- Great Scott! - I could tell you a lot about this article…but I wrote it. So if you want my thoughts on what I wrote you should just read it (of note – I contribute weekly over at All Buffs, a high quality forum for all things CU)
- Derrick Rose Does Not Belong to You – First of all, I love this title. Secondly, I love this column. Thirdly, is it just me or has The Cauldron been pretty hit-or-miss? Let’s revisit these thoughts sequentially now that they’re out there. (1) It’s just a really good, and true title. (2) We do revere our athletes and our heroes for overcoming personal strife to win. In Rose’s case it’s repeated injury and it now seems he’s being turned on for looking out for number one. The author hits on a terrific and NBA-centric parallel (Sterling) but doesn’t bother to go down the hypocrisy of criticizing Rose and simultaneously criticizing the NFL for not caring for its players enough. (3) I just don’t regularly find myself enjoying what I find or read on there. It just seems to be lacking a je no sais quois which is exactly what good content tends to have.
- Things I’ll Teach My First Kid – I’m not remotely close to this. I mean, one time I dated a girl for 3.5 years and then another time I thought really hard about the L-word and on a daily basis I market to expecting families but this. Like what fuckups are we that we then get to teach another person how not to be one, only to know that they’re going to be one, and then hold them when they cry about it? Maybe that’s parenthood? I don’t know. But someday I’m excited to find out. In the meantime, please excuse my empty fridge and the weekend.
Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.
Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]
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:
Ben Carter dismissed a Nick Johnson shot and then Washington State beat the hell out of UCLA and now Vegas. Those were the waning moments of Pac-12 regular season basketball and we had Matt from Addicted to Quack on WANE to discuss that Oregon game and everything forthcoming in Las Vegas.
Give it a listen, we go deep:
0:00 – Matt’s work all over that intro
0:40 – Spencer admits that Eugene is different when you’re not an undergrad, but no-less fantastic.
1:38 – Really strange moment where everyone admits they’re not really sure what’s going on with regards to recording and logistics. You learn a little about how we make this happen.
2:20 – Things get existential
3:26 – We are going to handle this podcast by asking questions and then we note that Utah vs. Washington is an awesome way to kick this thing off.
4:33 – Tangent on Washington State and Spencer admits he was a little butt hurt to see the Wildcats lose in Eugene then poses a great argument for said WSU upset of UCLA.
7:40 – WHO IS THE MOST DANGEROUS TEAM – OUTSIDE OF SAY….ARIZONA – IN THE PAC-12 TOURNAMENT?
18:57 – WHICH TEAM HAS THE MOST TO GAIN?
24:24 – DOES ARIZONA STAND TO HAVE THE MOST TO GAIN…A NUMBER ONE SEED?
29:41 - WHO IS THE PLAYER TO WATCH?
38:14 – Money, sent to me in a won bet with my father, arrives.
39:37 – THIS IS HOW YOU DEFINE STANFORD. BRAVO, MATT!
41:42 – After diving into the number of ridiculous guards in this conference, how’s about the big kids?
47:10 - Adam with a major buzzkill on his stance on conference tournaments
48:02 – WHAT IS THE BEST POTENTIAL MATCHUP IN THE PAC-12 TOURNAMENT?
57:26 – Spencer, the only of us going to Vegas, with the last word
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
— Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) March 6, 2014
Utah @ California
Numbers don’t lie:
I honestly think that – despite all of the talent in the Pac-12 – Spencer and my First Team All-Conference Team would be, at best, a bubble team. Listen to agree with our selecting ineptitude. That said, our team would certainly have Delon Wright on it. No questions asked. It’s maybe not the best team, but it’s a really hard choice!
The Table: (but really our notes on awards which are incomplete and scatter brained)
PG: Chasson Randle, Jahii Carson, Justin Cobbs
SG: Nick Johnson, C.J. Wilcox
SF: Aaron Gordon, Delon Wright, Josh huestis
PF: Dwight Powell, Jordan Loveridge, Kyle Anderson
C: Kaleb, Josh Scott, Richard Solomon
Newcomer of the Year:
Larry Krystkowiak (**We admittedly didn’t discuss him on the podcast)
Game of the Year:
Oregon @ UCLA (the wears almost do it game)
Arizona @ Cal (the cobbs game)
Oregon @ Utah (the dunk game)
Utah @ Colorado?
