Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Saturday, January 21, 2017

2016-17 CU vs Washington State Basketball Preview #1

It is what it is.  What else can you really say after watching the Buffs blow a 17-point second half lead to eventually lose 85-83 in overtime to a dreadful Washington side?  If you were wondering, by chance, if things could get worse after an 0-5 start to conference play, the answer is an emphatic 'YES!'  It's 0-6 now, Colorado's worst start to conference play since I was in third grade.  It is what it is.
XJ's heroics were not enough in Seattle.  From: SeattlePI.com
I know I couldn't have been the only one at the half confident that the team in Black and Gold would find a way to spike their massive 15-point halftime lead.  Sure, others allowed themselves to get a little cocky, but there was nothing in me that felt that we were watching the exclamatory rout that the men on TV were describing.  Both teams were sloppy.  Both teams were showing their faults. Colorado was just scoring more points, that's all.  The missed three pointers that were knifing Washington (1-12 over the opening 20 minutes) weren't necessarily the result of perfect Colorado defense, just misses from the home team against a zone. Block out the score, and I saw an otherwise even, chaotic affair headed into the break.

So, of course, after halftime, that lead began to shrink in the most familiar of ways.  Defense slumped, shots were taken hastily, rebounding suffered.  Those threes that were missed in the first half suddenly started going in (7-13 after the break).  Us veterans in the crowd have seen it before, a carbon copy of those lost leads from a year ago.  I'll grant that the team showed good heart to fight off the demons and force overtime in the final minute, but the end of the game was simply boneheaded -- getting beaten back down the court for an open corner three.  The straw that broke the Buffalo's back, as it were.  Enough to make you wretch.
Fultz is an incredible talent.  From: KING5.com
Sure, there are some bright spots here.  Xavier Johnson had the kind of game that will get mention by me in his senior profile, going for 24/11, and really pushing the Buffs in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime.  Derrick White also added a nice 23 points and eight assists to his totals, despite not getting a single call from the refs all night.  A hat-tip to Wes Gordon, as well, who provided five blocks, to go along with his 11 rebounds.  For those who like watching opponents get theirs, you also got to see 37 points of brilliance from Markelle Fultz.  Sloppiness aside, it was a fun game to watch, had I not been emotionally invested.

The problem, of course, is that I am emotionally invested, and that loss will sting quite a bit for some time.  In context, it's a result that means relatively little -- the season was in free-fall long before this trip to Seattle.  Out of context, though, this is one that will linger in the back of my mind for some time.  Again, enough to make you wretch.

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Hype Music for the Day: "State of the Union" by Rise Against

Rise Against!  I've long been a fan of this band.  They check most of my boxes: punk, fast, their lyrics are there for more than just window dressing... oh, and they're from Chicago.  This track, which is pretty hardcore, kicked off their third studio album (and my personal favorite) "Siren Song of the Counter Culture."

As a side note, lead singer Tim McIlrath performed the national anthem at Sox opening day a few years back.  One of the more interesting renditions of the tune I've ever heard -- he's got a really unique voice to show off when he's not screaming.  Anyways, enjoy!

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Tip-off from Beasley Coliseum in Pullman is set for 2pm this afternoon.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016-17 CU vs Washington Basketball Preview #1

The Huskies, I would have you know, are quantitatively a worse basketball team than Colorado. UW is simply not good in 2016-17. The raw stats, their win/loss profile, and the efficiencies would tell you as much. We can argue qualitative dichotomies, but, on paper, this is the worst team CU will have faced since before conference play started (yeah, I'll take ASU over them, come at me).  That does not mean, however, that this will be a cake walk.  The Buffs, as we are all acutely aware, are locked in a death spiral with their own demons at the moment, so what comparative analysis there is will be more guess work than science.  I am venturing into the unknown today; the shady areas of the map yet to be filled in.  My way of telling you, I have no idea what's about to happen.

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Hype Music for the evening: "Dazed and Confused" by Led Zeppelin

0-5 is a rough way to start anything.  It has certainly left me off-kilter, stumbling around dazed and confused, if you will.  Hey, look, Zep has something named just like that!  Of course, Led Zeppelin 'borrowed' the song from the original author, Jake Holmes.  That Zep version, however, the closer of side one from their titular first album, is so iconic, so towering, that it's hard to come to grips with the fact that they ripped it off.  Oh, well.  Enjoy!

