The season is freshly over. The moments shined and while we have a long ways until November – as well as a significant news cycle in the immediate future including: ASU coaching hunt, Ivan Rabb and the Cal(?) Five Stars, NCAA’s head of officiating change, NBA decisions.
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:
We are halfway through this season and it’s evident that 2015 is a tough season to cover. Basketball is being played at nearly two fewer possessions per game with nearly 6% less scoring per game (learn more here). The Pac-12 – the conference that chose me – is playing at nearly 2012 levels. Sure the top of the conference is better and the talent levels far surpass that which we saw in the fateful Pac-12 inauguration. But at least in 2012 there was a multitude of teams vying for a shot to dance. What crap could rise to the top? You can’t look me in the blog and tell me anyone but Arizona or Utah is going to win in Vegas. It’s seemingly foregone in early February. This is increasingly looking like a two-horse race to Selection Sunday. After that, 2015 has been…a rebuilding? That’s not going to stop us. Because Askia Booker has shots to take and so too does DaVonte Lacy. Kevon Looney is going to be the only freshman in the country to average a double-double. Have you watched Oregon State’s zone against everyone but Arizona State? Watch Elgin Cook pursue a shot, Gary Payton II defend, and Ty Wallace play. These are the last nine games you’ll see of Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic, Norman Powell, and Booker. You’ve got plenty of reasons to perhaps quit on this season. But champions never quit. This is the Conference of Champions (plus the page views, comments, tweets and shares make me feel good).
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.
And on this side of the break I hope you find yourselves thankful, that you had a better homecoming than Chasson Randle (like seriously, Stanford, you promise the kid two homecoming games and manage a 1-1 record and yield 1.19 per possession to DePaul who was wearing a home loss to Lehigh) and that your team won the Pac-12 South because – let me tell you – that’s fun. See you in Santa Clara.
Which of course means that football is winding down, heading into its long winter before reemerging at the turn of the year to give it their best, and first, shot at a March. Basketball will soon becomes our primary collegiate focus; when familiar foes travel to familiar venues and the grind. Eighteen conference games of unpredictability. Vegas. Selection Sunday. The weekends. A football stadium. Continue reading →
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?
If you didn’t watch HBO’s The Leftovers, it’s hard to say if you really missed out on anything. It’s a show about I-don’t-know-what, during which everything and nothing happens. It’s dark, captivating and confusing. I kinda hated it. I watched every episode.
The show centers on the aftermath of the disappearance, immediate and sudden, of 2% of the world’s population. In one moment, theygone. Husbands, wives, sons, and daughters disappeared and everyone else was left to cope with the “Sudden Departure.”
This Sudden Departure happened on October 14th.
Tomorrow is October 14th.
Tomorrow is my birthday.
So if I disappear, if the Sudden Departure consumes me and you’re left to fend for your Pac-selves this season, here’s everything I need you to do this season. Naturally, there are twelve of them.
Creatively and non-sophomorically discover a way to hilariously reference Wayne Tinkle – We can be better than the obvious. And don’t do something weird on Photoshop. That would be uncomfortable for everyone.
Discover a player who’s changed his game and his torching the universe – Jordan Adams was a mid-range god as a freshmen and then took it to a new level – and location – as a sophomore. You’re well versed on how I appreciate getting to the rim and Jordan did exactly that. My excitement got ESPN linkage.
The teams. The teams are going to different things than they used to. Watch that – This is a really, really vague point so I’ll just go ahead and note a few key things y’all should monitor: UCLA’s offense and how it operates without Kyle Anderson feeding Wear family jumpers and Jordan Adams layups or perhaps pivots to a more traditional Alford style; Andy Enfield’s offense and if it can actually become a dunk city; Arizona’s defense and rebounding which carried them at times last season might not project to be as good this season; is Cuonzo Martin that good of a defensive coach; presumably Johnny Dawkins has developed Stefan Nastic, Chasson Randle, and Anthony Brown as far as he can (seniors) how will the undeveloped assets (projected to be good) fill into a system of inconsistency?
Feed whomever is running the Pac-12’s social channels the best questions for Media Day – Because then famous people will love you:
Thx RT @ESPNDanaOneil Tremendous question to Craig Robinson: Last night was a big night for thre President. How’s your defense? #Pac12MBB
Think of me in Indy – You can’t look at me on the eve of my possible-if-not-impending-Sudden-Departure and tell me my ‘Cats aren’t going. Not only would that be heartless, it’d be silly.
Don’t lurk on Andy Enfield’s beholden – After a while it gets weird.
Love Askia Booker (and other senior guards) – Last year I wrote about it here, here, and here. Oh, here as well. Four articles, one player. And now he’s a senior guard on a team with moderate-to-high expectations that almost entirely rest on what kind of season he’s going to have. A senior guard. I don’t make the stories, I just tell them. Trust me when I say Askia Booker is a story. And I’m not crazy enough to think you’ll love him just because I ask you to. I’ve met enough strangers on Tinder to know you can’t request love. So maybe there’s a senior guard on your squad to adore. Cherish that. Whether it’s DaVonte, Chasson, TJ, or even – hell – Jonathan Gilling, love your seniors.
Go to HecEd, in Red, for me – As of now I’m going to Seattle for that February 13th tilt. Anyone need a Valentines? Of course this is all for naught should I disappear tomorrow. Nevertheless, the plan is for me to make my inaugural appearance and perhaps – if allowed – an inaugural address to the audience. I highly doubt the latter becomes reality, but if it did, that would be awesome. A whole slew of Wildcats will be coming so it’ll be fun. Let’s have fun. And if I’m not there, you guys have fun. And if it’s not HecEd and it’s not Red that you’re willing to do, travel to one opposing arena. Make a weekend of it. We’re lucky to have teams in some of the best cities this country has to offer.
Unabashedly share your excitement for a yet-to-be-determined moment in the season with a completely unassuming person – Preferably this would be a co-worker. I’ve subjected countless co-workers who don’t know Sean Miller from Dennis Miller but you know what? They love my enthusiasm and that unsuspecting co-worker will no doubt love yours. And if I may recommend an execution method, I suggest you say it as swiftly as you can. Catch them off guard and go for the massive knowledge drop. They won’t know what hit them and you’ll probably come out of it looking either insane, passionate, or some combination thereof.
Don’t push the Daddy Ball agenda – In a general theme of fandom, you’re better than this. We’re all better than this. Not only did LaVine’s numbers significantly decline throughout the season, Bryce is legit and the Bruins went to the Sweet Sixteen which was pretty much their ceiling anyways. Does Steve have some biases for his own kid? Probably. Did it cost him in PG recruiting? Another maybe. But he has an All-Freshman point guard returning and the most familial thing about that is talent.
Recognize the shining moments – It’s a great big long season that culminates in a heart ripping and beautiful dance. But get wrapped up in the hope. Notice the process from November to March. The nuance of mid-range jumper, the progress of a sophomore, the stones of a senior. They’re moments, brief and shining, but when you look hard enough, there can be so many of them.
Three For BART is a daily (or really close to that) drop of three thought provoking articles for your commute or day. Submissions for inclusion taken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
UCLA Basketball Loses Two Players In The Last Week As Jon Octeu Denied Admission – This article neatly notes that the Bruins lost two players expected to contribute quite a bit this season. Depth is overrated but when you’ve only got nine scholarship players and none particularly proven at this level, depth has got to be a question that becomes asked. There really are only three guards on this roster right now in Powell, Hamilton, and Alford.
Determined Askia Booker eager to Lead Buffs – You know I love Askia. I write about it regularly. And also love senior guards so this is Askia’s time to shine in my eyes. Seems he’s got the head on his shoulders to do so as he notes the things he does well and that will let him be successful. Did you know his best offensive season was his freshman year? Did you also know that in that season he took his highest percentage of shots at the rim? Coincidence? I think not.
As much as ever, USA Basketball has been co-opted into a Krzyzewski leverage play for the Duke Blue Devils. If that doesn’t rile Kentucky’s John Calipari, wait until the Duke coach is credited for DeMarcus Cousins’ maturity with the Sacramento Kings this season.
Yesterday saw the announcement of the conference’s superlatives. It’s probably the third heaviest day of debate behind only Selection Sunday and the day in November when the preseason poll is dropped. But we can rank other things, too. Or, more aptly said, we can note a lot of the other great things that happened this season under the auspices that even more are coming (March). This is why we watched and remained so closely engaged. Great season.
Top 5 Moments
Cobbs sinks Arizona – In some regards, shots like this had become commonplace. I’d seen Cobbs step back for the win what seemingly became always. But the reality is that making fading jumpers with seven-feet and an arm coming at you is anything but commonplace. Neither is knocking off undefeateds.
Euro-step on a Jayhawk’s neck – Circled on Buffalo calendars for months – if not years – this one meant something. Colorado was a Kansas stepping stone for eons; Boulder the mountainous respite for the midlanders of Lawrence. Back-and-forth and then a sideline in-bounds and two dribbles. Euro step. Rush.
Block-chynski, three times over – He’s now your Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and he perhaps locked that up by not once but thrice dismissing the would be game-tying or winning shot. Walk off blocks. He did it first against Marquette and then again Mutumbo’d Joseph Young’s attempt to tie. But then his biggest. The second ranked arch-rivals were in town and on Valentines Day. Fittingly, the national animal of Canada is the badger and Honey Bachynski don’t give a shit, blocking his ninth shot to seal the win and a premature court storming.
