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.


No comments: