Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Air Force Wrap and 2015-16 CU vs Northern Colorado Basketball Teaser

On the day before Thanksgiving, the Buffs took a bite out of the Air Force Falcons.  Behind 21/7 from Josh Scott and a 21-6 run in the first half, Colorado shook aside some early struggles to chew out to a 16-point lead at half, en route to a satisfying 81-70 final.  Maybe not the bounce-back buffet I was I was hoping for after the Nebraska-Omaha scare, but a filling proposition, nonetheless.
Josh had an excellent night, and moved to a perfect 4-0 record against his hometown school.  From: Yahoo Sports
Let's start with what went right: almost everything offensively.  The Buffs shot 52% from the floor, 13-25 from three, to put up 81 points in only 69 possessions.  Where the game against the UNO Mavericks was an education on what could happen when the outside shots don't fall, the effort against Air Force was back to what we had seen over the first three games of the season.  It wasn't perfect - another 17 turnovers from the guard corps - but it was steady, consistent offense.  While Scott gets the headlines, the highlight for me was the play of freshman point guard Thomas Akyazili.  He's been coming on strong, getting better each and every time I see him on the court, and Wednesday night was no different.  He played heady and strong with the basketball, hitting all three of his shots from the field, and handing out four assists against zero turnovers. By comparison, indifferent efforts from Xavier Talton and Dom Collier (four more quick fouls on defense to limit his playing time to just 16 minutes) leave me wanting to see so much more from Yaz in the coming weeks.

Conversely, there were some issues defensively. No, the Falcons didn't get off the torrent of back-cuts that I was worried about, but they did get going from deep, draining 10-22 three point attempts.  They also swiped 12 offensive rebounds, a number that is way to high against the rebound-minded and more athletically gifted Buffaloes.  I just don't get the feeling that CU was all that into the action defensively, even after the UNO lesson, and could've had their wings singed a bit had their own shots not been falling. Overall the team did a good job limiting Falcon star Trevor Lyons (four points and two turnovers in 23 minutes), and there was no layup line to the basket like we saw last weekend, but it wasn't dramatically efficient, either.
Oh, Tory. Not the kind of stories you want to see after a big win.  From: USA Today.
Of course, the most interesting story from the game was the incident midway through the second half that got sophomore center Tory Miller ejected.  In the midst of a tussle with Falcon forward Hayden Graham, Miller appeared to bite down on the shoulder of his opponent, leaving a mark that Graham then showed to officials. After review, the refs appropriately assessed a flagrant II foul for going all Luis Suarez on a guy, and booted Miller. The thing of it is, this is the first time I've heard of Tory getting into any kind of disciplinary issue.  He's an emotional player, but it's not like he's always getting into fights.  It's a weird moment - Coach Boyle chalked it up to Tory simply letting his emotions get the better of him - and one that is hopefully never repeated.

Anyways, with the Falcons behind them, the Buffs can now look forward to a visit from Northern Colorado on Sunday.  The Bears were pretty well throttled in Boulder last year, allowing 1.52 points per possession to an offensively challenged CU squad. The final, 93-68, stands as one of the best offensive performances from the Buffs in recent memory, and I would expect something similar this Sunday.  Much like last year, the Bears are a severely challenged defensive ballclub, allowing over an adjusted 1.17 ppp and an eFG over 63% through four games against D-1 competition.  Unsurprisingly, they've lost all four of those tilts, with their most recent effort being a 20-point defeat to those damn UNO Mavericks that pushed CU so hard last weekend. Omaha put up 64 points in the first half alone, finishing with 105 total up in Greeley.  Simply: UNC leaks like a sieve, and Colorado should be able to take advantage.
Cameron Michael can fill it up.  From: College Court Report.
Head Coach BJ Hill, a Tad Boyle protégé, is still running the show up there, but he is dealing with some severe roster turnover.  The Bears have only three returners on the roster, and are trying to plug in a whopping total of nine fresh faces.  But they still have the dangerous Cameron Michael, a 6-5 junior wing from Loveland, who put 16 points in the CEC last year, mostly on 4-6 shooting from deep.  Michael is back to his old tricks in the early goings of '15-'16, averaging 17/6.  Also of note is off-guard Anthony Johnson, who is putting up about 17 per night and leads the team in usage.  Rounding out the guard corps is diminutive 5-7 point guard Jordan Wilson, who has been dishing out a solid 22.3% assist rate, but who has also struggled a bit with turnovers. Up front, the man doing the dirty work in the paint is 6-10 sophomore Jeremy Verhagen; not someone who should really challenge CU's forwards, but who can be an effective piece against lesser teams.

Look, there's always the chance that the Bears could come in and pull an Omaha (give the Buffs far more than they ready to deal with on a Sunday afternoon), but I just have a hard time seeing it.  They haven't played a lick of defense this season, and aren't the kind of offensive club who can make up for it.  Cameron Michael is a really nice piece, and could get red hot from deep, but the newcomers built around him just shouldn't be enough to trouble Colorado too much.  I expect CU to be ready to go this afternoon, and quickly and efficiently roll UNC out of the gym.  Probably a win in the 20-point range.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 1pm this afternoon.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760 AM.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Beer Post: 2015 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Utah Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

It's Ute week, so the honorary beer selection is Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Brewery. Indeed, why have just one?

The actual beer pick, however, comes to us from San Diego.  I'm returning to a brewery that I already featured this year, Ballast Point, in memoriam.  They recently sold out, cashing in on a $1 billion offer from Constellation Brands (the finks behind the eye-rollingly lame Corona).  It's a huge price tag, and who can really blame them, but there is no doubt that the soul of the epic brewery behind Sculpin, et al, is gone for good.  In honor, I'm tabbing their American Stout, The Commodore, as this week's beer-o-the-week.

With Ballast Point, Sculpin is the head of the class.  The rest of the offerings pale in comparison, to be honest, but it's an unfair mirror to hold them up to, as Sculpin is truly monumental.  Of the second-string, however, I probably like The Commodore the most.  It's a strong take on the stout family, with typical notes of roasted coffee and dark chocolate.  A late finish of hops fits with the brewery and the native region, and the whole thing ends bitter and sharp.  I've liked it more off the tap than the bottle, but that's pretty much par for the course in the beer world.  Allow it to breathe, though; don't drink straight from the fridge.

Prior to cashing in, BP had been showing up more and more on Colorado shelves, so you should not have too much trouble finding this in option-heavy liquor stores.  It's available in six-packs, with each bottle coming in at a robust 6.5% ABV.  Maybe a little heavy for post-Thanksgiving celebrations, but a weighty punch to end the tailgating season.  Enjoy!

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Utes!

