Category Archives: Colorado

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PacHoops Two-A-Days: The Ski Schools (CU and Utah)

We’re finally previewing the Pac-12. This week, the last before games actually tip, I’ll post two previews of travel mates (i.e. UW and WSU will appear in the same post) and, in the interest of being fully prepared for Friday’s hoop joy, I’ll post two-a-day. Thus the title. Although it’s 4 previews-a-day. Regardless. Enjoy. (Other school previews)

Colorado preview

Tad Shot Clock

Has Tad Boyle built a program? There’s a big distinction between programs and individual teams, collections of talent that achieve something nice. Chauncey Billups’ Buffs? Team. Mark Few at Gonzaga? Program. Follow? In the latter half of this post we’ll explore Larry Krystkowiak’s program. It’s a good one. But for now, what do we make of Boyle’s six years in Boulder? At the surface, they’re great. Some readers have suggested statues. That’s a little much but four dances in six years isn’t just unprecedented out of The Keg, it’s – well – statue conjuring. So in considering Boyle’s program, this is a critical year. We could excuse a chunk of the past to Josh Scott; a local talent who blossomed into a transcendent player. He was fantastic. An All-Time Buff. But J40 isn’t suiting up in 2017. And what we’re left with, according to resident CU expert Ben Burrows in his monster CU preview, is:

I get the feeling that this, finally, is what the ideal Tad Boyle roster is supposed to look like.

If that’s indeed the case, we’ll have a really good feel for what the Tad Boyle program looks like and likely further optimism oozing out of Boulder.

Last season on The [other] Rise

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2015-16 Colorado Basketball Preview: Happier Buffs

Let’s cut straight to the criticisms: few players have made marked improvements in the Tad Boyle program. There have been some – even three NBA draft picks – but with regards to making an individual “leap,” we qualitatively and quantitatively haven’t seen much. It’s concerning and it draws my attention to Dom Collier. It wasn’t the glamorous freshman campaign we might’ve expected. So unglamorous that Xavier Talton ticked big minutes at the point guard spot despite an 83.4 ORtg. That’s bad. So combine this with a team that already wasn’t overwhelmingly talented and the loss of arguably CU’s most dynamic player, Xavier Johnson (achilles), and I’m not high on CU hoops. But I’m an optimist. Not Rothstein-ian, but when examining rosters in the fall, the spirit ought be hopeful. Josh Scott is healthy and the Buffs have called a spade a spade: last season was a nightmare. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The Buffs know it. Now what they do about it – or what they’ve done about it, rather – should manifest on and off the court. Maybe the season’s future isn’t bright, but this season should have a lot more external (as opposed to internal) fight.

Why I love them

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Askia Jersey Tuck

Q&A With The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo’s, Ben Burrows

Arizona and Colorado will square off for the eleventh time in three seasons tonight. Ben Burrows knows Colorado basketball the way you know your seventh grade crush’s class schedule: he’s on their every move. This is may be our fifth iteration of a Rumblin Buff-PacHoops Q&A and it’s the first time that we find ourselves with a Colorado team that’s really struggling. For their entire Pac-12 lives, CU has been pretty damn good. This year it’s been an unfortunate not so much. Let’s ask Ben – the genius behind The Rumblings of a Deranged Buffalo – about it:

What happened to 2015?

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Colorado’s Frustrations: Late Clock Defense

It’s a frustrating game and there are a lot of ways your team can frustrate you. From anything that happens on the court to the litany of things they screw up off of it. It’s the curse of fandom. And maybe you’re an optimist – see growth opportunities in a failed in-bounds or benching due to tardiness. Bless you and may that spirit take you far.

Of course one of the most frustrating things is when your team is struggling. When they just seem to suck but you can’t really figure out why. You can’t quantify it, there’s just a feeling – effing feelings – but you know it and the slouched shoulders aren’t helping. Neither is the scoreboard.

