Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: Embrace the Ascendancy

If you haven't noticed - and, damnit, you should've - there's a new voice behind the content at Former Boulder Daily Camera scribe Neill Woelk is back in Boulder as the new contributing editor at the school's site, and everyone in this fanbase is better off for it.  Not that the great B.G. Brooks, who retired this past year, wasn't getting the job done, mind you, just that Woelk's consistent, knowledgeable, incisive, and passionate voice had been sorely missed over the past five years.

Glad to have you back, Neill, and I look forward to all the great content you're about to put out!


Today in the bag, I'm talking the start of Fall Camp, a wrap-up of Pac-12 media days, and close of The Basketball Tournament.

Click below for the bag...

Fall Camp opens this week - 

Take a deep breath.  We've survived.  The summer has reached its unofficial conclusion as college football camps across the country get underway.  Here in the valley, that means the Buffs are set to get back on the practice fields off of Boulder Creek tomorrow morning, finally beginning their earnest preparation for the 2015 season opener in Hawai'i. That's right, we're only 30 days away from the start of the damn football season, and September 3rd no longer seems a world away (or, for that matter, November 13th...).
Mac and crew are back in business.  From: the BDC.
The big thing I've taken away from the summer is that, far more than usual, mentions of Colorado Football have been overwhelmingly positive.  While there are some faint national whispers that Coach MacIntyre could be on the tired metaphor of a 'hotseat' (these are mostly based in ignorance - CU would have to lose 11+ games for this to even be a possibility, and even then it's a long shot with so much money currently invested elsewhere), the overwhelming majority of informed journalists have acknowledged that football at the Foot of the Flatirons is slowly starting to not suck.

Sure, reporting this time of year is usually of the kool-aid sipping variety, but even the most ardent of Eeyores (this camp includes myself) have been forced to admit that the program is headed in a positive direction; miles ahead of where things were at the end of the Embree era.  I'm still not sure that will equal a long awaited bowl berth - the loaded 13-game schedule will probably keep that from happening - but another year of qualitatively better results is in the works.  Embrace the ascendancy.
Youthful excuses eliminated, it's time for Sefo to step up, and drag the team into respectability.
But, that's all forward thinking.  In the here and now, it's about the actual work being done in the shadow of the ongoing construction at Folsom Field.  Practically, the defense needs a mountain of patchwork applied, coming in off a season where they ranked in the 100s nationally in every major category.  Can a new defensive coordinator bring about the change needed?  Junior QB Sefo Liufau now has the burden of expectations placed on his shoulders. Can he shrug it off to exploit a burgeoning corps of brilliant, young wide receivers?  Line play is usually the difference between winning and losing.  Can the offensive and defensive lines finally meld together into something useful for an entire season?  As much as I can say 'Hey, this program is getting better!" the resolution of those storylines over the next few weeks will go a long way towards turning the hope into reality.

For those interested, early portions of camp are open to the public.  Specifically, you John Q. BuffsFan can attend practices on August 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, 17 and 21, from 8:30-11am (7:30-10pm on the 8th). That one on the 15th, by the way, is currently slated to be a scrimmage.  Get out there, and soak up the sounds of young Buffs butting heads in the bright sunshine.  Fall is here - make the most of it.

Notes from Pac-12 Media Days - 

Previewing the start of football season, the Pac-12 held their annual Media Days last week at Warner Bros. Studios in LA.  It's mostly a laugh, a time for gruff coaches to seem quasi-relatable (Mike Leach on which Harry Potter house he got selected for - "Mine was Huffle-something"), and for players to sell themselves while toeing the line between professional and amateur.  Generally, pretty mundane stuff. Hey, it's all cult of personality; not really my bag, but endearing, none-the-less.
Oh, hey, it's media day! Give the big guy a tiny hat! From:
In addition to Coach MacIntyre, Colorado also sent Stephane Nembot and Kenneth Olugbode to the coast. Nembot stole the show, drawing in reporters with his winning personality, 14-language repertoire, and the unique way he swings a baseball bat (could use him in the Boulder softball league).  Add in some goofy pictures, and you get the gist.

Along with the tomfoolery came the release of the annual preseason media rankings.  The Buffs were, once again, picked to finish dead last in the Pac-12 South.  By now everyone knows the drill; the South is one of the most difficult divisions in all of college football, so CU getting tabbed for the basement is not at all surprising.  What did catch my eye were the sprinkled hints that the media perceives CU has, in fact, closed the gap.  Take, for instance, Phil Steele ranking the Buffs as the #46 team in all of FBS.  That's damn near respectable, and ahead of three Northern Division teams (two of whom the Buffs play this season - Washington State and Oregon State).  Given that 80 schools will be bowl eligible this fall, as dire as the in-conference outlook is, at least some outsiders are buying into the bowl-or-bust hype.
Gone, but not forgotten, Glasses Ref.
Of most interest to this space, however, was all the emphasis put by the league on improving officiating. Coming in off another banner year for the wayward zebras - one that saw former Coordinator of Football Officiating Tony Corrente walk out in the middle of the season - it was important to set the right tone.  The Pac-12 trumpeted the hiring of their new Coordinator, David Coleman, and spoke to key notions like consistency and transparency.  To that end, they're adding an eighth official on the field, and making all replay angles available in-stadium.  All good, solid changes, and ones that should make for quantifiable improvement in a league that saw more penalties assessed in 2014 than any other conference in America. All of this is much more important than Mike MacIntyre in a goofy hat... although, you can't discount the power of a good hat...

The Basketball Tournament concludes - 

Hey, remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that a team of former CU basketball stars had gotten together with the intent of taking on The Basketball Tournament?  Well, that pursuit didn't go so well.  The Forever Buffs stumbled out of the gate, losing 78-62 to a group from Arizona calling themselves 'Team 23.' Sharpshooters Richard Roby, Austin Dufault, and Dwight Thorne struggled from deep, going a combined 2-13 beyond the arc as the team slumped to under 36% shooting overall.  Marcuses Hall and Relphorde did their best to lift their teammates, shining for 33/9, but Team 23's Davin White was on fire, dropping 23 on 15 shots. Overall, a disappointing effort from the first-year entrants.
Not the way I had expected that to go...
As frustrating as that result was, however, it's important to note that Team 23 went on to play in the title game, coming up just-short against the 'Overseas Elite' this weekend.  (For their trouble, the Elite took home a cool $1 million in cash, which was the whole point of this venture.)  I guess, if the Buffs were going to lose, at least they didn't lose to a bunch of scrubs - the previously unheralded Team 23 has some game.  Hell, Davin White, a Cal State Northridge product currently toiling in Spain, probably deserves a stateside look, as dominant as he was over the past month.

Hopefully this result won't deter Team Colorado from playing in the future.  They got a bit unlucky with their first round matchup, and could've, should've gone further.  It also wouldn't hurt for the TBT committee to come up with a better bracket-building procedure; the seeding was wack (not wiggity-wack, just regular type). The current process is built around social media interest, which is as fickle as a football recruit.  There should probably be a scouting component thrown in there as well.  Still, a fun concept, if flawed in execution.

Happy Tuesday!

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