2015 CU vs Utah Football Teaser

As is tradition, I'm headed westward this afternoon, driving down I-80 with a few of my closest friends towards Salt Lake City.  Sure, this season, much like all the others in recent memory, is doomed to end in bowl-less failure, but I've yet to miss a CU/Utah game since the revival of the series, and I'm not about to now.  The annual clashes - still unfortunately tabbed as the 'Rumble in the Rockies' -  make for interesting post-Thanksgiving fodder, and you can do a whole lot worse than a weekend in SLC... like, say, a weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Let me use this space, then, for a plea to you, the humble consumer of CU Athletics: take this rivalry seriously.  We are never, I repeat never, going to get entwined with the Trojans or any of the other original Pac-10 schools.  They're always going to consume their traditional rivalries far more intently than any game against Colorado, nothing will ever change that.  Yep, the Utes are what we got, but it ain't exactly chopped liver; these guys are actually a perfectly fine foil for our purposes.  More importantly, they've made a far easier transition to the new era of western football than CU has, and can still serve as a standard of improvement for our beleaguered program -- far more than any mid-major, instate competition ever could. We Buffaloes need a rival, we have to pick a fight. There's no better option than Utah, so stop whining, and start flipping some Utes the bird.


Hype Music for the Week: "Hello!" from the Book of Mormon Original Soundtrack

Yep, going with the Mormon pun.  I make no apologies.  Enjoy!


Kickoff from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT is set for 12:30pm MT tomorrow afternoon. Coverage for those not making the roadie to the Beehive State can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

2015-16 CU vs Air Force Basketball Teaser

Playing the Air Force Academy is always an interesting proposition.  Of course, it's nice to see a local school pop up on the schedule, and anytime you face one of our nation's military academies it's a special occasion. But, more than that, it becomes a trial of patience and persistence.  Why?  Because the Falcons run the Princeton.

Basketball junkies throw the 'Princeton Offense' jargon around about as offhandedly as a football freak brings up the 'air raid' or the 'read-option spread.'  So, what exactly am I getting at when I talk about 'The Princeton?'  Well, I'm talking about a style that values each possession, that relies on versatility from each of the players on the court, and that lives and dies by structured off-ball motion.  Tonight there will be back cuts, there will a crap-ton of passes out on the wing (assists on nearly every made basket), and there will be extended possessions deep into the shot clock. The emphasis is on finding the highest quality shot available, and the Falcons will be willing to wait you out in the pursuit of just that.  More importantly, it will test the focus of the Buffs' defense, who have to know where man and ball are at all times, lest they get burned bad.
Head coach Dave Pilipovich has kept the Princeton offense alive and well in the Springs.  From: NBC Sports.
Colorado fans are old hats at this, having watched it for three years as the 'hyper-Princeton' ([insert laugh track here]) under former coach Jeff Bzdelik. Many people, good basketball minds, love this stuff.  Me? I'm just not convinced that it can work at a high level consistently (even Georgetown, the un-Princeton Princeton team, struggles mightily in the post-season).  Further, I wonder if running the formulaic construct caps your ability to snag and keep talent who would rather play anything but. Case-in-point, the Academy's outgoing transfer point guard Matt Mooney (who had 10 points and five steals against CU last November) took some pot-shots at the system on the way out the door this past spring:
“I didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into, especially the way the Air Force Academy runs a Princeton-style offense. I watched them play and they told me they run the Princeton, but I didn't actually really know what it was like until playing in it. And it's very restrictive. You kind of play like robots, pretty much. There's not really basketball instincts involved — like you don't read and react, you go from piece to piece to piece. And I didn't really like playing like that.”
Maybe as a reaction to that, the loss of nine seniors, and the middling success of the program in recent years, head coach Dave Pilipovich is making some conciliatory tweaks to his staid system -- "there will be more ball-screen action, more dribble drives and a quicker pace."  Dribble-drive?  In the Princeton? What in the name of Pete Carril is going on here?
Lyons and the Falcons are trying to speed things up - a little bit - this season.  From: USA Today
I will grant that they are playing a little faster in '15-'16.  That's not a very high bar to clear, having run near 20 seconds per possession last winter, but they're up to almost 69 possessions per night now (shortened clock caveat applies).  With this new found speed (the relative equivalent of a brisk walk) the Falcons are 3-1 on the year, but have yet to play anyone of substance; wins against Tennessee Tech, Mississippi Valley State, and Robert Morris.  One interesting trend through those opening games, though, is their poor shooting numbers.  This is supposed to be a system of efficiency and high shooting rates. Instead, they're laying bricks from deep (20% from three point range as a team, worst in the country), and are struggling with efficiency (an adjusted .986 ppp) against these lesser teams, as a result.  The word from the Springs is that it's the result of opponents throwing some zone against them, something CU rarely attempts. Consume that excuse and talk about small sample size if you must, and there a number of good shooters on this roster, but at some point it becomes a trend.

Still there's a lot to be worried about if you're the Buffaloes.  Sophomore guard Trevor Lyons and junior swing forward Hayden Graham are excellent mid-major talents who can hurt you in a number of ways.  If the Lyons name in an Air Force uniform sends chills up your spine, it's a natural reaction to the whupping Trevor's older brother, Michael, used to put on the Buffs.  The younger Lyons may not be as good as his bro (who is?), but he's a budding star none-the-less, and the 6-3 point guard leads the team in points and assists. Graham is more of a double-double threat, albeit a little undersized at 6-5, averaging 16/9.5 in the early going.  One of his best assets is his ability to sneak offensive rebounds, 14 so far this season -- with AFA's measured pace, an offensive board translates into you going without the basketball for a full minute, not a good thing. Combined, these two rarely leave the court (minute rates well over 90%), and spark the Falcons. CU has their work cut out marking these two.
Graham is a fantastic, versatile forward. From: USA Today.
Elsewhere, look out for shooter Zach Kocur.  The junior from Denver hit 47% of his threes last season, and can be flat deadly.  He has struggled a bit this month, as have his teammates, but, after Sunday's lackadaisical defensive effort on the perimeter, the last thing you want to see entering the gym is a shooter due for a breakout game; he could be in for a huge effort.  Down in the paint, look for forwards Zach Moer and Joe Tuss to see extended minutes above their averages, as the Falcons try to cope with CU's size under the basket.  Add to them 6-6 sophomore Ryan Manning, with his 4.3% block rate, and these guys are better defensively in the paint than they have been in recent years.

Look, no bones about it, this could be a very tough game for CU.  Turnovers and poor perimeter defense will kill you against Princeton-style teams, and these have consistently been Colorado's weaknesses this season.  I'm actually kind of glad, in that light, that the Buffs struggled on Sunday.  It'll give the coaching staff an opportunity to really focus on these areas with an attentive, captive audience in practice.  The team needs to show better from the guards on defense and in ball-handling situations, and I bet that exactly what we get tonight.  It'll certainly be difficult to sink any lower than they were against the Mavericks.

