Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

2016-17 CU vs Colorado State Basketball Teaser

OK, so how do I, the guy who likes to pretend the CSU football program doesn't exist (and I would challenge you to come up with evidence that it does in this post-truth world), manage to pivot around and embrace the CU/CSU rivalry on the basketball court?  Simple, with the basic understanding that someone has to fill these non-conference dates.

See, real estate on a football non-conference schedule is limited and dear. It's even to the point now that games are scheduled decades in advance. You can't go spending such a precious resource on detritus that isn't carrying its weight -- charity has no place in football, after all.  It's just not in Colorado's interest to perpetuate the series, so I turn my back on it.

The opposite is true in basketball, however.  With 13 dates to fill before Pac-12 play starts, it's imperative that Tad Boyle and the Buffs find a handful of opponents each year that will accomplish three things: put butts in the seats, provide the team with a requisite challenge that requires emotional investment, and help in the RPI calculation. Colorado State, normally, checks off all three boxes. Therefore: bring them on... and the horde of slack-jaws that follow them, if you must.  It sure beats playing some RPI 300+ minnow.


There was a time, not too long ago, that the CSU Rams played some of the best basketball in the region.  Between Tim Miles' last two teams and the burgeoning start of the Larry Eustachy era, the program up north racked up 108 wins in five seasons, legitimately pushing CU for status as the elite program in the Centennial State.  They appear now, however, to have arrived at a precipice.  2015-16 was not kind to those from Ft Collins, with the Rams barely squeaking out an above-.500 record while finishing 7th in Mountain West play.  That makes it two years in three that little brother has struggled, with 2013-14's train-wreck 16-16 season preceding their paper-tiger 2014-15 campaign (when they went 27-7 against a garbage schedule).  With that in mind, I feel State entered this year with some pressure at their backs -- win now, or the mojo may fade away completely.
If Eustachy drags out that orange top of his this evening, I may vomit.  From: The Coloradoan 
So far, so... meh? Yes, they come to Boulder with a 5-1 record, but they have yet to beat a single team worth a damn, with their best win coming over... I guess New Mexico State?  Their one result against an opponent with a pulse -- a 56-49 loss at Stanford -- certainly isn't anything to write home about, either.  A gritty, close affair, it was one of the most unwatchable games I've tried to sit through in the past few years.  The basketball on display from both teams, chaotic, without any sense of rhythm or purpose, made me wonder just what the two coaching staffs were doing in the lead-up.  I half expected billy clubs to come out at one point, and the teams just end it all by whaling on each other. That game sure showed that a Eustachy team will still play you tough (which we already knew), but it didn't show much else, at least in terms of ability.

Part of my dismissal of their early play comes from the construction of their roster. They were supposed to be led this year by Gian Clavell, a dynamic 6-4 guard who was granted an extra season for a medical hardship.  The return of the team's 'heartbeat' was, in theory, going to help cover up the loss of lightning-quick point John Gillon, who transferred to Syracuse.  The theory, however, dissolved just before the start of the season as Clavell was arrested for the second time in 16 months on charges of false imprisonment with domestic violence.  He was suspended immediately, and doesn't appear to be coming back anytime soon; as well he should not. Without Clavell, the Rams are built around JuCo transfers, fresh faces, and a hodgepodge of other bits, and it doesn't look all that promising.
Gillon is gone, along with much of the backcourt spark that made the Rams dangerous a year ago.  From:
Not to say there isn't any talent left, though.  Indeed, there are some good pieces in place in FoCo that could really push CU this evening.  Heading that list is their lone returning starter, 6-8 power forward Emmanuel Omogbo. A rebounding powerhouse, Emmanuel has a relentless motor to go along with his 14/12 averages. He's grabbing nearly 30% of all defensive rebounding opportunities in the early going, and will be the sternest challenge yet to the still developing Colorado front line.  In fact, if Tory Miller, who missed the Wofford game with a rolled ankle suffered in the final minutes against Texas, is still out, the Buffs could struggle to match Omogbo at all.

Elsewhere, keep an eye out for guards JD Paige and Prentiss Nixon.  The pair of sophomores form a pretty decent backcourt duo, and also hold the distinction of actually having started their collegiate careers in Ft Collins, rather than somewhere else (12 of the 15 players on the roster transferred in at some point).  Maybe not capable of the shooting prowess CSU displayed, at times, a year ago, but certainly capable of hurting a team playing soft on the perimeter.  Paige is the primary distributor, and already has 25 assists this season.  Nixon, as he showed last season, can be a great shooter, but has been struggling so far, and hasn't hit a three in a week.  Omogbo going off would be painful enough, but if Nixon starts hitting from deep, this could be a very uncomfortable evening.
Omogbo is dangerous inside.  From: the Coloradoan
Rounding out the cast of characters in the starting lineup are serviceable wing Devocio Butler and versatile big man Braden Koelliker.  Butler has good size (6-5, 205 lbs), and has shown to be a solid defender, early on. He probably needs more time in D-I ball, though, coming in from the JuCo ranks. Koelliker is the kind of player you expect to find on a Eustachy roster -- feisty and capable of frustrating.

Ultimately, I see the Rams as a competitive team that's still a few pieces short of being a complete threat. Oh, sure, they'll rebound and fight you on defense. Centered around Emmanuel's abilities in the paint, CSU is, once again, one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about what they could do on the glass this evening. You'll also sweat out anything offensively, as they're holding opponents to 40.8% eFG through the opening weeks.  But, without the scoring punch of Clavell, they're missing that certain something, the something they'd need to come into Boulder and beat Colorado on their own floor.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.  So far, I've been making a lot of excuses for the Buffs. Citing middling competition, and latching onto sporadic bright spots, I've excused indifferent performances against teams they should be blowing past.  On the verge of this rivalry tilt, however, I'm suddenly nervous that the merely sufficient play we've see so far won't be enough against an opponent desperate to make a name for themselves. Remember what happened against the Rams two years ago, when the Buffs lost a bad game ugly, then went on to spiral out of control for the next two months?  The Buffs better bring their best to bear this evening, or we could be in for a rough fortnight of basketball, and possibly much worse.  Losing to the Rams, ahead of the trip to Portland and the Xavier/BYU do-si-do, could be inviting non-conference disaster.

That fearful dive into morosity aside, I'll still land on the optimistic side of the spectrum, and predict a win.  It won't be easy, though.  Into the under-eight timeout of the second half, this will be a brutal game.  Physical, cut-throat, and ugly.  CSU may even have the lead at that point.  When push comes to shove, though, I expect the four redshirt seniors - Gordon, Johnson, Fortune, and White - to make winning plays with the game in the balance.  It'll be enough to get the Buffs the win, if barely, setting them up for a big trip to Portland.  As always, a win is a win, and I'll take what I can get.


Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 7pm this evening. For everything we say about the Rams, this fixture is always one of the premiere dates on the non-conference calendar; this year should be no different. You want to be in the arena for this one, you know you do.

Those still intent on denying their innermost desires can catch the game on Pac-12 Mountain, or with the radio call on 760 AM.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: On to Santa Clara

I looked up and found myself in a weird place.  I was at midfield in Folsom, surrounded by thousands of my fellow Buffs.  We were all celebrating; there was formless dancing, hoarse voices screaming unintelligibly, and marijuana smoke floating through the air.  The scoreboard flashed something improbable: "BUFFS WIN... SOUTH CHAMPIONS"  Surely, this is a dream, I thought to myself.

