no practical difference between finishing 9th, 10th, or 11th, and the team has shown that they're not going to improve to generate some momentum into the offseason.  All that's left is to win one for Ski on his senior day.  Oh my, do I want that for him.  This season has turned into an unmitigated disaster, but that final shout before the retreat into spring would at least provide one last moment of real joy.

The Buffs have been robbed of final goodbyes for the two previous departing pillars of the #RollTad era. Andre Roberson had a bout with mono (or a mono-like sickness), and missed his final homestand.  Spencer Dinwiddie, likewise, wasn't able to make his final homestand, still recovering from his knee injury. Therefore, the opportunity for us as a fanbase to honor one of the best players in program history is not one we should be taking lightly.

Please, show up early this evening, cheer loud, and give Ski the send off he deserves.  The final ovation for the Scrat is the only result that really matters.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6:30 this evening. Televised coverage to come via ESPNU, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

For reference, my preview from the first meeting can be found here.

Click below for the preview...