Given a better effort on the perimeter, I think the keys tonight come down to rebounding.  The Buffs can't allow second chances, and have to force the Falcons to live with their misses.  This is where the Colorado Springs duo of Josh Scott and Wes Gordon comes into play.  Scott has been getting all of the hometown-centric storylines this week, and with good reason -- both his parents were athletes at the Academy, and he has deep ties to the program, as a result.  But it's probably Gordon who can hurt the Falcons the most by clearing the defensive glass and erasing back-cutters that get away.  Scott and Gordon have never lost to Air Force, and I doubt we'll see them let this one slip away either.  Maybe some scary moments early, but the Buffs will pull away late, probably winning by about eight or 10 points.


Tip-off from the Coors Evens Center is set for 7pm this evening.  When in the stands, have a look over to the Buff Basketball Band situated in the southwest corner.  It's the first of four scheduled Alumni Band nights, so you'll get to see yours truly in action -- I'll be the fat one in the back with the tubas.  If you can't make it to the CEC to root on both myself and the Buffs, you can watch the action Pac-12 Networks, or listen on AM 760.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: In Which Coach Boyle (jokingly) Offers a Refund

No time for idle chat in this shortened work-week. Today in the bag, I'm talking the narrow escape against Nebraska-Omaha, the frustration in Pullman, and runners-up honors for the #BananaStand.

Click below for the bag...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Portland Wrap and 2015-16 CU vs Omaha Basketball Teaser

Friday night at the CEC, the Colorado Buffaloes opened up the home portion of their non-conference slate against the Portland Pilots.  Some small quibbles aside - technical difficulties on the introduction, 18 turnovers, and more struggles at the point - it was a breezy affair. While I can complain about the little things, the end result, an 85-63 win, serves the desired purpose.  Can't ask for much more from a mid-November date with a small conference also-ran.

The big story against the Pilots was the play of Colorado's trio of scoring wings: Tre'Shaun Fletcher, Josh Fortune, and George King. Most of the headlines last week went to King, who filled it up against Iowa State and Auburn, but, while he still put up a game-high 18, George wasn't quite the effusive shooter and scorer he had been on the road trip (only 5-12 shooting, 1-4 from deep).  But, while King was having an 'off' night (I could do with 28 more of those 'off' nights from him), Fortune and Fletcher were picking up the slack. Tre almost pulled a 'Spencer,' only missing two shots on the night (one three pointer and one free throw attempt) to put up a pure 17 points in 20 minutes of action, while Josh was busy stuffing every inch of the stat sheet. The transfer from Providence had the first big night of his CU career with a 17/14/6/3/1 effort (I guess I never realized he could rebound like that).  Combined, the three wings put up 47 of the Buffs' 85 points, fueling the rout.
Fortune and the wings powered the Buffs on Friday.  From: the BDC.
Their scoring touch helped overcome a good Portland gameplan in the paint.  The Pilots flat refused to let Colorado get comfortable inside, forcing the Buffs to rely on their wings for action and activity.  Josh Scott was mostly held to mid-range field goal attempts (which he hit), while Wes Gordon was kept to less than nothing on the offensive end (six blocks on the other end, though).  Last year, that would've been a problem, with consistent scoring being a major issue.  This year, not so much.  With Fletcher, Fortune, and King shooting, passing, and slashing around the perimeter, CU continues to look dangerous even when the opponent is negating quality paint touches.  That bodes well going forward.

I am a little concerned, however, with the continuing struggles from the point guard slot.  Dom Collier started, but couldn't defend without fouling, and spent most of the game's key minutes on the bench. Xavier Talton was the first to spell him, and did hand out four assists in 18 minutes, but eventually saw freshman Akyazili Thomas take what appeared to be his second-string opportunities.  The Belgian import actually ended up playing the most minutes (24) of any of the three, and I'm not sure if that was an indication that he had leapfrogged Talton for the backup role, or if it was just a product of the coaching staff simply wanting to give him more PT in an easy non-conference spot.  Regardless, Colorado is going to have to get something consistent from this group if they hope to maximize production this winter.  Right now, just as expected, point guard play is the biggest single question mark on the court.
Akyazili is getting a lot of minutes early as the point guard position remains unsettled. From: the BDC
But, those are concerns for another day. With the Pilots in the rearview, the Buffs can now look for to today's affair with the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks; seemingly another easily Colorado win.  Anytime representatives from our northeastern neighbors come to town we're in for a treat, I just wish it was the full-fledged red horde coming to town.  Wouldn't that make for a fun addition to the non-conference schedule? A series with the hated Corn?  Tim Miles is probably too chickenshit to come up here, though... but, I digress.  Nebraska-Omaha.  Mavericks.  The here and now.  Got it.

If you haven't heard of the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks before, you aren't alone.  I wasn't even aware that they were Division-1 before the schedule was announced over the summer.  Part of the oversight might be because they weren't D-1 prior to a few years ago.  They started the transition process in 2011, and are only just this season becoming full-fledged members of the collegiate top-flight (eligible for post-season play). A part of the Summit Conference, they are one of the smaller members of a really small league... on paper, at least, that makes them a solid step down in competition from even Portland.
The Mavs are new to D-1 play. From:
The Mavs head to Boulder off of a 2-1 season-opening homestand.  Their opening loss, a one-pointer to the well thought of UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos, is probably the most informative of their three efforts to-date. The Gauchos had lead all the way, up by as many as 14 in the second half before a late UNO run made it interesting.  The Mavs then used a 25-4 run to flip the script, and put them in position to claim the win.  A late tip-in from UCSB, however, nipped them at the post, robbing Omaha of what would've been a very respectable win.

Head coach Derrin Hansen has been running the program for the past decade, but transition to full D-1 status will be quite the challenge.  With a new arena and six newcomers, however, he hopes to put a good foot forward quickly.  Their best player, though, is a returner, sophomore forward Tre'Shawn Thurman.  A versatile four, Thurman puts up good numbers on both ends of the court (14/8 averages through three games this season).  At the point is another holdover, senior Devin Patterson.  He has been struggling so far, though, with 10 turnovers and an offensive rating in the low 70s.  Rounding out the players to keep an eye on is forward Jake White.  The senior started his career at Wichita State, and has been playing efficient offensive basketball to start the season.  None of the three - or really anyone on their roster - should cause too much concern for the Buffs, however.
Thurman is the best on a roster light on talent.  From:
It's pretty simple: Colorado should cruise today.  Chalk it up as another opportunity to get the point guard rotation settled, and to watch some free-flowing offensive basketball from the wings. Anything less than a 15-20-point win would be a little disappointing.

Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 12pm this afternoon.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call moved to 760 AM on a Broncos Sunday.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 CU vs Washington State Football Preview

Not much to say here as the season winds down.  Straight to the action today.


Hype Music for the Week: "Hail to the King" by Avenged Sevenfold

I'm still lost in the mists of Tuesday's showing by the basketball team in Alabama.  George King and his 27/7 line deserve a salute.  Avenged Sevenfold will handle the honors here.  Enjoy!


