Well, for a team that has been winning at the expected clip, Colorado has been doing anything but living up to expectations. The basketball on display, night in, night out, has been stilted, frustrating, and largely un-entertaining. This is where what the eye sees contradicts the raw numbers. While they have been winning basketball games, and only really losing one that they shouldn't, the whole narrative of the season has been a dour slog.
The inevitable question is: so, what's the problem? There is both the tangible and the intangible answer. Tangibly, the twin issues are hitting shots and rebounding. CU was top-25 nationally last year in 3-point shooting, hitting near 39% as a team. This year, they're dipping under 34% from outside, a number which seems better than what we actually endure every game. Everyone wants to blame this on the absence of Josh Scott, as the phenomenal forward got to be very good at kicking out to open shooters last year. The problem with that excuse is that the players are still getting open attempts -- they've just biffing them. Indeed, Colorado's offense continues to look great when the shots are falling, but when good shooters like George King are down 15 percentage points from their efforts the previous year, inconsistency persists, and the overall product suffers. As for rebounding, we knew it was potentially a troublesome spot, with the lack of depth up front, but the rates are so pedestrian (middle-third around the country) in an area the team systemically relies on that it's hurting results. The BYU loss alone can be chalked up to this issue.
Then we come to the intangible. Something is just... off with this roster. The mix of backcourt veterans that was supposed to lead with heady experience is not playing to expectation. They just don't seem to have a feel for each other, and I get the general sense that they don't even really want to be there every night. Now, a lot of that is projecting, and it's hard to be all bubbly and smiling when working your tail off to come back from a near-20-point deficit against Eastern Washington, but the lack of intensity, focus, and determination from the tip is glaring. This is the result of something I did not expect to deal with this season; a lack of leadership. Maybe a result of having too many chefs in the kitchen, maybe the result of the natural vacuum left behind J40 when he graduated, regardless, Colorado is in dire need of someone on the team to step up and take charge.
All those frustrations expressed, it is helpful to note that the team has had over a week to exorcise some demons and reset the mindset. While not a true fresh start, because every game counts, I can't help but view the holiday break as a chance to effectively wipe the slate clean. Maybe, just maybe, the threat of conference play, combined with a cleared head, will shake off the rust that has been holding the team back. Maybe, just maybe, we'll finally get the Buffs we were expecting when the ball tips in Salt Lake City. We'll all just have to wait and see...
Hype Music for the evening: "Auld Lang Syne" by Robert Burns
The New Year's traditional hymn 'Auld Lang Syne' is an adaptation of Scottish poet Robert Burns' 228-year-old stanzas. Set to the tune of a popular folk song from the 18th Century, it has become the de facto incantation of the New Year for most of the English-speaking world. I have as much of an idea of what it means as you do, but I mumble through it, none-the-less. When the clock strikes midnight this evening, belt this one out, and bless the arrival of a fresh set of 365 pages on the calendar, that we might do some good with them. Enjoy!
Tip-off from the Huntsman Center in SLC is set for 4:30pm on Sunday. ESPNU will have the broadcast rights, and may even bother sending their announcing crew out to Utah for the game. If they don't, however, mute their in-studio garbage, and turn up the radio call on 760AM. Mark Johnson will actually be there, you know.
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