Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

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.


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