No, it's not a dream.  It's a reality that has lost touch with itself.  Colorado Football... yes that Colorado Football, has won a division in a major football conference.  They didn't need to drop down to a middling league or hope for extra downs.  This was not a collection of blue chips wining for the names on the back of their jerseys.  Nope, they did it themselves with an inspiring edifice of grit and determination.  It was organic, locally sourced brilliance, the likes of which may never be seen again. This is it, folks, we've seen the pinnacle of everything we're told sports stands for -- the dream of the underdog, and the promise of pure, unadulterated joy. I hope you took a picture.

And yet, there's still more to play for.  There this week's Pac-12 Championship in Santa Clara against Washington.  Oh, then the small matter of the program's first bowl since the George W. Bush presidency.  #TheRise may have risen, but the journey isn't over yet.  Strap yourselves in, because the "Hold-my-beer-and-watch-this Run for the Rose Bowl" is about to culminate.


Today in the bag, I'm talking the win over Utah, the men's basketball win over Wofford, and the women's basketball team's fiery start.

Click below for the bag...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Texas Wrap and 2016-17 CU vs Wofford Basketball Teaser

When last we saw the Buffs, they were basking in the glow of a very satisfying win over Texas in consolation game of the Legends Classic.  In a return to the principles of #TadBall, Colorado controlled the action throughout, dominating both defensively (UT shot 37% for the game) and on the glass (+9, including 17 offensive rebounds).  In the end, there was little the young Longhorns could do, as CU settled into a 68-54 final.

It was obvious from the start that there would be no repeat of the first half implosion against Notre Dame. The Buffs came out firing from the tip playing aggressive, physical basketball.  Overall, they looked comfortable again, like themselves.  This was the Buffaloes as envisioned in my team preview -- veteran, versatile, and capable. By the end of the first minute of play, they had already forced two missed shots and claimed three rebounds, and would only go on from there.  CU was up nine at half, and easily parried away a counter by the Longhorns late in the second.  Game-set-match, moving on to the next one.
No easy baskets given to Texas, #TadBall was back!  From: USA Today
The star of the show was Derrick White, who capped a personally successful trip to Brooklyn with a 16/5/2/2/2 line that only subtly hints at how important he was to the cause.  Derrick was 7-10 from the field, and, while he only got to the line once (as a team, the Buffs only attempted five freebies), scored massive buckets down the stretch to keep UT at bay.  Every time the Buffs needed a play, there came Derrick to grab a rebound, make a key block, or hit a step-back dagger.  White was awesome, just as he needed to be.  While I am still wanting the fifth-year senior point guard to be a little more selfish and take over offensively, his body of work through five games is as advertised. Last year, Colorado might have dropped this one, as Texas made a late push that cut the lead to only three points with five minutes to play.  It's a different team, though, and White is a primary reason why CU is in a much better position to weather comeback storms in 2016-17.

Elsewhere, We saw George King follow-up on a decent 17/13 performance against Notre Dame with a second-straight double-double (12/13) against the Longhorns.  This is the kind of effort on the boards we saw from George as a freshman, and that was absent last season as a redshirt sophomore. He was fearless in the paint, going toe-to-toe with taller, bulkier forwards like Texas' Shaq Cleare. King would battle for position, deny the entry, then recover for a good box out and a strong leap for the ball.  I won't go so far as to say he looked like Andre Roberson this week, but George certainly looked like the kind of aggressive forward the Buffs need to clean up loose possessions.  There was desire in his pursuit on the glass in Brooklyn, which hopefully will translate to continued rebounding success the rest of this season.

Ultimately, I look at the Legends Classic as a job well done.  CU won three of the four quarters played, learned a big lesson against the Irish, and got a solid win against a developing Texas team. While I would've preferred a clean slate, I look at 4-1 with few complaints.

Up next for the Buffs is a visit for old friends Wofford.  You may remember the Terriers from a few years back, when they helped Colorado inaugurate the 2012-13 season with a 74-59 result in the Coors Events Center.  While no one who saw the court that November night is still with the program, I feel as if I'm seeing familiar faces with Wofford on the schedule.  Kudos to Coach Boyle for bringing them back.
Young and his Terriers are back in Boulder.  From: the Herald Online
Head Coach Mike Young's bunch is still in a bit of a rebuilding mode after back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in '14 and '15, and they've been off to a rough start so far this season. They've lost every game played to-date against D-I competition, only chalking up a victory against tiny Allen University (NAIA) in Gulf Coast Showcase action.  It should be noted, though, that they've been close to everyone except LSU, including just a one-point loss to a well-thought-of Vermont side. Wofford may be struggling in the win/loss columns, but they aren't that far off, and BuffNation should expect a competitive attitude when they get off the bus in Boulder.

Young preaches a measured defensive style predicated on leveraging possession length and getting stops.  To call them glacial would demean the architects of the last ice age -- Wofford gets just 66 possessions per game, and looks to force possessions in excess of 20 seconds in length.  It's the same on the offensive end, where they are have been, routinely, one of the 50 slowest teams in the country over the years.  They will look for a great shot, not just a good one, and rarely break out of a snail's pace.  While they will occasional get out in transition (19% of shots w/in 10 seconds of possession change, about the same as CU), once into their set, they could be there a while.

The Terriers are led by sophomore guard Fletcher Magee.  The 6-4 wing from Orlando is an expert shooter who hit 94% of his free throws and 48% of his threes as a freshman.  It was enough to earn him the Mid-Major Freshman of the Year honors.  While he has yet to get back on his blistering three-point pace of a year ago, he's still deadly if left open (shooting nearly 57% of all shots from deep), and the team's leading scorer at over 15/game.  Colorado would do well to lock him down on Sunday.
Magee is the Terriers' best.  From: WFSB 
Beyond just Magee, Wofford also has some nice pieces in the forms of Eric Garcia and Cameron Jackson.  Garcia has been a gritty mainstay at the point guard position for the Terriers throughout his career, and the senior remains one of their best players.  He's a 3:1 assist-to-turnover kind of guy, and a steady hand at the wheel.  Jackson missed much of last year with foot surgery, but returns as their biggest threat underneath the basket.  Nearly 2/3rds of his attempts are at the rim, and, at 6-8, 235 lbs, can bang with the tall trees from a range of levels.

Ultimately, though, I doubt any of them will be enough to push the Buffs too close to the brink. While not a pushover, Wofford shouldn't be within 15 at the final buzzer.  Loftier goals remain on the horizon, no time for hiccups here -- Buffs need to roll.


Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for high noon Sunday.  It's also the first of a handful of Alumni Basketball Band performances scheduled for this year, so look over to the band for a glimpse of yours truly laying down the phat beatz.  Coverage for those not in attendance can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760 AM.


Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 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 Darien, IL.  The little burg, not far from my Thanksgiving festivities in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, is home to a feisty little brewery making some hay after just two years of existence: Miskatonic Brewing Company.  Their session rye, called Catchpenny, is this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.
From: twitter

The name Miskatonic, of course, is a head fake in the direction of Lovecraftian horror, which typically deals with the end of the world by cataclysmic means.  As I feel that Colorado appearing in the Pac-12 title game would be just the latest confirmation this year that Doomsday is quickly approaching, I feel any brewery steeped in this mythos is appropriate to the hour.  The term 'catchpenny' refers to using cheap sensationalism to draw in the reader, which ties right back into what I just did there by invoking End Times.  See, it's like poetry; they rhyme.

Anyways, the beer itself is an interesting attempt at the vogue rye styles that are flitting around these days.  It's very drinkable, light, and malty.  Not overly hopped, it's far from bitter, and well positioned to fill your glass time and time again.  My only knock on it would be that I just didn't get enough of the rye character that I would normally expect -- a spicy, acerbic kick.  That said, one thing I've noticed about breweries in Illinois, particularly as opposed to their counterparts out west, is that their products are often rather understated.  The result of a different beer culture, I guess, the flavors just aren't as big and in your face.  In the end, it's an interesting change of pace.

So, something quirky and weird for the end of the season, which seems to go with the out-of-place nature of 2016.  You'll have to travel to sample this (or find it online through a large distributor), but half the fun of beer culture is trying new things.  If it's not Catchpenny, please do look to expand your horizons.  When you travel for the holidays, grab whatever is brewed nearby.  Ask your aunt or uncle what they drink.  Try... anything new.  Colorado may be the king of craft, but it's not the sole possessor of the ideology, after all.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat Utah!

2016 CU vs Utah Football Teaser

Back in the summer, as I was planning my Thanksgiving week trip to New York and Chicago, I made a fortuitous decision: I would make getting back to Colorado for the CU/Utah game a priority.  At the time it didn't seem like much, cutting my trip short to return for a football game that probably wouldn't mean anything.  Now, however, having that plane flight to Denver scheduled for Friday afternoon, rather than Saturday afternoon, is like a golden ticket.  The 2016 Rumble in the Rockies, as it turns out, does mean something -- for the Colorado Buffaloes, it's a play-in to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Who would've guessed it, but the University of Colorado, who were for a decade the definition of irrelevant in two separate conferences, are now on the cusp of appearing in a league title game.  It's a story that stretches the credibility of reality; something a Hollywood screenwriter would trash as being too fantastic.  Yet the greatest fiction ever written is that we experience every day, and we now have a football program to match.  The Buffs are our spoonful of sugar, and they're a win away from the big stage.

Of course, that win will not come easy.  Standing in their way are the Utah Utes; while Utah has fallen off the championship pace, they're still a nasty, tough entity, more than capable of marching into Folsom and stealing the glory.  Sure, they are not playing for anything themselves, per se, but they will be looking to return the favor for 2011, when CU traveled to Salt Lake City, and spoiled the Utes own South Division hopes. Don't expect our western neighbors to come over a lay down for the Buffs.

So, without further adieu, let's get this party started...


Hype Music for the Week: "Crazy Train" by Ozzy Osbourne

Time for a classic Marching Band stands tune.  The Prince of Darkness himself penned this metal anthem, a ubiquitous crash of sound that has stood the test of time.  If you're a CU tuba, and you don't live to crank out the bass on this one, you're missing the script.  Bang your head, and enjoy! 


Kickoff from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 5:30 pm on Saturday. It's going to be a chilly evening, so be sure to bundle up; luckily, no precipitation in the forecast, though.  Why you, a die-hard Buff fan, wouldn't want to be here for this one is beyond me, but, should you be unable to attend, national broadcast coverage can be found on FOX.  The radio call, as always, is on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Legends Classic: Day Two Teaser -- Colorado vs Texas

BROOKLYN, Legends Classic, November 21st --

Game one of the Legends Classic against Notre Dame showed BuffNation both the ceiling and the floor of the 2016-17 Colorado Buffaloes.  At their best they are a combative, capable force. Purposeful in attack, and dynamic in most phases of the game; worthy of another Tournament berth. At their worst, they are a step short. Impotent defensively, and weak on the glass; probably no better than a fringe NIT candidate.  In the end, however, the good wasn't enough to outweigh the bad, and the Buffs settled into a six-point defeat, 89-83.
Bonzie Colson and the Irish taught the Buffs some lessons on Monday.  From: the NYTimes
The first half was an absolute train-wreck.  The Buffs came out flat, weren't willing defenders, and, when Wes Gordon was relegated to the bench with two-foul-syndrome, the bottom fell out of the apple cart.  ND is a good offensive club, more than capable of taking advantage of lazy shows on screens, half-hearted slides against the drive, and un-focused effort on the defensive glass.  They hit their open looks, and made the Buffs pay for their wicked ways. All of a sudden the team and coaches were left yelling at each other, and everything seemed terrible and awful at the same time. The only surprise about the 50-35 halftime deficit was that it wasn't more.

Lucky, then, for our purposes that Colorado showed better in the final frame.  After what I assume was a direct discussion from Coach Boyle in the locker room, and with Wes Gordon freed from his foul trouble exile, CU started to slowly, but surely, chip away at the Irish.  Nothing explosive, but a good possession here, a good shot there, the odd defensive stop.  The rout was no longer on, and the Buffs were just playing solid basketball.  Good signs, with a whole season left to play.

Unfortunately, due to the horror show of the first half, they were in far too deep a hole, and unable to dig their way out quick enough.  While CU would get the score to within four late in the game, it never got any closer.  Notre Dame refused to miss free throws down the stretch, and the loss became inevitable. To the championship game they go, to the consolation game go the Buffs.
Ugh, that defensive effort.  From: BSN Denver
I learned a lot about this team in the loss.  For one, they won't quit like the 2014-15 team was prone to doing.  For another, Xavier Johnson and Derrick White are for real; the inside-outside pair combined for 43 points, 9 rebounds, and 10 assists (depending on which box score you look at). The Buffs can go far with them playing at or near their best.  I also received confirmation that Thomas Akyazili is exposed as the true back-up point guard, and that rebounding and guarding off the dribble-drive is a continuing issue.  Look for more and more time from the freshmen guards in the future, and I will be seeing Irish guards blow past Colorado defenders in my sleep for weeks. Further, Wes Gordon is absolutely vital inside, to both protect the rim and rebound against athletic foes. Early foul trouble from him is lethal.  Finally, I learned that NYC Buffs are for real.  Those in the arena for the game were mostly rooting for the Black and Gold, which showed during the second half comeback.

In the end, however, the Buffs are left headed for the last chance saloon in Brooklyn.  To salvage a split today, they'll have to take a win from... *surprise* Texas.  The #22 Longhorns got shellacked in the other semi final last night by Northwestern to wind up in the consolation bracket.  All week I had been quietly concerned about a scenario where the Buffs drop the opener, then have to play the Wildcats in the second game; the Fightin' Purples are a well-coached, gritty little team, and would probably give CU more than they can handle right now.  Texas, however, while gifted and athletic, is a team Colorado can play with.  Given the alternative, this is a much more preferable scenario. Throw in the fact that Texas will probably end up with a higher RPI ranking than NW, and I'm all-in.
Shaka and the 'Horns slipped to the consolation game, too.  From: Dallas Morning News
Now, the trick is to beat Texas and Escape from New York with that split.  While I prefer the matchup with UT, for multiple reasons, it won't be easy.  The old Big XII foe is very talented; hence, why they boast a pre-season ranking.  They're also, however, very young, with the 'Horns looking to replace five seniors and a sixth key rotational player who jumped for the NBA Draft -- essentially their entire starting lineup.