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Tip-off from the ice-rink known as Hec Edundson Pavillion is set for 9pm MT this evening. Televised coverage can be found on ESPNU, with the radio call on 760 AM.

Click below for the preview...


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: ... and the hits just keep on coming.

I'm slammed at work this week, so the bag will be short and sweet. Just two topics: I'm talking the shortfall against USC, and how the rest of the Pac-12 fared in men's hoops.

Clock below for the bag...


Saturday, January 14, 2017

2016-17 CU vs USC Basketball Preview

So. Many. Points.  The #4 UCLA Bruins came to Boulder Thursday evening and proceed to play to expectation, filing the bucket up from the opening tip.  Three pointers, quality cuts, break-aways, mid-range jumpers, free throws; you name it, they put it on display.  It was a clinic of offensive execution par excellence.  (Their true shooting percentage was over 75%, for the love of Tad!) Colorado would gamely try and keep pace with the country's best offense, but this was never the kind of game CU would be able to stay in for long.  Into the second half, the Bruins stayed in sixth through the main straight, while the Buffs missed a gear change and fell behind for good.  By the finish line, there was no doubt -- UCLA 104 - CU 89.
White and the Buffaloes couldn't keep pace with the high-scoring Bruins.  From: the Post
 So often we fans get caught up in what 'our' team does in any particular game, that we disregard the actions of the opponent.  If the team we follow loses, it's because of something they did wrong.  If the followed team wins, well, of course, they were just better.  I fall into this trap all the time, but it's part of the job description of being a fan (short for 'fanatic,' after all): a myopic focus on one side of the equation.  After a game like this, however, you'd be foolish not to have your eyes flit over to the other bench.  The Bruins put on a display that flies past any credible critique of the Buffs.  This was their evening, and they owned it.  Sometimes, the other team is just better, and it's the honest fan who can admit it.

In fact, I though CU played pretty well, even defensively.  I know that sounds stupid, considering UCLA poured in 1.37 points per possession, and shot a vulgar 19-31 from three point range, but their shooters just refused to miss.  Open shots, contested shots, it didn't mater; what they were putting up was going in the tin, no ifs ands or buts. Not much the Buffs could really do to stop it. That was certainly the case with Bryce Alford, who got 37 points on 9-14 shooting from deep.  He was on true 'NBA Jam'-style fire Thursday night, and his points, particularly in the second half, bored into Colorado like an invasive beetle attacking local foliage.  There was just no answer that could be effected.  While Alford would finish a few percentage points below the shooting display from Brady Heslip in the 2012 NCAA Tournament (the Baylor guard got his nine makes from deep on 12 shots), it was just as impressive.
CU did all they could to stop Bryce, he was just too good.  From: USA Today.
For the Buffs, the big story was Coach Boyle finally pulling the trigger, and shifting minutes from a slumping Josh Fortune (just three minutes played) to freshman like Deleon Brown (who earned the start) and Bryce Peters.  It's a move that's over due, and one that I would like to see stick, if at least for a few games.  The frosh guards played well, too, with Brown actively chasing shooters around the perimeter, and Peters chipping in 11 points on 3-4 shooting.  In a season quickly jumping off the rails, a little look to the future can't hurt, especially if the kids are ready to step up and perform like they did against UCLA.

Beyond the minute distribution, I also liked the way the team took the ball at the Bruins, getting 38 free throw attempts.  Further, they shot the ball about as well as I've seen all year, especially in the first half.  Overall, Colorado did their best in trying to keep pace with the red-hot shooters in blue, putting up 1.17 points per possession.  It was their best output since opening night against Sacramento State; it just wasn't good enough.

With that defeat in the rear view, attention now turns to USC.  The Buffs need to find a way to stop this four-game slide before heading back out on the road.  I think they have a good shot to do it Sunday night, they just need to execute.  With that in mind, let's get this preview started.

