Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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...

Buffs steam-rolled by Stanford - 

Every time you think the Buffs have solidified their place on the verge of respectability, they go and take two steps backwards.  Such was the case this weekend when they got rolled by Stanford at home.  The Buffs had nothing for the visiting Cardinal, getting thumped on almost every metric available, and spent most of the second half awkwardly flirting with identity and the lower rungs of the depth chart. In the end, a Chamber of Commerce kind of November day was spoiled with a 42-10 loss... not good.
Stanford had no trouble running past the Buffs.  From: USA Today
CU started the game off all right, answering Stanford's opening-possession score with a 75-yard touchdown driver of their own.  Once into the second quarter, however, it was all down hill from there.  The Buffs were again plagued by offensive miscues in management and execution as a 60-yard drive ended in a missed field goal.  The following possession wasn't much better, only ending in an interception that gave the Cardinal more than enough time to generate a three-touchdown halftime lead.   Those two long drives, two of their first three of the game, would account for more than half of CU's total offensive output for the day.

The Colorado offense just couldn't stay on the field long enough.  Even their long drives seemed to end in the blink of an eye compared to the slow march of Stanford juggernaut.  In total, CU only had the ball for seven and a half minutes in the first half.  Unsurprisingly, left out on the field for extended periods of time, the defense began to wither on the vine.  The Cardinal would score on five of their first six possessions, with each of those drives consuming at least 47 yards.  The Buffs would never be able to win under those conditions.
The defense was simply on the field far too much.  From
In the end, it was a series of odd coaching decisions that upset me the most.  Against a grind-it-out team, CU stayed with their hurried-up offensive approach, all but guaranteeing that drives, even successful ones, would be short-lived on the clock.  At the start of the second half, and already down 21 points, the team waffled between conservative (settling for a 29-yard field goal) and aggressive (attempting an onside kick) methods on successive plays. It just seemed like there was no linear process behind the decision tree -- at the time, I likened it to the way a drunk would play craps (YO, ELEVEN!).

The result leaves CU with no bowl hope but to win out.  Only three-straight wins to close out the year will do, allowing them to finish with seven wins.  The first such opportunity is this Friday, as the USC Trojans will come to town on short rest for a nationally televised showcase.  Everybody please remember to pretend to get angry, since they're our rival and all.

The Bulle(i)t Points - 

  • Cade Apsay got a full quarter to work with and... didn't really do much.  He was sacked three times, threw and interception, and only got 23 yards on three completions.  Those clamoring for another option to Sefo Liufau were probably less than thrilled.
  • Phillip Lindsay's workload has all but evaporated over the last few weeks, culminating in his five carry, 14 yard performance in garbage time against Stanford.  I have no idea why he's been relegated to the sidelines, although Patrick Carr and Donovan Lee had looked good against UCLA.  Regardless, I would like to see Phil back as the #1 running back this week.
  • Diego Gonzalez missed another field goal, his seventh of the year, from 37 yards out.  The junior kicker has yet to really find the consistency expected, but I still look at him as a solid option, and wouldn't expect the team to avoid using him when they want to kick, as some have suggested. 
  • Nelson Spruce was active early, hauling in a total of five grabs for 75 yards.  The Cardinal made an adjustment, however, and he was held mostly silent the rest of the way.
  • Friday is Senior Day for Spruce, et al.  This season may not have gone as many planned, but I'll be there early, giving them a hearty round of applause.  All the seniors are True Buffs, and have my thanks for their years of service.

Lappe's Ladies stomp USC-Aiken in Exhibition - 

While the men's basketball team has to wait until Friday to begin their season, the CU women's team has already hit the CEC's hardwood in anger.  Unsurprisingly, the result with D-II South Carolina-Aiken was never really in doubt, as the Buffs easily cruised to a 86-46 victory on Saturday night. Sure, it may have only been an exhibition, but it was an opportunity for die hard fans to see the team, including four new freshman, get some run, and actually hear the joyous sounds of the the greatest game in the world.

If you weren't already aware, the women's game will be divided into four 10-minute quarters this year, something I'd wish they'd bring to the men's game.  The new procedure didn't seem to phase the Buffs, however, as CU won all but the 4th on against the Pacers, including a 30-8 rout in the 3rd to put the game away.  The game marked Colorado's 26th win in as many tries in exhibitions.
The Buffs, back in action.  From:
Overall, the Buffs were lead by a dominant performance from senior power forward Jamee Swan, who chipped in 19/3/1/3 in just 22 minutes of play.  Freshman point guard Kennedy Leonard scored 14 points over her own, and handed out eight assists against six turnovers in 26 minutes -- a solid start to her career. They were two of the nine Buffs who saw the court Saturday, with all playing at least 17 minutes. Coach Lappe had a nice, even rotation working all game long, and got a lot of work out of her bench.  You probably can't take any of their numbers to heart, given the setting and competition, but at least note that real basketball is being played once again.

The Ladies will get the season started for real this Saturday, when they host Loyola Marymount.  Tip-off is set for 2pm from the CEC.

Previewing the Preview - 

In accordance with a yearly tradition, the following is a excerpt from My Massive Basketball Preview to whet your appetite.  This is from 'The Team' section about the unheralded guard from CU's 2015 recruiting class. Enjoy!

- Thomas Akyazili - 6-2, 180 lbs, Fr from Antwerp, Belgium - #0

A European import from Belgium, Akyazili comes to the program with plenty of international experience. He's played at various levels for the Belgian National Program since he was 16, leading his team in scoring at both the 2013 U-16 and 2014 U-18 European Championships.  More recently, he played with a professional outfit, the Port of Antwerp Giants, earlier in 2015, picking up a whole other set of skills and habits. Not your typical freshman by any measure, he will bring a different style and mindset to the court from what we usually see, and he strikes an enigmatic figure in the plans for 2015-16.

The forging of that experience allowed him to be the lone exception to Coach Boyle's 'Summer in Boulder' rule, as he participated in the U-20 Euro Championships this July, only arriving in Colorado the following month. On the trip to Italy, he averaged 7/3/1 over 10 games, including a 19/3/1 exclamation against Serbia in group play.  The overall averages were nothing explosive, but still stand as solid numbers against near senior-level competition.

Word is that the coaching staff are looking to use him at both the point and shooting guard spots.  While I trust their judgement, I look at him as probably a little undersized for a true two-guard role, so my guess is that distribution will lean more towards the point.  That said, I really have no idea what to expect from this kid.  I've seen some video that is encouraging, but scattered YouTube clips are not much of a baseline with which to translate to domestic hoops.  I'll grant that his offer list was impressive - Creighton, St John's, and Utah - but, until I see him in uniform against determined opposition, my personal jury is still out.

Luckily, I don't think a lot is expected of him in year one.  He'll be a 3rd or 4th option at either guard spot to start, giving him plenty of time and cushion to grow and develop into the American game. Beyond that, the speed at which he begins to pickup meaningful minutes on domestic hardwood is anyone's guess.  To that end, coaches have already been praising his dedication and work ethic in practices, and he appears to have the talent to play Pac-12 basketball. However, the added time away from the program this summer, at least as compared to his new peers, probably sets the overall timetable back a bit.

It's going to be weird to see anyone other than Askia Booker wearing the number '0' in Black and Gold, but the import has the opportunity to only continue that number's tradition of contribution in Boulder. Hopefully, Akyazili will come to produce just as many moments of joy as his predecessor.

The full preview releases at 8:30 tomorrow morning.  Get ready, it finally IS November!

Happy Monday!

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