Arizona @ UCLA
Arizona @ ASU
Oregon @ ASU
ASU @ Cal
Arizona @ Stanford
UCLa @ Stanford
Performance of the Year:
40 by Jahii (<thought about that but non-con)
AG 19 and 16.
The “Brock Motum” Aussie of the Year:
Name of the Year:
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:
As 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.
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?
Delon Wright will not win the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. His team is too far down the standings, his stats not quite adding up to those of a few others. But he’s most certainly in the conversation. He’s terrific – as I’m about to explain – and the conversation that I want to have regarding his POY candidacy is less _OY and more VP. As in valuable player.
What I like so much about Wright is – shocker from this blog – his ability to create shots at the rim. I examined Kyle Anderson’s ability to do such only to discover that Delon Wright is ridiculously good at it. My opening context will center around gross numbers. Wright has made 119 shots at the rim. Here’s the context:
Wright has gotten 20 more baskets at the rim than any other player in the conference. Including Aaron Gordon. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not positive if this is a true top 12 but it’s twelve names that I thought we would all agree were getting shots at the rim. This group averages about 56% of their shots at the rim and the D-1 average is 38.3%. Interestingly enough, for the vaunted frontcourt of Huestis, Powell, Brown and Nastic, not one Stanford Cardinal makes that list.
Revisiting the data from our Anderson study, Wright creates a shot at the rim on 62% of his possessions. That’s easily the best amongst the players I studied and easily contributes to the Utes’ gaudy 71.6% FG shooting at the rim (4th in the country) and 55.2% from inside the arc (9th in the country). Even more impressively, Wright gets half of his rim attempts in non-transition offense. By comparison, Jahii Carson gets just 35.1% of his rim shots in non-transition scenarios suggesting Wright just may be the better shot creator. Only 18.6% of his non-transition rim buckets are assisted (Carson’s is 28.6%). Is this a good thing? I’d assume so considering Utah has a propensity for late offense. They have the 266th longest possessions in America (18.8 seconds).
Now as a trained scientist, or at least someone with a degree in Human Biology, I’m aware of variables within an investigation. You want just one and so it’s difficult for me to validate Wright’s impact by comparing to last year’s Utes. After all, the current Utes played only 40% of 2013’s minutes. And that was a team that ranked 213th in 2pt FG%. Variables be damned, it’s happening.
So enter Delon Wright and now the 2014 Utes rank ninth in the country in 2pt FG%. They’re 25th in eFG% and I can’t rank it but their true shot percentage is 9% better than the D-1 average. Like I said, there are multiple variables, but the Utes’ offense is vastly improved from inside the arc and amongst their six top contributors, Wright is the only newbie. Perhaps there is only one variable.
Wright isn’t about to win the Pac-12’s POY award, but it just might be such that he’s the most valuable.
The Colorado Buffaloes will be returning to the unfriendly confines of the McKale Center. They haven’t been there since last January when Sabatino’s perfect hair hit an imperfect buzzer beater. And that’s the last of our monitor mentions (not). But ultimately that just adds to the lore of this budding rivalry. Did you know that the average score – since both were Pac-12 teams – is 69-66, Arizona? They’ve split all six meetings. This, is a rivalry whether you want to admit it or not.
And therefore I go to the enemy – once again – to gain insights into the program that plays its games in a Keg and encourages its fans to blackout. Here is the roll call:
- Jason Gilligan – Here is your new barometer for statistical analysis. I don’t write anything about an advanced stat before running it past JG (contributes to All Buffs)
- James Lucas – Admin at All Buffs and resident oil connoisseur. But oil is irrelevant to the fact that he is, first and foremost, a Colorado Basketball fan (aka, football didn’t lure him into the black and gold). Not a lot of those.
- Ben Burrows – Author, editor, brilliant mind behind Rumblin’ Buff – The Rumblings of Deranged Buffalo. He knows all about Buffs and Beer.