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Hype Music for the evening: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder

I've been in a Stevie mood this week.  The Motown giant is one of the most iconic and influential US musicians from the 70s and 80s.  This track, from 1970, was self-produced, and a #1 R&B hit.  I actually had the privilege of seeing the man himself play this live in 2008, a highlight in my life.  Enjoy!

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Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6:30 on Sunday.  There's snow in the forecast, so give yourself enough time to get to the stadium for the start. Televised coverage can be found on ESPNU, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...


Thursday, January 12, 2017

2016-17 CU vs UCLA Basketball Preview

I don't know what moron in the Pac-12 decided Mountain States teams need to host games tipping at 9pm local, but they need to be fired.  More to the point, where is Rick George when some back-room poker needs to be played to forestall such garbage?  This game will be over, maybe, by 11:30.  Do they not realize some of us have jobs?

I understand the basics of television programming, but the conference has other time slots, you know. This isn't the only time this will happen this year, either.  The 2/23 matchup with Utah is also tabbed for a 9pm weeknight start.  Such garbage.  The crowds, both tonight and in February, will be subdued and sparse.  It's unbefitting of this sport and this program that has done so much to carry the banner of Colorado Athletics forward over the last half-decade.

It all ties into something the great Will Whelan penned this week on institutional support for the basketball program at CU.  While Rick George certainly shows his personal support in the arena, I just don't see the full-throated administrative backing that Mike Bohn used to throw behind the program over his decade in charge.  Kudos to all in charge from dragging football back to the realm of the living, but the basketball program seems tossed in the corner like a disused toy.  And this was just as prevalent last winter, as the team pushed for their 4th NCAA Tournament bid in five seasons, mind you.

Sure, Colorado, as a state, will never be as passionate for the sport as it is for football, but that's not what I'm talking about here.  Basketball is a marketable entity; in fact, the only one this athletic department has once January kicks in.  They need to be giving it enough TLC that it can continue to thrive.  But when you have a football guy running the show, supported by other football guys and football donors, any other calls for attention are naturally going to drowned out and set aside.  The department as a whole doesn't know how to handle what they have off the gridiron, let alone market it properly.

To that end, I got a flatly bizarre phone call the other night from the AD.  They asked me my name, thanked me for being a basketball season ticket holder, then said good bye and hung up; 20 seconds total engagement.  Huh? Where's the request for donations?  Where's the three or four question survey about my customer experience this year?  Where's the pitch for extra tickets to bring friends to games, or to fill up the pre-game party room?  Where's the reminder about upcoming games, promotions, or an announcement of new perks for being a basketball fan?  What the hell are they doing? I know the athletes are amateurs, but does the marketing staff have to act like ones, too?

It all comes down to the bottom line.  Football makes the money, so it gets the bell cow treatment. Fair enough.  I also get that my perspective is skewed.  The name of this blog comes an acknowledgement that only a deranged idiot would care about Colorado Basketball all the way back in 2010, after all.  But this program has evolved, and deserves some honest-to-goodness support from the guys managing the message.

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Hype Music for the evening: "Let her go!" by Something To Do

My guess is you've never heard this one before. From the forgotten wasteland that is Milwaukee, WI comes this tune from independent ska maestros Something To Do.  They popped up on my Pandora station a few months back, and I've been down ever since.  Good groove, good brass, I think it'd make a great pep band tune, to boot.  Enjoy!

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Tip-off from the CEC is set for *sigh* 9pm on Thursday.  Coverage for those not wanting to head up to Boulder can be found on FS1.  The radio call will be on AM760.

Click below for the preview...


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Grab Bag: A Winless, Yet Informative, Road Trip

I'm absolutely slammed this week, so straight to the action. Today in the bag, I'm talking the proceedings in Tucson, how the rest of the Pac-12 has been faring in basketball, and college football's national title game through a Bill Walton lens.

Click below for the bag...


Saturday, January 7, 2017

2016-17 CU vs Arizona Basketball Preview

Ouch, this one stings.  Locked in a seesaw battle with nemesis Arizona State, the Colorado Buffaloes were playing some of their best offensive basketball of the season.  Shooting 46% from the field for the game, and scoring about 1.15 ppp on the road, CU was putting the points up that you should against a mediocre defense.  The problem was, they were also surrendering points at a roaring clip. ASU was allowed to shoot 47%, including 5-12 from deep in the final frame.  The result? a game where the last team with a full possession would probably win.  The Sun Devils enjoyed that privilege here, and, while their last shot from the field went wanting, they were able to secure the short rebound, got some help from a home whistle, and rode a pair of final free throws to the win. 78-77, more than deserving of a heartfelt *sigh*.