Kickoff from Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA is set for 8:45pm on Saturday.  Yep, that's the seventh start of 7pm or later this season.  It's almost as if the Pac-12 doesn't care if they ruin my circadian rhythm.  For those night owls intent on watching this one live, coverage can be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Beer Post: 2015 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - WSU Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

I got lost on my way to picking a beer this week, losing sight of my normal hopped-up fare as I cruised the aisles of the local liquor-plex.  I was drawn, instead, to a weird seasonal concoction from local magnates Oskar Blues. Their extra-sweet Irish porter, 'Death by Coconut,' is this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.

DBC has your basic porter look and feel down.  Black as motor oil with a thin tan-brown head, the maniacs at OB (originally a collaboration with Shamrock Brewing) finish the brew with an aging on dried coconut and dark chocolate. The result is a fantastic, easily recognizable taste. While there is a dark chocolate bitterness to the entire profile (with a finish like a latte), the main notes are creamy caramel mixed with sweet chocolate and toasted coconut.  It is undeniably the flavor of samoas -- those addicting chocolate-striped coconut cookies sold by the girl scouts every year.  If that ain't enough to get your attention, then I don't know what will.

It's not my favorite style of beer, and I know coconut is one of the most divisive flavors out there (I'm pro, for the record), but, it's an interesting take on the bog standard porter, and the taste is on point.  Think of it as a dessert beer, and sip after dinner (maybe in the form of a beer float...). You can find this beast in four-packs of 12oz cans, recently re-released in Oskar's distribution footprint.  It's a limited release, so get on it!

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Pilots and Cougars!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Auburn Wrap and 2015-16 CU vs Portland Teaser

I said back in October that we'd all know a lot about the 2015-16 Colorado Buffaloes by the end of their two-game, season-opening road trip.  I was right: we do.  More importantly, the returns are very promising.

What started with a solid, gritty effort in Sioux Falls, SD against a top-10 Iowa State club only continued down in Alabama against a re-imagined bunch of Auburn Tigers.  In front of a hostile, energetic mid-day crowd, the Buffs fought and battled through a series of wild swings, showing a determination and steeled spine that had not been present a year ago.  They had to come back from as many as 15 points down in the first half, but eventually pulled away for a well-deserved 91-84 win.  It marked their first victory on the year, and a strong statement that things are going to be a little different this winter.
Josh Scott and the Buffs looked like a dangerous basketball team against Auburn.  From:
This kind of victory would not have been possible a year ago.  Midway through the opening frame, the Buffs were killing themselves, turning the ball over (11 times in the first half) and helping to fuel a 13-1 Auburn run. At that point last season, down 15 on the road, Colorado would've packed up the tent, and allowed the inevitable to ride over them.  But they didn't let the deficit get them down against the Tigers, and they didn't try to get it back in one gulp.  CU chipped away, dragging the gap back to only four points at the break, and keeping the action even through the first few minutes after.  Much like in their effort against ISU, they just hung around, looking dangerous and capable. And so, when the Tigers' composure slipped up in the second half, right about the time freshman forward Horace Spencer got T'd up for spiking the basketball after a dunk, there were the Buffs, ready and waiting to pounce.  A barrage of scoring would follow, and Colorado never looked back. By the time Auburn could really mount a response, the Buffs were up 13 with about six minutes to go, and the game was essentially over.

The saving grace, both against Auburn and Iowa State, has been one of the things that was frequently mentioned as a reason for optimism this winter: improved outside shooting.  As a team, the Buffs are hitting about 45% of their three-point attempts through two games (8-of-15 against the Tigers alone).  Now, that's not going to last, and regression to the mean can be a bitch, but I don't think it's such a fluke that we're going to see this group crash all the way back to where they were last season.  The reason for my optimism here: different personnel.  The shooters on the floor are more consistent and shooting more within the flow of the offense than in years past. Key to this stretch has been the play of George King.  The redshirt sophomore has been on fire, NBA Jam style. He may not have an assist, but he's averaging 21/7 early on (buoyed by 8-14 shooting from deep), and is already streets ahead of where he was as a freshman two years ago.  Against Auburn, he put up an obscene 27/7 line, knocking down big shot after big shot. It's a completely different offense with him prowling around the perimeter, one that actually looks... potent? Coach Boyle's quote after the game pretty much summed it up: “That’s why I believe in redshirting. He’s improved. He spent a lot of time working on his game. Now we get him three more years … I hope.”
George King had it going on against the Tigers.  From: the Post
Of course, beyond just King's heroics, the Buffs also benefited from their constant heartbeat in the paint: Josh Scott.  The Young Fundamental had himself a bounce-back night in SEC-land, riding 8-10 shooting from the floor to a 24/9/3/2 statement that put to bed the memory of his frustrations in South Dakota.  With Josh doing the work in the paint, and King knifing teams in the back from beyond the arc, suddenly the Buffs boast a powerful inside-outside attack that is forcing defenses to actually have to think while Colorado has the ball. Yes, just like you, I'm interested to see how the team responds when the shots aren't falling, but, if the defense keeps up (allowed under 40% shooting in the second half against the Tigers, only 2-10 from beyond the arc), and George King stays a viable Robin to Scott's Batman, this team could be far more interesting that any of us thought a few weeks ago.

The attention then shifts to Friday night and the home opener.  The Buffs will welcome in the Portland Pilots for the first of five-straight home games (nine-straight in the State of Colorado), looking to keep the good times rolling.  To be very honest, much like the rest of the pre-CSU stretch, this one shouldn't be much of a problem.  The Pilots are not a bad basketball team, per se, but they don't strike the pose of a crew that's going to come in and push CU around.
Wintering is a legit point guard, and could play for any team in any conference.  From: USA Today.
That's not to say they're devoid of talent, however.  Their best player, 5-11 junior point guard Alec Wintering, is a legit ball handler and leader.  He posted a top-25 assist rate last year on a well over 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, combining a key eye for distribution with a nose for the hoop (67.8% free throw rate, 173 FTAs). Wintering even has a talented wing to work off of.  6-4 senior Bryce Pressley shot 44% from beyond the arc last season, was 8-11 from deep in their season opener, and will really test CU's commitment to perimeter defending. Lesser tandems have given the Buffs fits in recent years, and I would not be surprised to see both guys go off a little bit.

Luckily, after those two, the talent floor on the roster drops off a bit. Sophomores D'Marques Tyson and Jason Todd (who weirdly have been coming off the bench) are nice players - good shooters to boot - but not anything extraordinarily special.  JuCo transfer Ray Barreno is really all they have in the paint -- he has nice size (6-10, 270 lbs), but is unproven.  Also look out for 7-1 center Phillip Hartwich, but, really, Colorado's front line should have no trouble here.

Overall, head coach Eric Reveno has some nice pieces in the back court that will serve him well once WCC play comes around, but, on the road in Boulder, he just doesn't have the horses in place to keep pace with a Pac-12 program.  The Pilots could get hot from deep, and make things nervous for a bit, but I have no trouble believing that the Buffs will eventually win by 15+ on Friday.


Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 7pm tomorrow night.  I can't wait to get back into the building, having only whetted my appetite for Colorado's hardwood when I saw my Bulls come to town last month.  Hopefully, everyone out there, and especially the students, are itching to get back inside the CEC, as well.

For those who can't make it up to Boulder for the action, you can watch the game on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2015-16 CU vs Auburn Basketball Teaser

Back in my Massive Season Preview, I blithely predicted that the Buffs were destined to lose this afternoon's game with the Auburn Tigers.  Heading out on early season road trips against Power-5 competition, I reasoned, was never a good omen for Tad Boyle's charges, and it just seemed like the safe bet that they would slump home 0-2 after their trip to Alabama.

Now, however, I'm not so sure.  I really kind of liked what I saw from the team in Sioux Falls. Turnovers were and issue, and it's always worrying to see the Buffs get worked like that in the paint, but they showed a lot of grit in coming back a number of times against a top-10 Iowa State team, fighting against a hostile crowd the entire way.  Outside shots were going in, the team looked active on the boards, and half-court defense was passing the eye test on most possessions.  Given a few of Josh Scott's missed bunnies going in, and they might have even won the damn game. Yes, it's only one small spate of action, and it was still a loss, but I like the look of the early-season Buffs a lot more than I thought I would headed into today.

More to the point, they're going to be facing an Auburn team that does not appear, at least on paper, to be nearly as intimidating as the Iowa State Cyclones are.  The Tigers certainly weren't last year, when they finished 12-19 in the regular season, only winning four games in all of SEC play.  They were a miss-matched mess all season, under-sized and under-talented against almost everyone they played.  It was no fluke, after all, that the inconsistent 2014-15 Buffs ran them out of the gym in that 90-59 Midnight Madness game last fall.  Going further, Auburn lost their entire three-man backcourt from a season a go - including bucket-getter KT Harrell, one of the most prolific scores in the south - making roster turnover and attrition a pressing issue.
Sweat, Brucey, Sweat!  From: SBNation
But, if there's anyone who knows how to turnover a roster in a hurry, it's Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl. A master at squeezing Tournament-caliber performances out of under-performing rosters (previously at UW-Milwaukee and Tennessee), he's back for his second year on the Plains, trying to instill the old football power with some basketball passion.  So for... not so good, but don't count him out just yet.  The SEC has a soft underbelly, and even a modest jump in quality could have them eating into the middle of the pack.

To that end, he went out and hit the recruiting trail hard (... once he was allowed to, that is).  He wasn't satisfied with just bringing in some young talent, and waiting for them to develop, either.  Coach Pearl brought in a trio of transfers that now form the backbone of their starting lineup.  Kareem Canty, a high-scoring point, formerly of Marshall, now runs the show in the Harrell/bucket-getter role. 6-10 senior Tyler Harris, from Providence, adds some much-needed size and strength up front.  Finally, 6-5 JuCo transfer TJ Dunans - one of the most highly coveted JuCo recruits in the country last year - adds a ton of athleticism on the wing.  These are not the same small, one-dimensional Tigers of a year ago; they now look like a Power-5 team should from 1 through 5.
Bowers is a sizeable problem int he paint.  From: 247 sports.
One interesting piece that remains from that '14-'15 starting five, though, is 6-7, 255 senior forward Cinmeon Bowers.  Yep, he's the same high-energy interior bowling ball who put up 11/13 as sort of a one-man forward corps against CU a year ago.  Cinmeon is a bit undersized at 6-7, playing as more of a true center's role, but he has the body of an SEC defensive lineman, and is a mountain of a problem to deal with on the block. Now with a real running mate up front (Harris), and an interior protégé (freshman Horace Spencer) he should put up some huge numbers this year, and could push the Buffs' front line still reeling from their lickin' in South Dakota.

With all that new talent centered around Bowers, Auburn's off to a good start, at least.  They downed a well thought of UAB squad at home on opening night, winning 75-74 at the buzzer.  Not the prettiest of games (few are this time of year), the Tigers got by with 62 points from their 'Big Four.'  They got out to a big lead, and survived a number of comeback attempts from the Blazers to earn a nice early-season win.  Overall, I like this Tiger group as a potential mid-level sleeper in an always weak SEC, but they're still probably some true depth away from being anything close to relevant.
Happier days ahead for Auburn? From: the AP
This, then, is a game between two teams looking to flip the script on some disappointing performances the year prior.  One major difference is that this game is not up at altitude.  The Tigers made the mistake of trying to run with the Buffs at 5,345 last fall, and got smacked around in the second half, as a result.  Don't expect similar results this time around.  Oh, they'll still try to run, but CU won't have the thin air playing a factor in their opponent's fatigue. More practically, I'm not sold on how strong a rebounding team the Tigers are. Bowers will get his, and they're not dramatically undersized like they were last season, but I look at this as an opportunity for CU to crash the boards, and really make Auburn work for possessions.  The Buffs, once again, looking to stay in the half court, while their opponent tries to get out and run.

I said on Friday that if Colorado played like they did against Iowa State - showing intense grittyness on 'D,' rebounding the ball well, and knocking down outside jumpers - they'll beat Auburn by 15.  Maybe that was a little bit of hyperbole (OK, a lot), especially considering CU's historical struggles away from Boulder and the turnover worries, but I really think Colorado showed me something on Friday, something that bodes well for the rest of the year. Further, I just can't see Josh Scott staying quiet for a second-straight game, and, with if everything else stays the same, that alone should be the difference between victory and defeat.  Throw in a better showing from the guards, especially in keeping the ball in Colorado hands, and I will predict a slightly more demure three point win in Auburn.


Tip-off between the Buffs and the Tigers is set for 1pm MT this afternoon. Tell your boss you got a doctor's appointment, and spend the early afternoon watching some hoops; could anything be possibly better in the middle of the day? Coverage as part of ESPN's annual College Basketball Tip-Off Marathon will be on the mothership, with the radio call on AM 760.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Grab Bag: A Rough Friday Night

On Friday Night, University of Colorado Athletics dominated ESPN2.  Between the basketball game tipping off at 3pm and the football game kicking off a little after 7pm, various forms of the Buffs were on the Deuce for about six hours.  Suck it, rest of the country!  Unfortunately for our purposes, what the nation saw when they tuned in was a pair of rough losses for our heroes.  It always nice to see the Ralphie logo on the national air waves, but damnit if I don't wish we could win a few of these every now and then.  But, hey, at least they weren't blowouts?


Today in the bag, I'm recapping the first men's basketball game of the year, closing the book on the football team's home schedule, and checking in with the women's basketball and volleyball teams.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Beer Post: 2015 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - USC Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beer for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beers around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

At the start of the basketball season, I wanted my beer pick to look forward.  Something new and local, something I had never tried before.  While roaming the aisle of my local liquoropolis last weekend, I kept my eye out for such a beer; one that was, as of yet, untried by yours truly, from a brewery that was, as of yet, un-reviewed on these pages.  I found just such an option right away.  Coming from just up the Diag in Gunbarrel, Finkel & Garf Brewing is a recent entrant to the Boulder brewing scene.  Their Cream Ale, however, one of many quality brews on tap, tells me that they'll be around for some time to come.  It's this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.

