Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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.


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