Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Saturday, December 3, 2016

CSU Wrap and 2016-17 CU vs Portland Basketball Teaser

Welp.  That sucked.

Over an interminable 40 minutes of largely listless, vaguely passionate basketball, the Colorado Buffaloes lost any and all good will they had built up this season.  In their own gym, with their own fans at their back, they came out and laid a whopper at mid court, getting out-worked, out-executed, and out-played by little brother.  72-58.  I have no words.

... OK, so I have a few.  I talked in the teaser Wednesday about how I had been making excuses for the team in trying to stay optimistic this year, overlooking some faults in the foundation in the interest of positive thinking.  That was just poor analysis, and an error on my part.  No excuses now, however. It's clear that Colorado isn't nearly the team that I, or many other commentators, thought they would be. Oh, sure, there's still talent on this club, and I still don't see the oncoming horror of 2014-15 in the tea leaves, but this season will not finish in NCAA glory.
*A stream of swearing* From: the Post
I don't mean to get so negative after just seven games, but it is disappointing.  That Colorado State team who earned the win Wednesday night was not particularly talented, but they were able to push the Buffs around by showing far more heart and determination than the guys in Black and Gold did. They executed on both ends (hit their first 18 free throws, nailed numerous desperation threes against an expiring clock), took advantage of the little moments here and there, and seemed to confuse CU at every step.  As Colorado was incapable of hitting anything from the free throw line (17-31) or behind the arc (3-19), you could see a tensity fall over the team, squelching their ability to play freely like an asthmatic attack.  All throughout, I kept hoping for a light in the darkness, a sudden blast of energy, a light switched flipped on, but it never came.

You would see sparks here or there -- a flash from Derrick White in the first half, Thomas Akyazili trying to fire the ignition with some penetration in the second, and a burst of fury from Xavier Johnson with about 10 minutes to go -- but it wasn't nearly enough.  With a laughably tight whistle descending from old pal Randy McCall (my voodoo doll apparently has had no effect), there just wasn't enough open play down the stretch for the team to mount a comeback, and frustration eventually lead to disaster.  The Buffs out-rebounded their opponent, held them under 40% shooting from the field, yet still lost.  At home.  To a rival.  And all I can say is that it happened due to a lack of intensity and execution. #TadBall, why have you forsaken us so?

But, with that dyspeptic result in the rear view, there's nothing left but to press on.  Colorado will have the opportunity to gain some spate of redemption in an odd place -- Portland, Oregon.  Well, Portland's not that odd, at least to a man from Boulder.  It's the opponent that's odd: the Portland Pilots.  As part of a contractual arrangement, the Buffs will be visiting the WCC's Pilots and their 4,800-seat arena; a rather, yes, odd move for a Power 5 program.  While CU will visit another WCC school, BYU, in a week's time, they're at least operating in the guise of a power program.  Portland has none of the institutional memory of success that the Cougars do, and a visit from a program like Colorado is a big date on their calendar.
Porter brings more than a name to the Pilots. From: the Portland Tribune
The Pilots are looking to rebound from a pretty ugly 2015-16 season, where they lost 20 games and finished tied for 7th in the WCC on a down year.  It was a series of results that cost their former coach his job, leading to the hiring of Portland TrailBlazer legend Terry Porter to the top spot on the bench.  Porter had seen some action as a coach in the NBA over the years, as well, bringing more than just a name to the position.

Making Coach Porter's transition to the college game easy is the play of senior point guard Alec Wintering.  The 6-0 star from Charlotte, NC is averaging nearly 23 points per game in the young season, and is an explosive shooter and point scorer.  Alec has a nose for the line, and is dogged in attack of the basket; he gets nearly 50% of his shots at the rim, which is incredible for a player of his size. More than that, though, he's also a deadly distributor and creator, making him the engine that drives the Portland offense (35% usage).  CU was able to keep him pretty quiet in their matchup with the Pilots a year ago, holding Wintering to 1-7 shooting from the floor, but don't expect similar results Saturday night.
Wintering is a fantastic small conference talent.  From: Getty
Elsewhere, Portland features experienced guards Jazz Johnson and D'Marques Tyson.  Johnson is a great accompaniment to Wintering, serving as the outside shooting spark to Alec's dashing, rim-attack bravado. The junior Tyson has been serving in a largely 6th man role this season, but is still a capable player off the bench.  Their frontline is anchored around giant 7-1 center Philipp Hartwich. The German international plays, as you would expect, mostly around the rim, and gets about a block per game.  He'll pair well with swing forward Gabe Taylor, who has the potential to creep towards averaging a double-double this winter.

Overall, the Pilots are a solid mid major team.  They play relatively fast, execute on offense, and have star power to lead them in Wintering.  They may struggle to rebound night over night, and their defense is nothing to write home about, but they will put up a sizeable win total this year.  So far, their results have been to expectation, beating the minnows like UC Riverside, then letting UCLA drop 99 on them in a boat race loss.  They may not have the complete package to compete with the big three in the WCC (Gonzaga, St Mary's, BYU), but they should move up the table a bit as the season grinds on.

As for the result Saturday... I have no idea.  The Buffs responded well in Brooklyn to the 1st half disaster against the Fighting Irish, turning around to close that game well and then beat Texas the following afternoon.  Maybe they have something similar up their sleeve this weekend.  I'm none too confident, however.  I would argue that Portland is better than CSU, and Colorado is playing in their gym.  If the shots don't fall, and the gears keep grinding, it could get really ugly.  Oh, and the Pilots hit their free throws (87%); someone get me some aspirin.

Flip a coin for a winner, if you must.  I did, and it came up heads.  I'll take the Buffs to win, but barely.


Tip-off from the Chiles Center in Portland, OR is set for 8pm MT on Saturday.  There's no broadcast television of this game.  But, this being the future, we have an internet stream of the affair available at  If you don't want to mess around with that, you can catch the radio call on 850 KOA.


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