That’s maybe the feeling for Colorado right now. Continue reading

booker KU

Colorado Buffaloes Basketball Preview: Jump Start For What

I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point but I’d like to. By my peripheral understanding, however, and through some Internet investigation, I’ve come to find that a ‘tipping point’ can loosely be defined as “when something not previously popular becomes popularized, and how that came to be.” Which is about where I find Colorado Basketball. Previously, winning wasn’t the most popular activity in Boulder. Then they joined the Pac-12 (a behavioral change) and they started to try the winning thing on. Three straight years of 20+ wins and three consecutive NCAA tournaments, unprecedented in school history. But we’re at that moment, the season where something is going to feel different. Could this be when we begin to believe that Colorado Basketball is a winning brand of basketball and not just fluke run through the Pac-12 tournament and some luck on the recruiting trail (Spencer Dinwiddie + Josh Scott)? This year comes with expectations but also a lot of questions. We basically got to see this roster compete for the latter half of last season. Tad called it a “jump-start.” It wasn’t remarkable and that has some people, myself included, concerned. Are these expectations realistic? Achievable? What even are the expectations? I see this year as a tipping point because I want to know if winning has or will be popularized in Boulder. Jump start for what?

Why I Hate Them:

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Spencer Dinwiddie

Spencer Dinwiddie and his Big Choice

Spencer Dinwiddie has set aside time with members of the media to declare where he’ll be taking his rehabilitation. The reality of this situation is such that The Mayor is making a terribly difficult decision: Stay or go? That, of course, is the simplification of the choice but he’s in a tough spot picking between two unknowns. His health is unclear and his draft stock is equally uncertain. We don’t know what he’ll do.

But we know he’ll sit in front of a microphone – or a bunch of iPhones as I’m not entirely sure how this thing will go down – make a declaration, and the second biggest shoe of the Pac-12 off-season will drop.

Yes, replacing Monty was big (welcome, Cuonzo); and yes it was interesting to see Bill Moos’ pick (welcome back, Ernie); and yes it was funny to kind of maybe, you know if circumstances were to dictate such, follow the possible consideration of Nigel Williams-Goss’ departure. And when Nick Johnson declared for the draft, it was a touch surprising but it really just means that Arizona goes from unbelievably good to believably elite. The Beavers chose to keep Craig Robinson, Craig’s best returner decided to go, and Zach LaVine’s dad went moderate-to-full helicopter parent in discussing playing time, going so far as to say:

“If it doesn’t work out, you get a divorce. I don’t blame anybody.”

There have been many decisions already in this brief off-season but none will have as immediate and large of an impact as those made by Jordan Adams and The Mayor.

Adams already made his intentions public: he’s staying. This gives UCLA a known commodity for their 2014-15 campaign in an important second year for Steve Alford. Coach can lean on the POY front runner as he gets a very different roster up to speed. Welcome to the Powell and Adams show.

Which brings us to the second shoe. A shoe that rests below a reconstructed knee that is the basis of all this uncertainty. There’s no use discussing what this presser would look like had Spencer never hurt his knee in Seattle. That’s just a cruel waltz down an unpleasant memory lane. Revisionism only ever helped Marty and Doc.

And whether he should or should not go is beyond the scope of my analysis. I can offer no insights into what a player should do when it comes to his future, his earning potential, and what NBA teams are telling him. At least he can eat all the snacks he wants in Boulder now. This is an incredibly personal decision for a young man in a situation I have zero personal experience with. I know Spencer Dinwiddie is a terrific basketball player and I know he aspires to play in the NBA and has the skills to fulfill that aspiration. It’s a dream he’s as close to as he may ever be. The question (aside from Stay or Go?) is whether or not the NBA wants him. Again, I don’t know and I won’t venture to guess. For my money (I have very little), he can play in The League.

Of course what I can definitely tell you is that his decision will have a gross impact on the 2014-15 Pac-12 basketball season. With Dinwiddie, Colorado is a top-15 team, the second best roster in the Pac, and very realistically has sights set on the school’s first round of 16 since the beginning of Beatlemania. John Wooden had won just one title at the time of the Buffs’ last trip to the second weekend (1963). It’s been awhile.

Without The Mayor in Boulder, the course of 2014-15 changes. We’ve had a glimpse of what the Buffs look like when he’s on the bench and allow me to show you the scoring differentials against NCAA teams with and without him:CU against Tourney Teams

That’s +3 with the kid and minus-128 without him. I suppose I could break into a Where They Affect The Game here but the numbers are too outstanding. Dinwiddie means something and today, at 1:30pm MST, he’ll drop the second biggest shoe on the Pac-12’s forthcoming season.

No matter what he says, I wish him luck. As noted, this is a personal and monstrous decisions. Dinwiddie strikes me as a bright kid, he’ll make the right choice for him. Good luck, Spencer.

And note, no matter his direction, Dom Collier is headed to Boulder.

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Where They Affect the Game: Askia Booker

This post, had it been written two months ago, would’ve looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, seeing as how I’m a big Booker fan, it would have evolved into another defense of his shot selection and gumption. We’d probably have revisited the Jayheave and his performance against then #10 Oregon where he dropped 27, 7, and 4 on (have to note this in an Askia column) 8-16 shooting. That would have made for a great post and likely unfolded a lot like this one.

Won’t be the case.

Not since Colorado’s season pivoted (I live in start-up land) and what the Buffs need from Booker, the once trigger happy sidekick. The Doc Holiday to Spencer’s Wyatt Earp. When it all changed, Askia has had to reign things in and be the Buffs’ facilitator. It wasn’t necessarily a strong suit of his. We often discuss poor decision making when addressing the matter of Askia. So how has he adjusted?

The first measure I’d like to examine is assist to turnover ratio. This is a less than scientific formula but it is a general indicator of a sound facilitator: distribute to friends, keep away from enemies. Here’s the five game rolling A/T ratio I’ve been subscribing to lately:

Askia the FacilitatorAs you can see, there’s a correlation between not having your primary ball handler, not winning basketball games, and learning over time. This would suggest that it took Askia about five games to learn a new role. To begin facilitating things such as easy buckets. In the immediate post-injury slate, the Buffs were 1-4 and Booker, in his new role, saw his A:T ratio dive. And then it all began to change. He became more comfortable and distributing. The ball moved and the Buffs won.

When they began winning again, Colorado’s PPP returned to right about their season average (average: 1.08 vs. 1.05). During their 1-4 skid, the Buffs’ effectiveness dipped to 0.896ppp. You don’t need me to tell you that’s bad and conversely you don’t need me to tell you that getting back to their season average was good.

Now I won’t soon forget about Josh Scott and if you’re looking to beat Colorado, neither should you. But his game hasn’t had to significantly change the way Booker’s has. He’s upped his scoring but there are a number of factors that play into that. He’s getting more touches in the post and deserves a lot of credit for turning those touches into points, but he’s not necessarily playing a different role.

Booker, on the other hand, has made some changes. Let’s glance at his FGA:Assist ratio. In doing such, I think what we’ll see is Booker distributing more and shooting more effectively. Or at least marrying up two of his skills to more facilitate the Buffaloffense.

Askia the Facilitator_V2-2

I find this to be a particularly Askia-centric point because his shot selection has so long been a point of contention. The gross numbers don’t necessarily indicate fewer shots, interestingly enough, but it appears he’s working harder to get others involved and better shots for himself. Our previous chart demonstrated that he was taking better care of the ball. This one shows us he’s perhaps taking better shots and getting others into good position. Furthermore,  and this is probably a discussion for another time, if his role is to facilitate the offense, it seems he’s doing such.

But everything boils down to wins and losses. The Buffs have lost their last two games (AZ and Utah) and will now head to the Bay for another pair of road games. The type of game (road) the Buffs don’t win very often. As they currently sit, Colorado seems to be in the NCAA tournament but a four game losing streak heading into the Pac-12 tournament might not do them any favors.

Can Askia facilitate a win?

The Keg

Treated Right and Swiping Right in Boulder

We were perusing the upper bowl of the Coors Event Center during halftime of Saturday’s Arizona-CU game when what I can only assume was an undergraduate encouraged me to “leave [my] f**cking stadium.”

But to say I was mistreated in Boulder would be a gross exaggeration. Quite the contrary. In fact, my favorite team in the world won by 27, shot 60%, garnered 1.32 points per possession, yielded no baskets for more than 10-minutes, held Xavier Johnson to 1-10 shooting, Jacob Hazzard got involved, and Aaron Gordon:

Aaron Gordon Dunk CU

I had little to say to that kid. I declined his invitation carried on to my seat and then the rest of the night transpired. We’ll skip the basketball for now and I’ll go straight to a big shout out to the fine gentlemen who recognized me at Absinthe. I can only hope that the DJ has changed tunes by now and I thank you boys for the drinks.