Dotson steal, dunk, gamer – It was the first game of the conference season (or at least the first that I saw) and it came down to the final possession, a stolen basketball, a dunk, and a dog pile. In this play alone we could write out the narratives of half the conference and it came on the first game of the season. Like I said, good. effing. season.
TBD – We haven’t yet played the Pac-12 tournament. So…full credit to UCLA?
Top 5 Games
#1 Arizona @ Cal – Read this in your best Gus Johnson voice, “COBBS! SHAKE. STEP BACK…AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AT THE BUZZER. J COBBS! COLD BLOODED.” Amiright, Husky fans? Goosebumps. Yeah, it may have been my team, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it.
#10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado – I’m not positive if you’ve been paying close attention but the last handful of seasons haven’t been particularly elite. Furthermore, the pace of the game has slowed significantly, such that the NCAA has changed the rules to pick scoring up. Those notes considered, to have Oregon and Colorado square off in a top-20 battle and the final score read 100-91? Well I thought I was in heaven.
Oregon @ UCLA – I really don’t care whether or not Slo-Mo or Jordan Adams played. This game involved a near Twin Killing. And that’s not even the proper use of that idiom but when you’ve got a full court baseball heave from one human of identical DNA as the heave’s recipient who then hits a game tying three-pointer as time expires? That’s amazing.
#6 Kansas @ Colorado – I said as much when discussing the moment, but this one meant something to the Buffs. How’s this for a quote: “Deep down I bleed Jayhawk blood,” Boyle said, “but now I’m 100 percent Buffalo to the core.”
#1 Arizona @ Michigan – What more do you need to know other than that at one point in the season, Michigan, SDSU, UCLA, Utah, Colorado and Stanford were a combined 83-11 at home. The Arizona Wildcats accounted for 6 of those losses. “The toughest teams survive,” Sean Miller once told his team. And so he brought them to Ann Arbor – I went, too – and by the time everyone left, Jim Nantz told me he’d see us in Dallas. Great ball game.
Top 5 Stories
Brandon Ashley’s Foot – You can’t read an Arizona narrative without hearing about their offense and how it’s either changed or regressed since Ashley hurt his foot. I mean, Arizona never lost a game Ashley played more than two minutes in. That’s a walk-on stat. Not the kind of stat of a 12 and 7 guy. The Arizona story was such that people were discussing their undefeated season and whether or not it could be the greatest Arizona team ever. That all changed in Berkeley on February 1st. The Wildcats (and considering our move #2 below), however, can still put to rest the ‘what if’ stories. But what if…
Spencer Dinwiddie’s Knee – At halftime in Seattle, not much more than thirty minutes after The Mayor went down, the Colorado Buffaloes still stood a nearly 75% chance of winning that ball game. They were promptly outscored by 17 in the next 10 minutes of basketball. And this was what we were to expect the rest of the Colorado season. They would lose three of their next four and look far from competitive. But Xavier Johnson caught fire, Josh Scott got gooder, Askia Booker transformed and the Buffs would finish the season in an impressive fifth place.
Steve Alford – It’s a big job and the shoes are even bigger. Nine men have tried to sit in John Wooden’s seat. By comparison, there have been just thirteen head coaches ever in the history of Arizona basketball. Eleven at Washington. They’ve run a conference champion out. Gene Bartow and Gary Cunningham – the winnigest by win percentage in school history – lasted a combined four seasons. They’ve won 36 conference titles, danced 45 times and won 11 of them. It’s a big job and it’s Steve Alford’s now.
Delon Wright and the Utes – They were projected to finish ninth and they finished eighth. Whoopie do! But look me in the blog and tell me you’re not impressed with Utah. I am. That wasn’t your average eighth place finish and where did Delon Wright come from? I mean, I know he came from City College of San Francisco, but where did a 122 ORtg on 23.5% usage come from? Or, more traditionally, 16ppg, 7rpg, and 5apg come from? How about 2.6 steals and 1.3 blocks? Yeah, it all seemingly came out of nowhere and so now I ask: Who wants to play the Utes in Vegas?
Stanfords Pursuit of the Dance – In 2012 they won the NIT in convincing fashion with a core of sophomores and we were excited! Oh how pissed off for greatness these budding trees were. And then 2013 saw essentially the same roster go 17-14 in the regular season; 9-9 in conference play. They were ousted in the second round of the tournament they were defending. Then seniors. Returning 80% of their minutes, I asked Johnny Dawkins, “What’s going to be different?” His answer didn’t impress me. He said they would be thinking about things differently. And now I ask you, faithful Pac-12 fan: Have the Cardinal thought differently enough to garner their first NCAA tournament since 2008?