I always appreciate these guys’ insights and know you will, too. What’s more, I can’t wait to absorb the 2/22 tilt in Boulder with these guys. While my family and some of my best friends go to my ex-girlfriends’ wedding, I’ll be in The Keg.
Just try, give me something, about Spencer Dinwiddie and then we’ll drop it because otherwise it’s detrimental.
Jason: I miss him and I hope I never see him in a CU uniform again. I hope he gets healthy quickly, gets drafted in the first round and fulfills his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.
James: There are no words for how bad I feel for that kid. Well, not in English. They may have one in German, but the loose translation of it to English is “fastidious burrow”.
Ben: There are no words, at least ones worth putting to paper, that can adequately describe my feelings when I saw Spencer Dinwiddie collapse in Seattle. I was stunned into numbness. It struck me to my very core. Surely, much of that is borne out of, what you termed, the ‘selfish joy’ of getting to watch the young man ply his trade on the hardwood, but it goes deeper than that. I feel for him. It’s genuine heartbreak. With the understanding that Dinwiddie is an honestly good kid who worked extremely hard to get where he is today, to see him reduced to tears for playing the game he loves… it’s hard to comprehend. With the diagnosis now official, at least there’s finally some direction to the story. Spencer is done for the year, and, now after a successful surgery, will be able to focus on his recovery. As with all things in life, the narrative doesn’t end, it just transforms. He will be back, and we will all get to share in that ‘selfish joy’ once again, whether here or in the NBA.
Most important player: Askia Booker, Josh Scott, other?
Jason: Booker, CU needs Booker to play well to win; he has the ability to shoot CU out of games. Scott is clearly the best player on the team right now, but Ski is more important in my opinion because of the way he can negatively impact the game.
James: Gotta be Ski. Josh is our best player now, but Ski is the heart of the team. And watching him the last two games has been incredible. Re-enforces the belief that some had that a lot of his “wildness” on the court was due to the fact that he had Spencer to keep it calm. Now that Spencer’s gone and Ski runs the team, he’s been an efficiency machine. As Ski goes, so go the Buffs. Meanwhile, Josh just dropped another 19 & 8.
Ben: Tough one. Both are vital to the Buffs without Dinwiddie, and both have stepped up in his absence (Scott – 39 points, 16 rebounds last weekend; Booker – 34/8/8; combined – 61% from the field). Both are team leaders, and a quiet night from either severely limits Colorado’s ceiling. In reality, the answer is Scott, if only because there are few players in the conference that can actually guard him. He demands a double-team on the block, which opens up opportunities for others, and his 15-18 foot jumpers make him a very difficult assignment. Askia’s transition into a more efficient player will be very important, but the offense (and, to an extent, defense) now runs through Jelly. It must be said, however, that they can’t do it alone. Just look at last Thursday’s game against UCLA. The pair had a fantastic game (40 points combined), but CU rarely threatened in the second half. The culprit was the 16 point, 13 turnover, 22% shooting effort from the rest of the roster. Whether it be Xavier Johnson, Jaron Hopkins, or the rare assertive offensive night from Wes Gordon, someone else has to contribute for CU to compete.
Last season, when Colorado was outdueling Arizona, they shot exceptionally well from deep. This season the Buffs once again aren’t the greatest three point shooting team (31% ranking 287th nationally, 11th in the conference). Are there any deep threats or does Colorado really just need to cross its fingers when it’s time for bombs away?
Jason: Booker is always a threat to shoot a lot, but not necessarily to make them, but CU’s got to hope for the best, there are no “shooters” on this team. It is interesting though that CU took 15% more than their average amount of shots from mid-range against USC; maybe they were just prepping for Arizona, because Arizona limits shots at the rim and from 3 and makes opponents shoot mid-range jumpers.
James: Do we count Beau Gamble who’s lighting teams up at a 40% clip? No? OK. Then no, we don’t have anyone and it’s prayer time. There’s always the hope that Ski gets hot from behind the arc, but we’re not going to be a bombs away squad.