Don't feel bad for head coach Shaka Smart, though.  He hauled in a top-5 recruiting class last year, headlined by premier center prospect Jarrett Allen.  The 6-11, 235 lbs manchild from Round Rock, TX is a program-defining signee, and a cornerstone to build around.  He still has plenty of developing room to grow, especially at the free throw line (where he's shooting under 40% right now), but he's a load in the paint, and the kind of player the Buffs could really struggle to defend with their limited forward corps.  Look for a lot of Tory Miller today, as a counter.
Allen should draw plenty of attention underneath the basket.  From: the Sun Herald
Also in the recruitng class was guard Andrew Jones of Irving, TX.  A flashy point guard with McDonald's All-American credentials, he is dominating possession and shot rates in the early going this season, averaging 12/4/2 through four games.  CU struggled staying in front of Notre Dame's quick guards last night, and the issue could be only compounded by Jones.  He pairs well with 6-7 wing Tevin Mack, a returner who is capable of filling it up on a nightly basis.  Mack is one of those long, athletic types you expect to see at a school like Texas, a prototypical tough matchup with good versatility across a number of positions.

One thing to know about UT is that they play a style reminiscent of the old HAVOC Smart instilled at VCU.  They will play fast, look to get a lot in transition, and press to force a lot of turnovers.  While Shaka doesn't have the pieces in place to really grind you down with his preferred style, yet, it'll still push the Buffs in ways they haven't been this year.  I'm confident in the ability of heady veteran point guard Derrick White, it's just I don't know how well things will go when he has to leave the court. Any of the freshmen guards or Thomas Akyazili could implode under some focused full-court pressure.

Still, I think the Buffs will grind out an ugly game this afternoon.  As NW showed last night, if you can just limit turnovers, the 'Horns are largely toothless (just two fast break points on Monday).  The veteran Buffs should be able to take advantage of some freshmen mistakes, and do some damage. Give me the Buffs by a bucket or two.


Tip off from the Barclay's Center in downtown Brooklyn is set for 1:30pm MT.  For those not in town, you can catch the action on ESPNU.  For those stuck at work, I suggest the radio call on 760AM, or the stream at


Monday, November 21, 2016

2016 Legends Classic: Day One Teaser -- Colorado vs Notre Dame

The Colorado Buffaloes have, so far, played to expectation this season.  One brief hiccup against Seattle aside, their play has been solid and purposeful.  I could complain about the indifferent defense in the second half against ULM last Thursday or the half-hearted rebounding against Sacramento State in the opener, but I think those incidents were more the result of wandering minds against lesser opponents than anything systemic.  While I would like the team to play to their full capacity every night, I understand the realities of life, and, with midterms and ephemera clouding the horizon, some slip can be pardoned.  Sitting at 3-0, with only the light scare of a poor shooting night to show in the red, has the team exactly where they need to be after one week of play.
The scene now shifts to the "City That Never Sleeps."  From: AEG Worldwide
The price of poker, however, now goes up.  Starting with the Legends Classic, which tips off this evening, the team embarks on seven straight games meant to test their mettle; the heart of their non-conference slate.  The Buffs, as they have been playing over the first three games, probably wouldn't win more thank three or four, which is where the demand for more comes in.  It's time to see the seniors step up and play to their potential, the reserves eliminate mistakes and play quality basketball, and the Buffaloes as a whole assume the 20+-win form we expect.  And it all starts this afternoon, as they take on a very good Notre Dame squad.

But first, some music! Of course, considering the locale, there can be only one choice: "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" by the Beastie Boys. Enjoy!

With beats now ringing through the ears, let's get down to brass tacks.  Interestingly enough, the Buffs have never played Notre Dame in men's basketball before.  While the schools have met in a number of different sports, including, notably, football, somehow they have always avoided each other on the hardwood.  Something for the record books, this.

The Fighting Irish, of back-to-back Elite Eight run fame and 56 wins over the last two years, are in a bit of a transition this season.  Much of the headlining talent that powered those postseason runs have moved on; gone are notable names like Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, and Zach Auguste.  Their wake leaves an interesting mix of the old and new left behind to carry the team in 2016-17.
Brey's is one of the most respected names in the sport.  From:the AP
One piece that remains, though, is head coach Mike Brey, who has ruled the roost in South Bend for 16 years.  A veteran of the Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree, he is legitimately one of the best coaches in the college basketball landscape, and you should know that anytime you face one of his teams that you'll be in for a battle.  It's a fact current CU assistant Sean Kearney knows well, having coached there for 10 years as an assistant.  Traditionally, what it means to face Brey's Notre Dame is to face a hyper-efficient offense (usually in the top-10 nationally) that doesn't turn over the ball and shoots it well from the perimeter.  Defensively, they have been a little more scatter-shot (good, not great) with a man-to-man style that is susceptible to surrendering points and rarely causing turnovers, but they'll always play you tough, especially inside the arc, and will make you earn the buckets you do get.

Coach Brey has built the current roster around a nucleus of senior captains VJ Beachem and Steve Vasturia. The leading scorer Beachem, a 6-8 swing forward out of Ft Wayne, IN, is a nasty shooting threat, capable of leading the team in critical possessions.  The Buffs will struggle to match him all the way out to the perimeter, and they can't let him shoot freely this afternoon.  Vasturia is more of a jack-of-all-trades type, and rarely leaves the floor. CU should look to eliminate his dribble-drive, guarding him out to the perimeter, as well. At their side is veteran junior wing Bonzie Colson.  An aggressive double-double threat, the oddly-sized power forward (6-5, 225) has a mean streak and a sense of the moment.  I'm interested to see how a player like Xavier Johnson takes to his unique challenge, specifically if XJ takes it seriously, and comes to play.
Beachem is a very good lead guard.  From: Irish Sports Daily
Elsewhere, they're led at the top by point guard Matt Farrell.  A reserve turned good at the tail end of last season, he's a quiet, capable hand at the wheel.  Don't look for a lot of turnovers from this kid, he knows how to take care of the ball.  Rounding out the starting five is Martinas Geben, a 6-10 Lithuanian big man who doesn't figure too prominently in the offense (just eight field goal attempts this season), but is a willing shot blocker and rebounder. Their first man off the bench is Rex Pflueger, a versatile wing with a good jump shot.

To-date, Notre Dame has done as the Buffs have, clearing their plate of smaller conference flotsam. They've been a little more efficient in their efforts in the first week of the season, though, beating the likes of Bryant, Seattle, and Loyola (MD) by an average of over 34 points per game.  The game against Seattle may be instructive, as it was against a common opponent, but the knuckleball of the zone defense and a cold shooting night from the Buffs makes true comparisons hard.  Regardless, when I first saw that scoreline, just days after CU has struggled against the Redhawks, my eyebrows raised a bit.  No, this will be a difficult game against the Irish, for sure, one the Buffs would be lucky to win.
ND has been rolling in the early going.  From:
Generally, the Buffs need to stay aggressive in perimeter defense and attack the glass.  The Irish are not an imposing team, but they are athletic and bellicose, and will give Colorado a game.  The stands will be packed with a number of Irish eyes, too, as I fully expect plenty of their fans in the arena.  CU will need to come out, get on the board in a hurry, and show more on defense than they have in any of the first three games of the season if they expect to win.