The final possession by the Sun Devils will stick in my craw for some time. Clinging to a one-point lead with the clock ticking towards zero, Colorado did well to force a long three from wing Torian Graham.  It's a shot the transfer scorer can make (and had made earlier in the evening), but, given the circumstance, it's a shot I was comfortable with, coming some 24' from the basket.  It went long, which should've meant victory for CU.  The Buffs, however, failed to box out the smallest dude on the court -- Tra Holder.  The 6-1 junior point guard knifed his way to the ball, and was awarded a foul call for his efforts on the put-back.  That he went on to hit his free throws was perfunctory, at that point.  Colorado, in effect, lost by one rebound.  For a program that prides itself on defense and rebounding, it's a knife to the heart.
DWhite was on fire in the second half.  From: AZCentral.com
The worst part is that the loss covers up an ethereal performance from Derrick White.  The senior point guard went wild in Tempe, dropping 35 points on 20 shots, buoyed by a perfect 12-12 night from the stripe.  His final line, 35/5/5/3/1 in 36 minutes, is incredible, but still belies what he meant to the team Thursday night. Derrick was the primary defensive specialist, rotating around to put a hand in the face of whatever Sun Devil guard wanted to shoot in a given possession, and was the primary offensive focus for the entire second half (25 points scored after the break). His layup with 16 seconds to play almost earned the team a much-needed win, and, even with turnover issues rearing their head again (six for the game, half of CU's total), White deserved to get carried off for carting the team on his back all evening.  Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.

The Buffs needed Derrick's efforts because of a dust-up in the first half, one that cost them the services of star forward Xavier Johnson for the majority of the game.  After a whistle, XJ tried to finish a dead play at the rim.  ASU freshman forward Jethro Tshisumpa wasn't interested in seeing that, and put a hard challenge on Johnson well after the ref had blown the play dead.  The pair tumbled to the ground, locked together, eventually colliding into the stanchion.  As they each tried to right themselves, words were exchanged, Tshisumpa threw a shove into XJ, and a minor tussle broke out.  No punches were thrown that I could see, but the refs still awarded both players a flagrant-II ejection.  How they came to that conclusion, I have no idea, since this was miles from a 'fight,' and there are other remedies in the rule book for frustrated arguments between players.  For the Sun Devils, losing Tshisumpa wasn't that big of a deal; he's a reserve forward who rarely gets minutes, even with ASU managing a short bench these days.  For CU, however, losing XJ for the second half was injurious, gutting the Colorado front court, and depriving the team of a primary scoring and rebounding threat.  Johnson was even enjoying a good performance Thursday prior to the ejection, putting up 13 points in just 15 minutes.
Buffs could've used XJ in the second half. From: AZDesertSwarm
Regardless, I think CU did well in playing without their senior swing forward.  Early in the second half, it was a little rocky, with the Sun Devils expanding their lead to nine points at the 16-minute mark, but the Buffs continued to fight on through to the finish.  There's no room for moral victories, but I still slept easier that evening having seen Colorado battle for 40 minutes.  While a defeat in the books, it's probably the most 'heart' the team has shown since the Xavier game.

Attention now turns to the Tucson leg of the Arizona road trip... and that's the underlining circumstance behind the loss to ASU -- the losing streak isn't likely to end at just two headed into McKale.  Colorado is, in all likelihood, headed for a beatdown this evening. Prepare yourself accordingly.

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Hype Music for the evening: "Brick House" by Commodores

*clang* I'll cop to getting a little tired of all the open threes flying off the cylinder for the Buffs this season. When the rims start ringing out, all I can hear in my head is this classic funk anthem by the Commodores.  Yes, I know that's not what the song is about, but CU could build a whole neighborhood with their bricks from the last month.  Enjoy!

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Tip-off from the very shiny McKale Center is set for 7:30pm on Saturday.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.

Click below for the preview...