And I thank you, Boulder, for another glorious trip. I beg an answer as to how I entered the Dark Horse (and its appropriate bathroom) in a T-shirt and jeans and exited to snow? Do the Wildcats bring the snow? We all know they brought the heat but was it snow, too? Alas, I saw old friends and new and a loud, involved crowd. On the latter, speaking bluntly, that crowd had little to cheer Saturday night. The aforementioned successes of my Wildcats gave them nothing to make noise for and Tad Boyle himself said they deserved more. But the effort those fans gave was impressive. It was deafeningly loud and while the Wildcats had an answer for each of their roars, the loyal Buffaloes responded with great support for their seniors, sending Ben Mills and Beau Gamble off in deserving senior fashion. Furthermore, Ben Mills’ family lead the Harlem Shake.

photo(8)I booked things at the wrong Marriott but we got little else wrong that weekend. Once again the Shady Pony (I like this nickname) treated us right and then it was off to The Sink and a conglomeration of drinking establishments that saw us have a ball and a dance event. It’s what running around a college town is about. And when the night was down and the sun up, stories were shared, the game relived and brunch was had with the most dense number of attractive people I may have ever seen. Bravo, Highland Tap and Burger. The DJ was a heavy touch but the clientele made up for the noise. Good burger.

If I rode in your car, thanks for that.

As for the basketball, I’ll take the perspectives of two people. First, Tad Boyle. From his seat and in his shoes I’m torching that game tape. There’s nothing to look at and nothing to learn. An opposing team shot 60% in your house, there was poor effort, poor execution, and a general abandonment of the game plan. Address these items (defense on screens, 4 transition shots, general effort, etc.) and move along. No sense in dwelling.

Our second perspective shall be my own. I’ve already discussed some of the more impressive notes from Arizona’s game above and in yesterday’s review. Arizona’s tour d’force was an announcement of sorts but I was most impressed by the Wildcats’ bench. As I walked the upper loop, dismissing vitriolic requests of departure, I overheard rather valid commentary about CU’s position (down just 6) considering the half they’d just played. I mean, they’d started the game 0-14 from the field and to be down six was something of a miracle. Or at least a whistle. Because in a span of twenty game seconds, each of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (5:12), Kaleb Tarczewski (5:04), and Aaron Gordon (4:52) picked up their second fouls. The Buffs were down twelve and Arizona was left to a lineup with a local from Tucson (Matt Korcheck) and a kid named Pitts. Before you could say CUnit, Colorado had rattled off seven straight. Five point game. Arizona timeout

Gordon and Tarczewski wouldn’t play the rest of the half if memory serves me correctly but the Wildcats would give up no further real estate during that final 4:37 of the half. It was this critical juncture, a moment when the most hostile crowd was itching to blow the Keg’s roof off, when a multitude of infrequently used players responded to their coaches plea to defend and opportunistically score. They did, like a set up man getting the ball to Mariano, they weathered that storm. And when the closers came in – again, after it was requested I get the f*** out – well they only missed four more shots.

Of final note, a closing observation, I saw a familiar application in use in front of us about mid-second half. The game was getting out of hand but in this young patron’s hand was a phone and an app and photos and swipes. Yes, I witnessed in-game-Tindering and the most notable was a a photo peruse of what appeared to be rather attractive lady. Photo 1 seemed adequate so he sauntered to the second. Attractive women plus child. Right swipe. App closed. Back to the game.

For you, Boulder, I’d swipe right.

Boulder The Keg

 

wane

WANE: Echoing Through the Rockies

Spencer and I are going to Boulder. It’s our second annual appearance there and we will be breaking bread and beverage with Ben Burrows and Jason G upon arrival. How fun is that? So fun that we had them on WANE to discuss. These two are Colorado connoisseurs and flex that Buff muscle at Rumblin Buff and All Buffs. I even flex my own Buff for the latter. But enough physiology puns and full apologies for the echoes.