Ben: Ski’s gonna Ski, and, while the erstwhile John McClane of the basketball world has calmed a bit in the wake of Spencer’s injury, he’s always weapons free from beyond the arc. Beyond Booker, however, three-point shooting is significantly less promising and consistent. ‘Big X’ Xavier Johnson is fantastic as a set-shooter, and, if he doesn’t have to move, can lob bombs from the top of the arc with accuracy. The problem is, he’s fallen in love with moving into his shot as of late, and he isn’t nearly as accurate off the dribble, or even just stepping into his attempt. As a result, he has lost 12 points off of his percentage from a year ago, making him decidedly less dangerous. I like ‘Little X’ Xavier Talton from range, but the numbers won’t help me. He’s got a compact, calm, repeatable mechanic that seems destined to become lethal. To date, however, he isn’t nearly consistent enough (7-32), which is very surprising. He should be more productive. Freshman (and Arizona local), Jaron Hopkins has made a couple of big shots this season, but is more of the spray-and-pray type. Sometimes I think he’d be better off closing his eyes when he heaves. If he’s making threes against you, just shrug your shoulders and move on.
But offense was never necessarily the way Colorado would won this game. Defense, as it were, is the crux of Tad Boyle’s success. Let’s start at the rim (I love analyzing shooting at the rim). Boyle made a point of protecting the rim and you, Jason, broke down Colorado’s rim protection. To note, the Buffs allow just a 51.9% FG% at the rim. Thirty-sixth best in the nation. How does Colorado do this? (NOTE: Arizona has the 3rd highest FG% at the rim: 76.7%)
Jason: CU doesn’t gamble on defense, they don’t deny passing lanes, they don’t deny the post, they just play solid man defense. So they don’t give up a lot of layups due to lobs into the post nor do they give up a lot of backdoor cuts (I see you Oregon). Guys are rarely out of position which makes protecting the rim much easier because there are actually guys between the ball and the rim…..
James: We don’t gamble. I wish we were a little more adventurous at times, but Tad has pretty much made it obvious that his plan is to line up against our opponents and say “we think our guys are better on D than yours are on O”.
Ben: Coach Boyle has instilled a paranoia in the team as regards to rim defense. They’d much rather give up numerous open and semi-open perimeter looks than give up even one layup attempt. As a result, the pack-line is well defended, and there are few opportunities for easy looks outside of transition. I should also mention that Coach Boyle’s recruiting philosophy plays a large part in this. He loves the ‘tweener’ athlete build, so if you’re 6-6 with good length and strong defensive habits, expect a call from Coach. The effect is that almost anyone in black and gold is comfortable defending in the post.
Tell me about the strengths of this front court. UNLV successfully used their front court strength to get the Wildcats uncomfortable and open some things up for shooters. The Rebels didn’t win but they got damn close. How might the CU collective do similarly?
Jason: I was cautiously optimistic about this game a couple of weeks ago, Arizona really only goes 7 guys deep and Spencer and Scott are two of the best in the Pac12 at drawing fouls and getting to the line. I think that’s a key to this game, if CU has any shot, they’ve got to get Scott the ball where he can hopefully be efficient and get the Arizona bigs into foul trouble.
James: We need Josh Scott to go beast mode. If he can get all 9 of your big men in foul trouble, we may have a chance on this one.
Ben: I cannot emphasize how good Josh Scott is becoming. Ask USC, eschewing a double-team of the Colorado Springs native is done at your own peril. The weight he put on over the offseason has paid off, allowing him to take more shots at the rim (20 points higher than his freshman campaign), and play more of a factor on defense and the boards. Compounding the issue, he’s becoming more comfortable with that 15-18 foot jumper, making him lethal from all areas of the court. Oh, and he also hits his free throws at a 83% clip. There’s a reason, after all, that he’s only finished two games with a sub-100 offensive rating this season. College defenders just don’t see a player of his skill set that often. Wes Gordon compliments him very well. He’s still very raw, but his defense alone makes him a worthwhile addition in the paint. He’s got hands of stone, but he gets those rocks on plenty of loose balls. Not much of an offensive piece yet, but he has shown flashes (13 points against Washington). Combined, they play very good defense around the rim, stretch would-be defenders to guard outside of their comfort zone, and rarely foul (both in the national top-500 in fouls called per 40 minutes). If Josh has a monster game, and Wes does his damage without the ball, CU could be alright.
