Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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...

When last we met - 

In a year filled with frustrations, you had to see this one coming.  Locked in a 50-50 tie two months ago with the Washington Huskies, Colorado took the ball out of a timeout with just over 40 seconds to play, looking for a leveraging score.  The designed set for Jaron Hopkins was for naught, however, as the sophomore slipped into a held ball, flipping possession back to UW.  They would capitalize, with Andrew Andrews canning a jumper from the elbow for the win.  52-50 final; another heart-breaker for the Buffs.
Andrews didn't flinch with the game on the line.
Overall, this was an ugly, slow, defensive show (big surprise with a combined score barely over .500).  Both teams struggled offensively, with layups and easy opportunities missed left and right.  CU hit their numbers on 'D,' holding the 'Dawgs to 36% from the floor (25% from three) while out-rebounding them by five, yet couldn't solve the Washington zone when on 'O.'  There were plenty of terrified looks on the faces of Colorado players when the ball came their way, and there was a lot of pointless passing (as opposed to effective passing) going on.  It makes sense, with two of their best offensive players - Josh Scott and Johnson - on the bench, but the molasses drip of scoring made for uncomfortable viewing.

Still, in spite of the ugliness, the loss overshadowed a series of gritty, encouraging performances from oft-maligned sophomores like Hopkins, Wes Gordon, and Tre'Shaun Fletcher.  Gordon was particularly good, posting a monster 10/17 line, while helping to swarm Washington's imposing front line.  Hopkins, whose offensive game was really starting to develop in the pre-ankle injury days, lead the team in scoring. Fletcher had an all around affair, going for 9/6 with two steals.  With Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson still out with their various ailments, the sophs almost proved to be enough to earn the win.
Scrappy, defensive play was the name of the game.  From: the BDC
Weirdly, only 42 days later, neither team will look the same as they take the court in Seattle.  CU has returned their injured stars, while the Huskies will be missing two of their own.  It means that the informational value of the first meeting is diminished, which gives me an excuse not to watch this dog of a replay. Hard pass.

The Huskies since then - 

A few days after the first meeting, I received the following communique from something called "Frank Iacolucci:"

I'll have to be honest, it didn't feel very good.  Andrews' shot meant a fourth-consecutive loss for the Buffs, and marked their first Pac-12 defeat of the year at the Coors Events Center.  That it came on a buzzer-beater only further twisted the knife.  Also, I'm 30.  I prefer 'Tuba Man,' if you please.

Unfortunately for Mr Iacolucci (I assume it's a real person, not a bot, but you never know), his tweet came at a karmically inconvenient juncture for his beloved Huskies. Massive center Robert Upshaw had just been dismissed from UW (Bill Walton has opinions), and the team was about to skew into a tangent of losing that even eclipses what Colorado has endured this winter.  From the second after that shot went through the net to now, Washington lost nine of ten games, plummeting into 11th place in the Pac-12 standings.  They even lost to lowly USC last week (by 15, *cough*), and barely managed to beat rival Washington State in the Palouse.  They are a shell of the group that rose as high as 13 in the AP poll.
It's gotten rough in Husky-land.  From: the Seattle Times
How'd that free-fall down the standings feel, stadium guy?

The stats are damning.  Without Upshaw, the best shot blocker in the country, Washington's defense, which had been powering them, is now nonexistent.  Since stifling the Buffs on January 22nd, they've yet to hold another team under one point per possession, and are allowing 80 points per contest (61/game prior). They're leaking like a sieve inside, just like they were last season, and are powerless to stop determined opponents.
Coach Romar has endured a lot in 2015. From: the Seattle Times
Considering how inconsistent - and, at times, plain awful - CU basketball has been this winter, glass houses are certainly involved in this stone throwing contest.  However, if I had to choose between the two lots, I'd take Colorado's.  Even in these rocky times, the Buffs have been able to scrounge up the occasional moment of brilliance (against USC, Stanford, and ASU), and show that they're mostly just underachieving.  Without Upshaw, and mired in a slew of injuries, the Huskies are just plain bad.  No, thank you.

Why things could be different - 

The Huskies only ran out six players in the previous meeting with CU.  Just six.  Of those, only three featured in UW's last game with USC.  Just three. There's a reason, after all, that the Huskies have gotten so bad so quickly: they just don't have the bodies, any more. UW has been absorbing injuries left and right, and have been playing with a light rotation throughout. Already with one of the shortest benches in the country, every game missed by a onetime starter only increases the number of minutes being played by tired legs.  Back in January, four of the six making appearances played over 33 minutes, with two - Williams-Goss and Andrews - playing the full 40.  That's not a recipe for success, especially as the year grinds on.
No Kemp means a void in the middle for Washington.
You already know about Upshaw, but Washington was also without the services of point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (sprained ankle) and forward Sean Kemp, Jr. (concussion) last week. Upshaw is certainly not walking through that door, but there was some hope in Seattle that Kemp and Willaims-Goss would return tonight. Unfortunately for the Huskies, while NWG should appear this evening, Kemp will remain sidelined with a calf strain (notably, not the concussion), leaving the front line situation particularly dire.

What's left in the paint is, well, not up to snuff.  Jernard Jerreau - who, himself, missed some time earlier with a right knee injury - and Belgian center Gilles Dierrickx - ditto, only his was a foot injury - are all that remains. They've combined for 12/13 total over the last three games, which is barely noticeable.  Even Jeff Bzdelik's CU teams, known 'round the world for having a lack of anything up front, boasted more than that.
The sophomore Jarreau still has a long way to go.
In response, the Huskies have shifted freshman swing forward Donaven Dorsey, who had a good game in Boulder, to the starting four-slot.  The net result is that UW plays small, meaning CU has an opportunity to use the front court to their advantage. Josh Scott, as hobbled and injured as he is, should be able to do some work against that, and we could see the return of Wes Gordon to the living.

Prediction - 

 (My record on the season: 11-7. Against the spread: 11-7. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1 pt/gm)

Lines as of Wednesday @ 8pm - NO LINES POSTED

This is a tough one.  CU will have the advantage inside, but the Huskies should own the perimeter. Colorado is a crapshoot away from home, getting blown out in their last three, but UW hasn't won in Seattle since before the game in Boulder.  A pick 'em, if I ever saw one.

I'm really tempted to take the Buffs, seeing that the Huskies are so damn depleted, but I just keep imagining Williams-Goss, Andrews, and Dorsey raining threes on repeated open looks.  Add to it CU's difficulty in facing a zone defense, and I'm doubtful.  Reverting to default mode, I'm taking the home team.

UW 65 - CU 61


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