I love a good cream ale!  The top-fermenting cousin of pale lagers, these beauties are malty-sweet, easy drinking, and perfect for the kind of session consumption that a tailgate requires.  While usually more creamy and malt-forward, Finkel & Garf have decided to go in a little more hop-forward direction with theirs, bringing a lot of bitter, dank notes to the typically sweet style.  It's a very pleasing result - almost the natural intersection of american ale culture and those classic styles that, until recently, dominated the hearts and minds of beer freaks.

The one thing that really takes this one up a notch, and it's a common theme that I've been noticing around the craft beer world, is the inclusion of some orange peel to the mix.  My first thought when downing this one: now this is what Blue Moon should be.  Citrusy-sweet, smooth, and creamy, the two beers put me in the same mind.  Completely different styles of beer, to be sure, but the thought process seemed to lead to the same conclusion... just with F&G throwing in more hops.

Big fan of this beer, do yourself a favor and get some.  It comes in cans, and, at 5.4%, a six-pack will get you more than ready for the marathon of Colorado sports about to hit the national landscape.  Even Ryan Koenigsberg agrees - get some now!

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Cyclones! ... oh, and the Trojans too, I guess.

2015 CU vs USC Football Teaser

I hope you all got a taste of my basketball coverage this week.  Of course, it all started Tuesday morning when my 6th annual Massive Basketball Preview hit the interwebs - essentially a 20,000 manifesto for the coming season.  As if that wasn't enough, I also teased today's game with the Iowa State Cyclones, and appeared on a two-hour basketball round-table podcast with @RyanKoenigsberg, @BBadss, @BeauGamble14, and @CUGoose.  You want hoops content?  I got you covered, dude.

All that basketball talk, however, has left me hopelessly pressed for time.  In response, I'm going to revert to my standard practice for the early weeks of basketball season for the final home football game of the year - a teaser, rather than a full preview.  Slightly more narrative than the formulaic rigidity of my typical football fare, the teaser format allows me to hit the highlights of the matchup, talk about their star players and coaching issues, predict a final score, and do it all in an economy of words.  It's the perfect remedy to a time crunch.

But, enough of that gibberish, straight to the action!


Hype Music for the Week: "Achilles Last Stand"

It has always bothered me that USC named their athletic teams after a failed city-state in Western Turkey. At the height of their power, as legend would tell us, the Trojans were laid waste by a Greek trap - the infamous Trojan Horse.  So, not only were they doomed to the side pages of history, they were gullible. Interesting choice of mascot.

As for the song, Achilles may not have survived the Trojan War, but he sure did slaughter a whole bunch of his Trojan enemies in the pursuit of the goal.  Since the Greeks won - and a 'W' is a 'W' - I give you "Achilles Last Stand" in his honor. Enjoy!


Kick off from beautiful, frigid Folsom Field is set for 7pm this evening.  Holy Tad, what am I doing still here at work!  I have to get to Boulder and get to tailgate'n'!  If you're headed up the hill with me, remember to wear black.  For those of you unable/unwilling to fight the traffic up to Boulder this evening, you can find televised coverage on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015-16 CU vs Iowa State Basketball Teaser

It's finally here!  Basketball.  Real damn basketball.  The summer's been so long, and the fall so very, very dull.  The glories of the hoops season have come none too soon.  Thank you, basketball gods, for these gifts we are about to receive.

The Buffs, in all their wisdom, have decided to begin the 2015-16 campaign tomorrow afternoon at the luxurious (?) Sanford Pentagon in beautiful (?) Sioux Falls, SD.  Why?  Because that's where the Iowa State Cyclones will be.  The things you do for an RPI boost...  It's going to be a hostile environment, too, with most of the 3,250 seats taken up by those clad in ketchup red and mustard yellow. One thing's for sure: this is going to be a tough one.
Well, the team has played in weirder venues...
The old Big 8/Big XII rivals last met on the hardwood in Kansas City at the 2011 Big XII tournament. At the time, it was a game the Buffs needed to have, as they looked to solidify what appeared at the time to be an NCAA Tournament-caliber profile.  While that Selection Sunday call never did come in March of 2011, the Buffs at least took care of business against the Cyclones, mounting a desperate comeback in the final few minutes to escape with a 77-75 win.

It's real fun to look back at this box score and see names like Alec Burks, Cory Higgins, and Levi Knutson leading the way for the Black and Gold.  Alec, for his part, did as he was always wont to do and put up ridiculous numbers.  His 29/15/6/3 line made me break out in giddy laughter when I peered at it for the first time in years, one of a number of games from his sophomore campaign where he proved he was far too good for college basketball.  Burks played all but two minutes of the action, got to the line 14 times, and was the driving force behind every one of CU's mounted comeback attempts.  Simply incredible!  As a side note, he combined with another future NBA star - then-freshman Andre Roberson - to haul in 30 rebounds, just six less than ISU's total for the game.  Damn, that team was stacked.  How did they not get selected for the Dance, again?
Burks could not be stopped that day in Kansas City.  From:
Of course, those squads that met in KC four and a half years ago will bear little resemblance to the teams that will take the court on Friday. Not a single player on either roster remains, and there's even been a coaching change on the Iowa State bench (more on that later).  The real shift in narrative, though, is the massive up-swing in fortunes for the Cyclones. Since losing that game to CU they've gone 99-40, slingshotting into the regional hierarchy.  Just a season ago they were 25-9, stayed in the top-25 all season, finished second in their league, and won the Big XII tournament.  They were a fantastic offensive club, scoring 77.8 points per game at about an adjusted 1.16 ppp clip - a midweek must-watch every time they were in the Big XII game of the week. By all rights, it was a tremendously strong season, and one that hinted at great things to come for the program as a whole.

But, the 'Clones were stunned in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament by the UAB Blazers (thanks for ruining my bracket, dudes), and lost their coach, native son Fred Hoiberg, to the Chicago Bulls later in the summer.  Suddenly, what seemed like such a sure thing - the Cyclones in '15-'16 - began to look like a surprisingly open-ended question.
Hometown hero Hoiberg's return to the NBA threw the Cyclones for a loop. From: Bleacher Report
ISU responded quickly, though, to the departure of their 'Mayor,' inking Murray State's Steve Prohm just a week later.  Yep, that's the same Steve Prohm that went 104-29 in four years with the Racers, including that magical 31-2 run his first year in southwestern Kentucky.  They also return four starters from a year ago, including elite stretch-four Georges Niang, meaning the cupboard is far from bare.  As a result, the pollsters have been kind, voting them #7 in the preseason AP top-25 poll.  It's legit, too; the ISU will be damn good again this winter.