 

The Table:

0:55: A few too many mentions of cream rising

2:10: Let’s get the Arizona @ ASU loss out of the way

5:00: Don’t be fooled, both games in Boulder weekend are sexy

6:00: Bigger game this weekend for Colorado, ASU or UA?

8:04 Anyone here a regular Percy Allen of the Seattle Times reader? No? Ok, well…..

8:45: A debate of who should have the #1 Power Ranking spot.

10:00: philosophical debate of what a “power ranking” is. Conclusion: Tinder.

13:20: Big-X backing up his big talk

16:30: We talk post-Dinwiddie Colorado basketball

24:20: Podcast remote location Power Rankings

26:15: Spencer makes an unintentional back handed complement. Apologies to all those offended.

27:30: Anyone got a ticket for Saturday

27:40: Don’t let the Coors product line fool you, Colorado is NOT the “Keystone State”. Recreation ensues in Colo.

JCobbs

Cal survives. Stanford doesn’t. Games are Played.

It’s one of my favorite and most comprehensive college basketball websites. NROPP takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to analyzing and commenting on the game and you can’t ask for much else. On the daily – or as possible – the site drops a preview of the day’s games. Here is what he had to say about Colorado and then where it got me thinking:

Pac 12: Colorado’s got some injury issues, so on paper the 7-4 conference record looks pretty good. But when you take out the altitude, the only positive is a victory over Washington State (188) that came by 1 in OT on the road. Other road losses come at Washington (112), Arizona (1), and Arizona State (34) – and all those losses were by double digits. Five of the final seven come on the road, four against top 50 teams, and the other against USC which has been playing better as of late, but doesn’t really show because they’ve played the toughest conference schedule of practically anyone in the country to date. Colorado’s in a really, really, really difficult spot moving forward.

First of all, he’s absolutely right. Colorado does have a difficult road ahead of themselves and are riding a three game home winning streak in part due to competition. I love the analysis because it factors both quantitative (their remaining schedule is five, sevenths on the road including four against top 50 teams) and the qualitative (injuries, 7-4 is inflated). I can’t and won’t make an argument against this.

But I’m a fan. Undoubtedly NROPP is a fan too but I also appreciate seeing that Colorado has overcome some demons to win their last three. You can’t tell me Colorado had seemingly every reason to roll over and die in the face of Brandon Taylor’s overtime inducing three pointer? Xavier Johnson has played at an all league level during this win streak. Have the Buffs needed every bit of it? Absolutely. But the overarching point in my estimation is that he’s done it when he had a multitude of excuses not to.

When this blurb was passed to me, I was watching the tale end of Justin Cobbs beating another team late. This time it was the Washington State Cougars who are the worst team in the Pac-12 but you know what? Cal won. Stanford didn’t. And look at the win probability graphs side by side:

win probsBoth squads had ample opportunities to accomplish the opposite result but that’s not how things manifested. Both were expected to win for the overwhelming majority of their respective games but, as stated: Cal won, Stanford didn’t.

At this time of year, in a removed-from-qualitative-and-quantitative-analysis-state, that’s all that matters. NROPP and any other smart site or person would be wise to think that beating WSU in overtime or dropping one to UW late suggests the Bay teams’ processes are flawed. Cal won but didn’t look good doing it and demonstrated further defensive ineptitude. I mean, who allows Washington State to score 1.19 ppp? Well, only Lamar who allowed the Cougs 1.20 ppp and who are 3-20 and rank 346th out of 351 teams per KenPom. That basically means the sixth worst team in the country is the only team to defend the Cougars less than Cal did on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Stanford managed just four points in the final 4:23 (3-9 from the field including FTs) against the Pac’s ninth best defense. They couldn’t close (Cal could) and it cost them not only a game to Washington but – more than likely – an NCAA bid. Process – as sites like NROPP, KenPom, and even PacHoops will tell you – matters. But filling the left column matters more.

We can’t really put a value on momentum. There isn’t a confidence quotient. I’m unable to muster many stats that tell you how how hard it is to beat Justin Cobbs.

So the cards may be stacked against Colorado tonight, while they conversely were stacked in Stanford’s favor. But there’s a reason we play. We play to win the game.