In the end, however, I don't think we're in for a happy Monday night.  The Irish will get going from the perimeter, the senior quartet in Black and Gold will continue deferring around instead of leading, and the Buffs will slump into defeat.  I'm not expecting a blowout, just a solid six-to-eight point loss. Nothing too damaging, and hopefully leading to better things tomorrow in the second game of the Classic.


Tip-off from the Barclay's Center in downtown Brooklyn is set for 5pm MT this afternoon. Coverage for those who didn't follow me out east can be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on 760AM.


Monday Grab Bag: Buffs On The Cusp

I come to you this morning from Brooklyn, NY, having flown all the way from Boulder to watch the Legends Classic. I'll have a teaser for the CU/Notre Dame game up later today, but know that the overall schedule this week is slammed.  After the bag and teaser today, I'll have more Legends Classic thoughts up tomorrow before the second game of the tournament, a Utah football teaser and beer post up Friday, and a Wofford basketball teaser up... sometime before Sunday's game with the Terriers. You want content, you're going to get it this week.


Today in an abbreviated bag, I'm talking the big football win over Washington State, and the Men's Basketball Team improving to 3-0 after their tilt with Louisiana-Monroe.

(Apologies for the lack of photos this morning, but it couldn't be helped.)

Click below for the bag...

Friday, November 18, 2016

2016 Gameday Wine-o-the-week - Washington State Edition

Each week throughout the football season I'm going to suggest a good beerwine 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" beerswines around. But, in the words of Dave Chappelle as Samuel L. Jackson "IT'LL GET YOU DRUNK!"

Top-10 in the country.  National broadcast TV audience.  Ladies and gentlemen, the profile of this program is on display this weekend.  What does that mean for you, the common tailgater?  Well, it means it's time to sit up and act right.  Smooth out those wrinkles in the table cloth!  Cover up the ski shot!  Hide the beer pong balls!  Pretend for all the onlookers that we're not the drunken louts we really are!

For me, it means that I'm stowing the beer for the week.  "See, national television audience, here in Boulder we drink wine and act civilized, because it's how we always operate."  That'll fool them. Better go with something local, though, and tailgate friendly, too.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all.  The only choice, Infinite Monkey Theorem's Red Wine, is this week's gameday wine-o-the-week.
OK, so maybe wine in a can isn't the most highfalutin beverage on the market, but it's certainly in a more high-brow direction than a 30-rack of Rolling Rock.  And who doesn't like stuff in cans, anyway?  It's an environmentally-friendly packaging concept, with an outdoors-oriented lean.  You can bring cans tons of places you can't bring bottles, which is key in a state made for such adventurous activities, and they're certainly more tailgate-friendly than a few full bottles of wine.  In fact it is you who are wrong, canned wine doubters.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery (named after the idea that sitting an infinite number of monkey's at typewriters for an infinite amount of time would eventually produce Shakespeare) sources grapes from the Western Slope, and still produces wine the way a more traditional winery would... all right in the heart of Denver's River North Art District!  The only difference is that they put a portion of their end product in aluminum cans for us to enjoy.  Really, that's all we're talking about here.

It's good wine, too.  Their more conventional offerings have gotten some notice in respected circles, and are worth trying if you're actually looking for the full... wine thing.  I chose the canned red for this review because that's the kind of wine I typically enjoy, but they also have moscato, white, and rosé blends on offer.  The red is lightly carbonated and fruity.  It's fun, enjoyable, and perfect for a tailgate ahead of a weighty football game.  You can find it in most local liquor stores, or even online. Pick some up, you'll thank me later.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Cougars!

2016 CU vs Washington State Football Teaser

Welp, here we are.  Anyone with half a brain has been eyeing these final two home games for at least the last month, knowing that they'd be important.  Upon arriving at the scene, however, we come to discover that these games against Washington State and Utah are not only vital to the postseason interests of the Colorado Buffaloes, but to the larger football-loving nation, as well.  Sitting at #10 in the damn country, the Buffs, with two wins over the holiday fortnight, could put themselves in position for a play-in game to the College Football Playoff.  Even if that is a notion too absurd to let swim around in your brain for a spell, the Rose Bowl is still to be decided, along with potential at-large bids to other New Year's Six games.  For Colorado, playing the Cougars this weekend is the start of the most important stretch of football since 2001.

The interesting thing is, while BuffNation will be deeply invested in the outcome, Washington State doesn't really need this game.  Like, at all.  Even with a 1,000 point loss to CU, they could turn around, beat Washington at home in next week's Apple Cup, and wind up in Santa Clara for the Pac-12 title game.  While they're a non-participant in any CFP discussion, the Rose Bowl will still be in play for them, regardless of the outcome this weekend.  I'm not saying that the Cougs will come into Boulder disinterested, or anything like that.  Just that, if there's a team that's going to play like it's life is on the line Saturday, my bet is that it'll be the one wearing Silver-Black-Silver.


Hype Music for the Week: "I Drink Alone" by George Thorogood and the Destroyers

This one goes out to my dude Mike Leach.  I don't know his views on demon liquor, but no one looks or sounds more like a wino on a week-to-week basis than the high priest of the Air Raid.  I just want to give the man a pair of sunglasses and some hair-of-the-dog each and every time I see him.

The song, of course, is by George Thorohgood and the Destroyers.  80s blues rock at its finest, Thorogood released some of the most iconic rock grooves from the decade of big hair, all without having to sample the hairspray himself.  Maybe not the best in my collection, but certainly not the least-played.  Enjoy!


Kick-off from beautiful Folsom Field is set for 1:30pm on Saturday.  The forecast is calling for clear skies and cool temperatures that are sure to dip as the sun fades behind the Flatirons.  Bundle up so you aren't running for the warmth of the field house as the 4th quarter rolls on.  Those not willing to brave the chill can catch the game on FOX's national broadcast, or via the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016-17 CU vs Louisiana-Monroe Basketball Teaser

By now, we've all heard the news: Dom Collier has suffered multiple breaks in his foot, and will be out a month.  I'm not entirely sure when the injury happened, but rumors had the Denver East product at reduced capacity as far back as opening night, and he was a no-show in the second half on Monday.
Buffs now need to make due without Collier.  From:
This is a major blow to the depth in the backcourt rotation, as Collier was either a starting or 6th-man option at the top of the attack, depending on how you view things.  While Derrick White has emerged to be the starting point guard in each of the team's first two games, Dom was no less essential to CU's plans, and his 20-ish minutes per night will be hard to replace.