Georges, who could've turned pro after averaging 15/5 last season, made the interesting choice to stay for his senior year, rather than leave Ames with the stain of that loss to UAB.  The Cyclones are lucky he did, because I don't think the prognosticators would be nearly as kind to the team with him already in the professional ranks. The 6-8 senior forward from Massachusetts is, simply, the real deal on the offensive end. He can play pretty much every position (yes, even point forward), and can beat you in a number of ways. He is a difference maker, posting a 106 offensive rating, 56% true shooting rate, and 40% three point percentage in '14-'15.  He's not a selfish player, either, with his 21.9% assist rate.  He simply makes everyone around him more dangerous; a true weapon that ISU can exploit, and a leader that even his coach listens to.
Niang is an elite talent.  From: CBS Sports
But, while Niang is a fantastic player (preseason all-American, in fact), he's not a one-man team.  Frontcourt mate Jameel McKay is a major double-double threat, leading the team in rebounds and blocks a year ago, despite missing the entire month of November with eligibility issues.  He posted a top-60 block rate, and proved adept at getting whistles in the paint with the ball.  Between the two, McKay and Niang, they should average near 30 and 15 this season.  The backcourt is also strong, with the duo of junior point guard Monte Morris and senior wing Naz Long leading the way.  They both shot over 39% from deep last year, and will test CU's newfound dedication to running shooters off the perimeter.

Primarily, at least under Hoiberg, this had been a 'score first, ask defensive questions later' kind of program. Recently, however, Coach Prohm has started to sound a little like Coach Boyle when it comes to the way he wants defense to lead into that offense in this, his first season in Ames.  From their Blue Ribbon preview:
"We want to play half-court, tough, hard-nosed man-to-man.  Get in the passing lanes, good ball pressure. We want to be really tough-minded in the halfcourt.  The best way to run is to defend and rebound.  Get the ball to your point guard and go."
How well that change goes over with a team of offensive stars will go a long way to determining the timbre of their season.
The defense is lead by McKay, who is a load in the paint.  From: Grantland (moment of silence...)
For our purposes here, please note that the 'Clones have already seen the court this season: a breezy 106-60 exhibition stomping of Grand Valley State last Friday.  Unsurprisingly, against an ill-suited D-II opponent, a total of seven Cyclones finished in double-figures, including all five of their starters.  Niang and McKay combined for 24/20, and seem to be primed for the season.  It is just an exhibition, however (CU has been in two of their own; the closed-door variety), so take it all with a grain of salt.

Still, I have no reason to believe that anything the Cyclones have shown the last few years is going to dramatically down-shift under the new coaching regime.  They still have talent, the institutional memory of winning, and a hell of a fanbase at their back.  Not only will they continue to roll in 2015-16, they should also roll Friday afternoon.  Josh Scott and the Cyclone forwards will get into it a little bit early, and the teams will trade baskets for a few possessions, but I see ISU racing out of the halftime lockerroom to wrap up the win before the second to last media timeout.  ISU 76 - CU 63.

Please don't let that dire prediction ward you off from either the game on Friday or this season, however. There's a lot of basketball to be played, and just one game - on the semi-neutral road against a top-10 opponent, no less - does not a year of basketball make.  Stick with this team, they should get fun when they finally come back to Colorado for the home opener next Friday.


Tip-off between the Buffs and the Cyclones is set for 3pm MT tomorrow afternoon. Not making the trek out to the Mount Rushmore State, and worried about where to watch? Well, if you're already going to Friday's football game, the Athletic Department has you covered.  They're going to open the doors to Balch Fieldhouse a little early to allow for a little watch party, football tickets required. Doors open at 2:45, and the concession stands will be open.  If I could get out of work, that'd be where I'd be...

For those without football tickets, televised coverage will be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on AM 760.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Massive Basketball Preview 2015-16: On Leadership and Responsibility - OR - "I Want to Fight Somebody"

"I'm looking at last year from A to Z in terms of why did it happen? How can we prepare to not let that kind of season happen again. ... We're not happy at all about the season we had and, in fact, are a little pissed off.  So it's our watch right now, from the players in the program to the coaches in the program.  We have to take responsibility for what happened. ... We're all in it together."
- Tad Boyle, 15-16 Blue-Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook

University of Colorado Men's Basketball in 2014-15 was not a joyful experience.  A sour feeling permeated the program throughout their 16-18 slog of a season; a season of disappointment and frustration.  From presentation to product, everything was just a little... off.  It's was not Pac-12 caliber.  I was not Tad Boyle caliber.  It was not what this program should be capable of.

All that frustration seemed to come to a head in the disastrous final week of the campaign. Finishing regular season play with a sub-.500 record, 8th in the Pac-12, the team was ineligible for the NIT.  But, instead of letting the year end there, Coach Boyle took the unusual step of agreeing to play in the third-tier CBI tournament, hoping to capitalize on extra practice and playing time with an eye towards the future. It only proceeded, however, to extend the pain, as the sour feeling upended the program's apple cart.

First, the team's only scholarship senior, a bruised and battered Askia Booker, chose to quit the team, rather than play in the tournament (a decision which, in and of itself, I could spend a few thousand words discussing).  Following quickly on his heels out the door was reserve forward (and fan favorite) Dustin Thomas, who decided to transfer to Arkansas, and who also sat out the CBI run.  Then, there was the tournament itself, a run which quickly developed into a nightmare, culminating in a second round loss at the forgettable Seattle U Redhawks.  That game became a quirky little metaphor for the whole season, featuring camerawork akin to that of a dad at a pee-wee football game, a gym roughly the size of my living room, and a perfunctory second-half collapse from our heroes. The whole experience seemed to blossom into a black eye for the program, while the players the experience was supposedly meant for - freshmen Dom Collier and Tory Miller - barely played minutes above their season averages against substandard competition.  The whole thing reminded me of a poker table where a guy takes a bad beat, and just keeps throwing money at the table in hopes of getting it back. The CBI experience was Tad Boyle on tilt.

These are painful memories and uncomfortable conversations, but I've always found the clearest path to moving on to be confrontation. The simple truth: last season sucked.  From November through March, the whole thing was awful.  It was the return of the old BasketBuffs, and a very unwelcome one, at that. So, the question becomes, how did everything come to jump the tracks so quickly?  And, more importantly, how can the program respond and regain their forward momentum?

Well, the answer to the first is easier than the answer to the second.  CU lost 18 games last year, finishing 8th in the Pac-12, primarily because their defense was sub-standard.  Overall defensive efficiency had been the hallmark of the back-to-back-to-back Tournament appearances at the start of this decade, and seemed to be the foundation of a winning formula that had the Buffs, if nothing else, a shoe-in for competitive basketball for the foreseeable future.  But it slipped last season, with the team allowing an adjusted one point per possession for the first time since the NIT team of 2010-11 -- a raw Drtg of 102.3, good for 200th nationally.  You'd see it time and time again, the Buffs just couldn't get a stop when needed, with opponents taking advantage of weak perimeter defense (36%, 9th in Pac-12 play) and numerous second chances. With the supposedly improved offense turning in a performance that was, more or less, the same as we've seen before, the drop in defensive efficiency was a disaster. Beyond just the poor defense, though, team chemistry was all over the place, turnovers remained an issue as the point guard spot remained in flux (20% turnover rate for the season), and injuries chipped away at the playing time of the best players (a combination of five Buffs missed a collective total of 20 games). Everything seemed to dovetail and lead to one miss-step after another.