Furthermore, Arizona crushes the offensive glass (9th best nationally). How much of a concern is that for the Buffaloes considering they’re the 4th best defensive rebounding team in the country?
Jason: I want Arizona to crash the boards; this is the only way CU has a chance to pull off something improbable. CU’s defensive rebounding numbers are largely inflated because teams (USCB, Wyoming and Harvard) didn’t even try to go after offensive boards, instead sending defenders back on defense in order to keep CU out of transition. If Arizona goes after offensive boards, that means CU’s getting opportunities to get out on the break where they take the 17th most amount of initial FGA’s in transition (34.2%), please go after offensive boards.
James: Big concern. Our defensive numbers are slightly inflated because no one crashes the boards against us because they don’t want us to run. Arizona can crash and still get back. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sean handles this.
Ben: I’ll admit that some of CUs defensive rebounding numbers are skewed by non-conference games against teams who abandoned the glass almost entirely to cut off the Buffs in transition, but the Buffs are a very good rebounding team, even better than they were last season. ‘But, how can that be so,’ you ask, ‘didn’t they have the super-human rebounding machine, Andre Roberson, in ‘12-’13?’ Yes, ‘Dre was a monster with the ball in the air, but his brilliance allowed his teammates to sit back and enjoy the show. This year, it’s a team effort, and the rate is up about five points, as a result. Certainly, the Wildcats will be a challenge heretofore unseen on the glass. CU rebounded just fine against Kansas (another strong offensive rebounding team, held them to 8 offensive rebounds), however, giving me hope that the Buffs can continue to hold their own.
Did Askia Booker just take a jump shot? Sorry, I couldn’t tell. Maybe I’ll just check the monitors.
Jason: People lie whey they say “You’re not too bad for an Arizona fan”
James: “Hate” is a strong word. It also applies here.
Ben: You know, I’m honestly over the ‘Chen’ incident. We got our pound of flesh between the Valentine’s Day Massacre, Ed Rush getting fired, and Askia’s Miracle. It’s a sexy layer to the rivalry, but that’s all at this point.
What concerns you the most about this Wildcat team?
Jason: Arizona’s defense only allows 16.4% of shots in the half-court to come at the rim, CU takes 40.3% of their shots at the rim in the half-court offense. As I stated before, CU’s strength isn’t exactly its shooting, if CU can’t get to the rim it could be a very long night.
James: Everything. They’re #1 for a reason.
Ben: Defense. The Buffs can frequently struggle in the halfcourt, and when I see defensive numbers like a 41% eFG and an absurdly-low 18% of shots at the rim, I’m smelling a rough night for Colorado. If the threes don’t fall, and if CU gets nothing in transition, it will be a long night, regardless of what Ski and Josh manage.
And the big one: How does this game play out?
Jason: CU covers the spread and keeps it around 10 points in a game that was never as close as the final score indicates (largely b/c Miller feels sorry that CU’s missing Dinwiddie)
James: When Spencer went down, I said that you can’t really count the next 4 games and that our season starts over on 2/1 against Utah. Too many unknowns, players in roles they aren’t familiar with, uncertainty everywhere. I stand by that. Combine that with the fact that Arizona knows they’re on national TV and I don’t see them letting up. Zona rolls – in a game that will hopefully lay the groundwork for CU to get their revenge on 2/22.
Ben: Wallowing in the despair of the 40 hours between the UCLA and USC games last week, I feared that CU would struggle to crack 45 against the UofA and their vaunted defense. After the sunshine of the USC game cleared my mind of such depressive thoughts, I’ve since re-evaluated. Colorado’s offense isn’t broken, it’s just a re-work in progress. Sure, playing the #1 team in the land at their place isn’t the best time to further the educational process, but I no longer fear the epicly unwatchable. I still don’t see any chance that Colorado can steal away with a win, but I do expect them to push Arizona for stretches. The Buffs are their ‘kryptonite,’ after all. In the end, however, CU’s struggles in the half-court, the home crowd, and the still-developing rotation take their toll, and Colorado slips in the second half. UofA 70 – CU 55
Conference play will tip tonight. That’s a fun fact to let sink and now’s a good time to let your loved ones know that Thursdays and Saturdays are booked (and the occasional Wednesday. And the occasional Friday. And the occasional Sunday. And all of March). I love conference play because it means something. A “good win” doesn’t just carry a nice perception, it moves you up the ladder. And we know that college basketball is all about getting to the top of ladders. With scissors.