Top 5 Seniors
CJ Wilcox – I could watch this guy take jumpers for days. He’s sixth all-time in Pac-12 three pointers made.
Roberto Nelson – His coach said he was fit for the beer leagues and then played him the most minutes on the team. In the storied history of OSU basketball, Nelson is the fourth leading scorer, a spot ahead of AC Green.
Justin Cobbs – Pac-12 coaches can now breath a little easier in late game situations as the iciest veins this conference has seen in some time departs.
Jordan Bachynski – The conference’s all-time leading shot blocker. Additionally, Jordan has one of the finest career makeovers we’ve ever seen.
Dwight Powell – Developed year-over-year and has one of the most exciting skill sets in the conference. Embodied the Stanford student-athlete.
Top 5 Moves
Transition Bruins – Steve Alford’s 2013-14 UCLA team, his first in Westwood, was a complete deviation from his general coaching resume (contrary to what some make up). And it worked. He had never coached a faster team (70.3 possessions per game) and 27.2% of their offense came in transition. His highest percentage at New Mexico (as far back as those stats go) was 19.5%. This was also the most efficient offense he has ever coached: 1.15 points per possession.
York into the Starting Lineup – All the season long, Sean Miller took the obviouis route of starting his most talented roster. He did it for 22 games, why change that philosophy now that Brandon Ashley was out for the season? So Rondae Hollis-Jefferson began starting. In their first four games without Ashley (including Cal), the Wildcats put up 1.01 points per possession (their season ppp is 1.12). Further, if you remove one game against the defenseless Beavers, that number drops to an ugly 0.94 ppp. Enter: Gabe York, the starter. And Arizona out on the break. Mark Titus would call it Christ Air and the Wildcats would begin to get into transition more (~25% of offense since York, ~19% before) and put up 1.01, 1.33, 1.28, and 1.18 ppp in those first four games. York’s also putting up an additional point per game and…ready for this…he’s averaging 4.3 boards, double his season average.
Booker: The Evolution – He’s a shooter. You might even say a shot chucker, a loose cannon that’s never seen a shot he wouldn’t take. But that had to change when Spencer Dinwiddie went down with injury. And change it did. I documented it all here but note that Booker was central to helping Colorado very likely earn it’s third straight NCAA bid by changing the game he’s so often criticized for.
Powell: The Evolution – I don’t know that it’s a good one but it’s a noticeable one. In this season of “thinking differently” in Palo Alto, Johnny Dawkins also had his hyper-athletic power forward become the offensive facilitator. He handily lead the team in assists (3.2/game) and assist rate (21.7%), both significant career highs. This ultimately moved him further from the basket (lowest percentage of shots at the rim in his career) but Stanford also posted their highest ORtg in Powell’s career at the school.
Whatever this means, but something changed and it worked, too – “You pulled together,” Altman told the Ducks in the locker room. “You pulled together and found a way. We’ve won seven games in a row, and it’s you guys. It’s you guys. It’s your character, it’s your toughness — that’s what changed. We didn’t do anything differently. You guys said, ‘We’re not going to allow this. We’re going to dig down deep and we’re going to find a way.'” Dana Altman after beating Arizona.
Last night was as March as games not broadcast on CBS get. Every game saw a tie or lead change in the final five minutes (if not the final two minutes) and EVERY SINGLE ROAD TEAM WON. I’m not going to data mine to see if there has been a three pronged road sweep on a single night this Pac-12 season. But considering there have been only 44 road wins across 100 Pac-12 games, I don’t think we’ve seen it. Welcome to March.
Arizona @ Oregon State
I don’t know if this was a trap game or what it projected to be but I do know that there are some damn fine ball players on that Oregon State roster. They have size all over and Roberto Nelson is a scorer. Unfortunately, this was my mom’s analysis of the game, “It looked like one team had a plan and the other didn’t.” Well guess who won? Arizona did and was fortunate to do such if you’re asking their coach. He cited the Wildcats’ inability to rebound and so I present to you the expected rebounding numbers and the actuals and subsequently how Oregon State stayed in that game:
Colorado @ Stanford
If we break the game into quarters, the Colorado Buffaloes have been outscored by 45 points in the third quarter during conference play this season. That’s an average of about 2.7 points per game and worse on the road: -3.5 points, -25 collectively. Conversely, the Stanford Cardinal come out of the half and are plus 21. It’s a theme worth diving deeper into at another time but here is how last night’s battle for a bid played out:
In what appears to be that critical third quarter, the Buffs managed to play things even, maintain their lead, and subsequently close the game. Oh, and this was critical at 2:01
DWIGHT CHARGES WITH FOUR FOULS OVER JOSH SCOTT WITH FOUR FOULS. THAT WAS LIKE TWO LIONS FIGHTING FOR A GAZELLE