The obvious answer is to give sophomore Thomas Akyazili more time, but Yaz still strikes me as a change of pace/spot player right now, rather than a full time minutes eater.  His efficacy will be reduced the longer opposing teams get a look at him.  Further, he's not nearly the shooter Collier is, and I don't know how many jump shots I really want to see him taking.  That leaves Colorado looking to more from true freshmen Deleon Brown and Bryce Peters.  Brown has been getting a surprising share of PT in the early going, about 12 minutes/game, so far, but we've yet to see Peters, who was suspended for the first two games of the season.  Expect to see even more of Brown and the first spates of Peters' run Thursday evening, when the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks come to Boulder.

Speaking of which, we've actually seen ULM in the CEC before, as they visited in late December of 2008.  Jeff Bzdelik's young Buffaloes barely escaped with the win that night, scraping by with a 65-62 result.  Some familiar names feature on that box score, including then-freshmen starters Nate Tomlinson and Austin Dufault; Austin even finished with 21 points, and Nate drained the clinching free throws.  That's all ancient history, though, and the less said of that 2008-09 Colorado team, the better.
ULM was brushed aside by Texas on Monday.  From: the Austin American-Statesman
The current version of Monroe is 1-1 on the year, including a loss to Texas Monday night as part of the Legends Classic.  The Warhawks stuck with the Longhorns for much of the first half, even holding an early lead, but by halftime they were down nine, and the final stretch of the game was a horror show.  Eventually, UT settled into a 21-point rout, 80-59.  A few things to note: ULM grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, only forced five turnovers, and shot just 8-34 from deep.  If I'm willing to extrapolate from one game to the next, I'm keeping an eye on those three categories when they take on the Buffs.

The Warhawks are replacing four starters from last season, including all-conference performer Majok Deng.  It's a tough challenge for head coach Keith Richard (unconfirmed: he may also serve as the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones), who is looking to maintain the momentum that had them winning 20 games and finishing 2nd in the Sun Belt a year ago.  The key to the retention project will be senior point guard Nick Coppola, who went for 8/1/5 against the 'Horns on Monday.  He's their best shooter, passer, and leader, and the entirety of what they do on the court is keyed by his presence. If the Buffs want to prosper Thursday, they should start at the top, and look to keep Coppola from creating.
Coppola is a really nice small division talent.  From: USA Today
Elsewhere, I like the look of sophomore Travis Munnings, a 6-6 swing forward from the Bahamas. He's a free shooter and a versatile rebounder on both ends.  He'll pair up front with another flexing international wing, Sam McDaniel from Australia, who also won't shy away from shooting situations. ULM's best pure scoring threat, however, might be junior '2' Marvin Jean-Pierre from Florida.  He came off the bench against Texas, but lead the team with 13 points.  Took him as many shots to get there, though...

Long story short, even with Collier out and the inconsistency on offense in the back of my mind, I'd be hard pressed to build a case for anything other than a Colorado win in this one.  Maybe some more uncomfortable moments, as the team continues to feel for their sea legs, but a 3-0 start to the season is in the cards.


Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm Thursday night.  You know it's basketball season when some *gasp* snow is in the forecast.  The winter weather is no excuse, however, so get to the gym to catch the Buffs one last time before they head to Brooklyn.  Coverage for those unable to attend will be on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760 AM.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tuesday Grab Bag: The Games They Remember Are Played In November

At the beginning of the year, the Colorado Football Team announced their stated goal of becoming 'Pac-12 champs, on and off the field.'  While I am unable to comment on the pursuit of any championships away from the gridiron, I'd be hard-pressed not to note the position that the team has put themselves in, entering the final two weeks of the regular season.  Alone atop the Pac-12 South standings, the Buffs control their own destiny in pursuit of that stated goal, needing just two wins to make the conference's championship game in Santa Clara.  The most storied ride in the modern history of the program is coming to a head; now it's time to see just what this team is made of.

It won't be easy, of course.  While both games are at home, they will each be against teams ranked in the top-25.  Competitive and tough, both the Washington State Cougars and the Utah Utes are worthy opponents for the stage. A stumble against either would most likely eliminate CU from title contention.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

These will be the most important games played in Folsom since 62-36 in 2001.  Woe to you, the Buff fan who won't make a point of being there for both.  These are the games you become a fan for, the kind that keep you up at night in anticipation.  If you can't be bothered to get your ass to Boulder to see a pair of top-25 matchups with a conference title on the line, then turn your fan card in tomorrow.


Today in the bag, I'm talking last night's CU/Seattle basketball game, the football win in Tucson, and the Soccer Team's activity in the NCAA Tournament.

Click below for the bag...

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sacramento State Wrap and Seattle Teaser

After months of interminable waiting, the 2016-17 basketball season finally tipped off.  Not unlike Christmas morning, Colorado's 90-53 win over Sacramento State was a litany of happy discoveries. Oh, the Derrick White hype appears to be for real (9/4/2 on a bad ankle)!  He's the starting point guard, too!  And Deleon Brown looks great!  Don't forget the shooting touch of Lucas Siewert!  In fact everyone can shoot!  The team looks happy, healthy, and very capable! Now, what do I do with all this leftover wrapping paper?

I know it's only 40 minutes of basketball against a team picked to finish 10th in their small conference, but I still highly enjoyed the Buffs' efforts.  They came out with an intensity and focus that leads me to believe they were feeling pent up in practice, and put it to good use on the court. CU was off and running from the tip, firing freely and confidently from deep.  62% shooting from beyond the arc on 21 attempts may not be replicable on a nightly basis, but that Colorado has this club in their bag is very encouraging.  Further, the balance (a word Tad dropped 1,000 times in the post-conference presser) on this team is impressive.  Of the nine players to get rotational time in this game, each scored at least six points.  Lot to like here.
Wes Gordon and the Buffs got the season off to a nice start.  From: the Times-Call
That's not to say the evening proceeded without any setbacks.  While the Hornets shot under 30% from the field on 68 attempts, aesthetically at least, this was far from a dominating defensive effort. There was inconsistency on defending the PnR and on handoffs, leading to a number of clear looks for SSU.  The Hornets, obligingly, clanked everything from open jumpers to clean layups, but those will turn into points quickly against better competition.  Further, the rebounding effort was ugly.  Wes Gordon, he of the 12 rebound effort, was glued to the ground, at times, and was often out-leaped for balls.  Accordingly Sacramento hauled in 17 offensive rebounds (16 second chance points), which is not TadBall.  Both areas need to be cleaned up, in a hurry; though I can excuse some of it for the lack of intensity in a rolling blowout.

All that said, I don't want to focus too heavily on the negative.  Overall, this was a very good performance from Colorado.  I still think Sac State will be a decent team, when all is said and done, but the Buffs made them look punchless Friday.  Can't argue with the result.