As to how the ship gets turned around... well, that's the first of a number of hard questions this program will have to answer. In this virtual tome, I will attempt to come up with those answers, and dissect the coming season for the 2015-16 University of Colorado Men's Basketball Team; previewing them from a variety of aspects, while predicting whether they will be able to right the ship and return to respectability. I'll look at the roster, profiling the players, and discussing how the coaching staff will look to leverage a very strong front court in a year of new rules and ticky-tack fouls. I'll look at the schedule, touching on both the non-conference and conference slates, and announce my baseline win projection for the campaign.  I'll look at the Pac-12, noting how our rivals spent the off-season, and talk about the league as a whole. Finally, I'll close with a look at the upcoming recruiting class, discussing how the program will retool headed into next season.

Those of you who have been here before know that the word 'massive' in the title is not a misnomer. I'm long-winded to a fault; consider yourselves warned. If, with that understanding, you're not dissuaded, if you love Colorado basketball too much to let a thing like 'TLDR' get in front of a good time, then grab a beer, strap in, and click below for the preview...

Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Grab Bag: On Massive Preview Eve

Welcome to game week!  The 2015-16 basketball season finally gets underway this Friday as CU travels up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to take on old rival Iowa Sate. For those who haven't heard, my Massive Basketball Preview - the yearly, over-wrought analysis of CU's coming basketball season - will hit the interwebs at precisely 8:30 am tomorrow morning, giving you roughly three days to read the damn thing before the Buffs hit the hardwood. It's an occasion so momentous that it has forced my grab bag back to a Monday for the first time since the week of the 2015 Pac-12 tournament.  Hope I didn't startle you...

To give you my rundown for the rest of the week, beyond just the excitement surrounding tomorrow's release of my sixth Massive Preview, I'll have a full preview up for the CU/Iowa State game on Thursday, I'll give Friday's CU/USC football game the preview treatment Friday morning, and I'll try to slip a beer pick in before kickoff Friday afternoon.  As you can see, it's a busy, busy week here at the Rumblings.

But, of course, it should be.  It's November!  It's game week! It's time to talk some hoops!  Get hype, the great game is back in our lives:


Today in the bag, I'm talking the football team's efforts against Stanford, the exhibition start to the women's basketball season, and previewing my preview.

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Friday Beer Post: 2015 Gameday Cocktail-o-the-week - Stanford Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beercocktail for the ubiquitous pre-game tailgate. Let's be honest, with tailgates it's not always top quality that you're looking for. To steal a phrase from the heinous beer terrorists at Budweiser, you want "drinkability." (or what a real beer connoisseur calls "a session beer") So, be warned, these may not be "the best" beerscocktails around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

11am kickoff, eh?  That's mighty early.  Essentially, that means any serious tailgate will start around 8 or 9 in the morning; way too early for traditional tailgate fare.  The conscientious host will plan accordingly, and change up the menu.  Brats and potato salad replaced by breakfast burritos and home fries.  Maybe some LaMar's donuts in place of potato chips, and sausage links instead of hamburgers.  And, of course, something other than beer in those red solo cups.  Now, many in this situation would lean toward a Bloody Mary (or even a Bloody Maria; the same, just with tequila).  Me?  I'm just not a big fan of tomato juice. Instead, why not enhance the traditional morning OJ with something a little more festive.  The resulting concoction, called a mimosa, is this week's gameday cocktail-o-the-week.

Wikipedia would tell us that mimosas were first mixed in the roaring 20s, but that's not important.  What is important is that whoever thought this up hit on a goldmine.  The process is simple: take one part orange juice, and combine with one part champagne.  It doesn't even need to be good champagne (fine, 'sparkling wine'), just bubbly and alcoholic.  Pour together in a glass, sit back and enjoy the sunrise.  What could be more simple?

Not a fan of champagne?  No problem, replace with the vodka you were going to pour into that damn Bloody Mary, and serve up some screwdrivers.  Leftover tequila from that failed Bloody Maria experiment? Throw it in with some grenadine, and you have yourself a tequila sunrise.  However you do it, the point is, Bloody Marys/Marias are dumb.  Tomato juice is dumb.  Orange juice is the way of truth, especially when it's boozy.  If you disagree, you're wrong.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Cardinal

2015 CU vs Stanford Football Preview

Everyone see "The Gospel According to Mac" this week?  Pretty sweet, right?  What a powerful image of BuffNation on national television.  Prime time, in the spotlight, there was the best of CU for all to see.  I was especially drawn in by the story of Sal, which has never been told so well.  That and the interviews with the players.  There's so much passion in that group, from Mac on through, and it still shines through today.  Very inspiring.

As much as I liked it, there's an admitted bias.  Further, I will say I kind of agree with this critique of the event.  The show got caught up a little too much in the various narratives of the football story (which isn't itself a linear tale with the '89 Orange Bowl loss) and other side arcs, and lost focus on Mac himself.  I understand this is ESPN, and the football is the draw, but Mac's the crux of the story, and I don't think they really delved into his deal.  You don't have to take a hatchet to the man to tell his story, either - he's a fascinating, influential figure, even beyond just 1989 and 1990 or Promise Keepers.  The dichotomy between the man and the town he thrived in, particularly, was something I would've liked to hear more about.

Regardless, good stuff, and worth any CU fan's time.  I'll be looking for it when it hits blu-ray shelves for sure.


Hype Music for the Week: "Poison" by Bell Biv Devoe
(Alternate version)

Fitting with the mood of the 30 for 30 take on the McCartney-era Buffaloes, I'm throwing it back to 1990, and gifting you the splendor that is Bell Biv Devoe.  Enjoy!


Kick off from Folsom Field is set for, yeesh, 11am in the damn morning.  Get your mimosas and bloody marys ready, 'cause we're back to a breakfast tailgate. Coverage for those not in attendance can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tuesday Grab Bag: #ItIsFinallyNovember

As a good son should, I called my mother the other night. Among other things, she asked my thoughts on the basketball team and their upcoming season. To my surprise, I could on stammer for a full minute before finally saying 'I don't know.' In retrospect, I feel that's just not a very good preview, so I'm hard at work turning those three words into 15,000. Expect the sixth iteration of the Massive Basketball Preview to drop next Tuesday, November 10th. Prepare yourself accordingly.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the goings on at the Rose Bowl, the Banana Stand getting up to its old tricks, and a newly crowned champion in baseball.

Click below for the bag...