Attention now turns to tonight's affair with Seattle.  Once upon a time, Seattle U was a regional basketball power. They're one of the lucky few to claim a Final Four berth (1958), and went to 11 NCAA Tournaments over a 16-year span in the 50s and 60s. At one point in the 60s, they were even producing more NBA talent than any other school in the country. Then, suddenly, it all stopped. A financial slide in downtown Seattle eventually lead the school to de-emphasize their athletic programs, including men's basketball, and move to NAIA play in 1980. It wasn't until 2001 that they returned to the NCAA, and have been slowly clawing their way up from Division III ever since.
The ghost of painful losses past. From: the Seattle Times.
BuffNation, however, will mostly remember the Seattle Redhawks from two years ago, when they dealt CU one of the more embarrassing/fitting losses in the history of the program.  Stuck in the CBI, a tournament even Tad admitted he didn't want to participate in, the Buffs traveled to play the 'Hawks in their building. The result, a 72-65 loss, was decided in a gym smaller than the CU Rec Center's court, and played to a streaming audience via a single camera, operated by someone who didn't know how to work it. While the Buffs had started well, hard double teams of Josh Scott forced them to get creative, which was never that team's forte. Long stretches of scorelessness followed, along with a tide of Redhawk points. The final was degrading, it was humiliating, and it left a hole in the soul of everyone who follows the program.  Simply, CU owes SU some payback.

Head Coach Cameron Dollar returns two key pieces from that game in March of 2015: William Powell and Manny Chibuogwu.  The pair of seniors are one of the best forward tandems in the WAC this year.  Powell is the better of the two, and has started every game for Seattle since he was a sophomore.  He's an efficient shooter, and does a great job getting to the line.  They're both usurped in the team's hierarchy, however, by Brendan Westendorf.  The senior wing from nearby Auburn, WA is a WAC player of the year candidate, entering his second season with the program after emerging as a JuCo transfer last winter.  He keys their offense, featuring as their clear leader in minutes, points, assists, and steals in 15-16; to beat Seattle, you have to keep him quiet.
Westendorf is a legit talent.  From: the Seattle Times
Elsewhere, the probable starting lineup also boasts giant 7-3 English center Aaron Menzies and normal-sized point guard Morgan Means.  Means is the rare true freshman starter, and could end up being a pretty good option for them.  Menzies is a good rebounder, taking up a lot of space and feasting against the smaller centers in the tiny WAC.  Against him, the Buffs are going to have to really box out and disrupt his positioning.

The Redhawks have once game under their belt, as well; a 76-65 win over tiny D-III Pacific Lutheran. Powell and Westendorf combined for 40/12/9 against the Lutes.  At one point, however, Lutheran had cut the score to just four points with three minutes to go, pushing Seattle in a game they should've rolled in.  That doesn't alleviate the danger these Redhawks could pose, though, if they get hot.

In any case, I expect the Buffs to claim their pound of flesh, and revenge the CBI loss this evening. It'll probably be much closer than the opener against Sacramento State, but the keys to watch for are how the team defends Powell and Westendorf, and how they rebound against Menzies.  I want to see better efforts in each phase, as the team ramps up for next week's trip to Brooklyn, and the Legend's Classic.  Oh, and a win, of course.  A nice, 15-20 point win.


Tip-off from the CEC is set for 7pm this evening.  Televised coverage will be on Pac-12 Network, with the radio call on 760 AM.


Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 CU vs Arizona Football Teaser

The Buffaloes enter this game in an awkward position.  They are the undisputed, heavy favorite in a road conference game for the first time in... essentially forever.  There is no reason, on paper, that they should fall victim to the Wildcats, having shown to posses superior talent and execution throughout the year.  Arizona even enters a largely broken team, having lost every Pac-12 game this year.  Yet, the game still needs to be played.  Colorado still needs to go on the road, in what will surely be a dead environment, and play-out the 60 minutes against their 'inferior opponent.'  It's enough to make a serial worrier like myself nervous.  Yep, despite everything to the contrary, I smell a... what's the word?

Ah, yes.  A trap.  Thank you, Admiral.

Gird you loins, people.  This one could get weird.


Hype Music for the Week: "Ride On" by ACDC

If you really appreciate ACDC, like I do, you know the power of Bon Scott.  The late, second lead singer of the everlasting metal heavyweight gave that band a soulful, blues-hearted sound, simply not replicable.  That is not to disparage current singer Brian Johnson, just that this was a different group, with a different vibe before Bon's untimely death in 1980.

I chose 'Ride On' from the 'old' ACDC to highlight the depth of the group.  Soul-searching and powerful.  If this doesn't hit you, make you feel something... I don't know, man.


Kickoff from Arizona Stadium in Tucson is set for 8pm Saturday evening.  Should be clear and cold after sunset in the desert.  If you're down in the Grand Canyon State for the game, be mindful of the temperature drop when the sun dips.  For those stuck at home, coverage can be found on FS1, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the teaser...

2016 Gameday Beer-o-the-week - Arizona 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 don't know if you've noticed, but we're starting to get a little chill in the air.  Thanks to that daylight savings bullshit, the entirely of my evenings after work are now spent sans sunlight.  I even saw Christmas decorations at the store the other day. Yep, winter is definitely coming.

To match the seasonal mood, I want something dark, complex, and contemplative for the game this week. Something warm both in flavor and profile; something that doesn't mind sitting in a glass while I stare into a roaring fire. That something is Stone's Xacoveza Stout, and it is magnificent.  It's also this week's gameday beer-o-the-week.

Alternatively called an imperial stout, a milk stout, or the Stone-preferred mocha stout, Xacoveza is a big, meaty bastard.  Weighing in at 8.1% ABV with a mountain of flavor, it's a brilliant take on a winter seasonal.  It was originally released as a one-off in 2014, but the brew was so well-received that it now has a slot on Stone national distribution calendar.  A blessing, that.

The flavor profile is meant to be reminiscent of Mexican-style hot chocolate.  Flavored with coffee, peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and milk sugar, it certainly gets there, producing seductive notes of spice, cream, roasted coconut, chocolate, and espresso.  Similar profile on the nose, too.  While not 'spicy hot,' the peppers definitely play, and combine with the alcohol to really warm you up.  Very pleasant, the kind of thing you want to be drinking on a chilly night.

My bottle is of last year's vintage, aged in cellar conditions since December of 2015.  The rest did the beer well.  While you may not want to wait to taste, saving a bottle or two from the six-pack for future consumption is recommended.  Either way, now or next fall, you won't go wrong here.

Happy Friday!  Go Buffs, beat the Cardinal!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

2016-17 CU vs Sacramento State Basketball Teaser

Happy basketball season! We made it!  I can write all I want for my Massive Preview, or talk all I want on the Freeballin' podcast, but, until the ball is tipped tomorrow night, it's not real.  Know what I'm saying?  Once I finally get to walk into the CEC, though... the band, the court, the C-Unit, the team running out of the tunnel... yeah, that'll cure what ails you.

Once the team does finally run out of the north tunnel, though, their task at hand will be the Sacramento State Hornets.  Of course, BuffNation probably knows that athletic department best from such horror shows as whatever the hell this was in 2012, but you may be interested to know that their basketball team has also visited Boulder before. It was back in January of 1994, when they were still an independent, that State tussled with Joe Harrington's Buffs. These were the heady days of the Donnie Boyce era, and, while Colorado that year struggled to an overall 10-17 finish, CU rolled to a 80-56 win over the visitors.  That's all ancient history, though, including the Jon Embree head fake. Best to focus on the here and now.
Katz will bring his Hornets to Boulder tomorrow.  From: the Sacramento Bee
Because, let me warn you, this Sacramento State team is no RPI-300+ joke.  Sure, they finished 10th in the Big Sky last year, but that was with a number of injury issues.  This is a program that had been trending slightly upwards, finishing 2014-15 third in the Big Sky, and probably deserved more from last season. SSU head coach Brian Katz, who has been with the program since 2008-09 season, gets to return four starts from that '15-'16 team, and could, with a little better luck on the injury front, surprise a number of the media who picked the Hornets to finish 8th in their league in the preseason poll.

Those four key returners are seniors Nick Hornsby and Eric Stuteville, along with juniors Marcus Graves and Justin Strings. As a group, they've played a lot of basketball together, and are the clear leaders of this team. In the Blue Ribbon preview for State, Coach Katz was quoted as saying that they boast "the best leadership I've ever been around."
Hornsby is a good small conference forward.  From: Sac State Athletics
The seniors are an excellent pair of forwards, capable of matching up with any grouping in the region.  Right out of the gate the Buffs interior rotation will be tested, both on the glass and defensively.  Hornsby is, especially, an interesting challenge.  The 6-7, 235 lbs power forward is a nightly double-double threat, and feisty in pursuit of rebounds on both ends of the court. He could really push Xavier Johnson on the glass.  The 6-11, 256 lbs Stuteville gets over 70% of his looks at the rim, lead the Big Sky in blacks last winter, and is your more prototypical back-to-the-basket center. How Wes Gordon goes about attacking and defending him will tell us a lot about how the Buffs will be able to deal with life after Josh Scott.

For the juniors, I really like Justin Springs.  He's got great size for a wing (6-7, 230 lbs) and an sweet shooting touch (39% from deep, 57 made three pointers a year ago).  He made a huge leap between his freshman and sophomore seasons, going from essentially zero production to their best overall producer last season.  Graves, though, may be Sac State's single best talent.  A solid point guard now looking to own the starting role, he has been called out by Coach Boyle a few times after practice the last few weeks.  Perimeter guard defense is one of my concerns coming into the season, after all, and it'll be interesting to watch who, if anyone, steps up to check Marcus.
Graves and the Hornets stung ASU last season.  From: USA Today
Beyond the big four, however, there are a lot of unknowns.  In terms of story, the most eye-catching piece would be Jeff Wu, the first Taiwanese-born player signed to a D-1 basketball program.  As a freshman, the guard put up decent numbers, and probably will see a big boost in minutes this season. The Hornets took their international trip to his native country this summer, giving them plenty of experience headed into the season.  After Wu, though, There's not a whole lot I can point to as saying "this guy could hurt the Buffs."  Maybe forward Joshua Patton or backup point guard Jiday Ugbaja?

One thing to really note is that Sac State is very protective with the ball.  They posted a strong 16.7% turnover rate on offense last season, indicative of a team that doesn't play too far outside of themselves.  They were also great at defending the perimeter, keeping opponents under 33% from deep.  As this is something Colorado relies on, keep an eye on the kind of looks the Buffs are finding from beyond the arc tomorrow.  Overall, they really like to get out in transition, getting nearly a quarter of all offensive looks on the break last year.  This shouldn't trouble the Buffs, however, who largely welcome teams to come up to Boulder and try to run with them.

To the practical point, however, while I think the Hornets are a good team, there's still no reason I can manufacture to make me think we in BuffNation should be too afraid of a weird result tomorrow night. Yes, the Buffs lost on opening day last year (in South Dakota against Iowa State), but they haven't dropped a home season opener since Jeff Bzdelik's first game at the helm in 2007 (against New Mexico), and Sacramento State doesn't strike me like a team capable of upending that streak. Do note that they clipped Arizona State in the opener last season, but the Buffs don't have nearly the excuses (new coach, dysfunctional roster) that the Sun Devils had that November day. I usually try to avoid tempting fate, but I'd be very surprised if this game ended in anything other than a big Colorado win.  Give me the Buffs by 15ish, when all is said and done.


Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 7pm tomorrow evening. When you get to the arena, make sure to pay close attention to the new sound system, court design, and aisle railings.  The athletic department put a little cash into the CEC, now we get to see how it feels under live fire.  For those not coming to the game, televised coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760 AM.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Massive Basketball Preview 2016-17: The Next Step

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."
- Ron Swanson

"Put some alcohol in your mouth to block the words from coming out."

- Also, Ron Swanson

I interrupt the exciting #Rise in Folsom to bring you: basketball season. There will be no apology.

In the closing throes of my Massive Preview last fall, I stated, emphatically, that the 2015-16 season would be better than the sour experience of 2014-15. 'A rebound is on the way,' I concluded. It was a declaration that was prefaced by over 20,000 words spent describing the ways that I knew the Buffs would just be better than they had been in that disastrous, CBI-concluded campaign. At the time, I'll admit, the statement, and the article as a whole, was written more as a soul-searching dive into literary comfort food than anything else. Hours spent assuaging my own fears that the product on the court wouldn't match my hopes. I could've saved myself the empty calories, however -- it was a declaration that was proved 100% right.

Over the course of 22 wins, including a run of 11-straight that finished just shy of the program mark, the Buffs showed that there would be no return to the painful days of the program's past. They would not fall back into old habits, they would not fade away into the miasma of countless mediocre basketball teams that plague this country. No, they would stay on track, and continue the drumbeat of success that the program has enjoyed since the arrival of Tad Boyle. Above all else, it was fun to watch basketball at the Foot of the Flatirons again.

The '15-'16 Buffs exceeded even my expectations, finishing 5th in the Pac-12 before winding up back in the NCAA Tournament for the 4th time in six years. The team reverted to form, doubling down on defense and rebounding, the old pillars of the Boyle coaching philosophy, while adding some spice in the form of outside shooting. It was a formula that paid off immediately, erasing any lingering doubt left over from the previous winter. While still a flawed team in many aspects, they came together as a group and claimed a number of great victories, including that over eventual Pac-12 champion and Elite Eight entrant Oregon at the Coors Events Center. It was, in isolation, a special season, and one well worth the price of admission.

That's not to say, however, that I feel full having consumed it. That team left some meat on the bone, allowing numerable wins - program-defining, profile-raising wins - to slip through their fingers. The losses toll like the mournful chimes of a funeral procession: Iowa St, SMU, Utah (twice), at USC, at Oregon St, and UConn in the Dance. In each, Colorado had the chance to win, to take the next step toward true relevance on the national stage. In each, they also were their own worse enemy, coughing up leads and settling into defeat. In essence, they failed to grab the brass ring, to claim what could've been theirs.

Such is the casus belli this season: take that next step. Win those games that mean something. Hold on to leads. Stroll into the upper tier of the Pac-12 and the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Become the program, on paper, that BasketBuffs everywhere have longed for.

In this virtual tome, I will try to explain why, exactly, I think the 2016-17 University of Colorado Men's Basketball Team will be able to achieve what last year's could not. I will preview them from a variety of aspects, while predicting just how all the pieces will fit together. I'll look at the roster, profiling the players and discussing how the coaching staff will look to make the great shift from focusing on the paint to the perimeter. I'll look at the schedule, touching on both the non-conference and conference slates, and announce my baseline win prediction for the campaign. I'll also 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 what should be the best recruiting class since 2012, discussing how the program will retool for a year after the departure of a very strong senior class.

But first, a warning.  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, and the product after the jump is far from brief. 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...