Fourteen things to watch in this 2014 Pac-12 season:
- The Games and Stories – An elementary opening point for a ‘must watch’ list, but as we head into this most anticipated of Pac-12 conference seasons, I am acutely aware that I don’t want to watch Southern University play a ton of games. I’m not that stoked on seeing Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Weber State, or Evergreen State (St. Katherine, for that matter). And I mean no offense. I just don’t know them from Adam and I want the drama. I don’t care if UW and WSU rate outside the top-100 on KenPom. That’s the damn Apple Cup. USC is the 4th worst team remaining on UCLA’s schedule. BUT THEY’RE THE ONLY SCHOOL YAPPING AT UCLA. Suddenly we’re privy to subtext that wasn’t there when the opponents were [Directional] State Tech. Arizona is the top team, but Spencer Dinwiddie has already said he thinks his team is the cream of the crop. I have running bets about Arizona V. Oregon and I love the Arizona-Washington rivalry. Last time Cal and Stanford faced off, STANFORD’S ENTIRE ASSISTANT COACHING STAFF WAS EJECTED. Prior to last season, there hadn’t been an in-conference matchup of ranked teams since 2011. This year we’ve already got one in the first week (#10 Oregon @ #20 Colorado)…with more to follow! It’s conference time.
- Ben Carter – He has just three games under his belt (flipping shoe swag) and really just one of consequence. In that game – against BYU – he managed 4 points, 4 boards, 3 assists. Not quite Arsalan Kazemi yet not even close, either. But he’s long been considered a budding piece of what Dana Altman is trying to accomplish. And now’s the time. From a personnel standpoint, the Ducks can’t quite hit the boards the way they used to. Or rather, the way Tony Woods and Kazemi did. They’ve shifted from a top 10 defense to a top 10 offense. The best offensive team Dana Altman has ever coached. As we move forward, the emergence of a Robin to Mike Moser’s Batman could greatly benefit the Ducks.
- DaVonte Lacy – There aren’t going to be many reasons to watch Washington State so I present this guy:
- Washington’s Front Court… amongst so many other things in Seattle – Maybe there isn’t much to watch here as this team has become decimated through recruiting failures and injury (RIP Jernard Jarreau). Perris Blackwell is a fine player, but he’s one man. This is Romar’s worst defensive team since – well it’s literally the worst defense he’s ever coached. They rank 287th in defensive efficiency giving up 1.09 points per possession. Woof. Teams are shooting a 54% eFG against them, otherwise known as 318th best nationally. Double Woof. And that front court that doesn’t necessarily exist? Allowing 70% shooting at the rim. Teams are shooting 56% from 2-point range and I could go on but I won’t because as the Dawgs allow more and more points it raises more and more questions I don’t want to discuss about the health of Husky Hoops. So why watch? Because it could be something of a last hoorah.
- Oregon’s SOS – It has to improve. Or perhaps better said: it’s going to. They’ll play all of Arizona (State and the good guys) and UCLA twice while only escaping a visit from Colorado. Amongst KenPom’s top-25 teams, the Ducks have the 5th easiest schedule. Completely to their credit, they’ve handled that schedule. But as the going gets tough we’ll get to see whether or not this team will Win the Day.
- Cal’s Injury Bug – First they dropped two tough games without Richard Solomon in the lineup at the Maui Invitational. Then Kreklow and Bird sustained injuries and it’s pretty wide open as to when either of these two is coming back. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not good. I love Bird’s skill set and he carried the Bears through a few games earlier this year. They’ll now rely even more heavily on seniors Cobbs and Solomon as well as soph Ty Wallace and junior David Kravish. That’s a nice foursome, but nothing close to what this team is with Ricky and Jabari. Will their absence cost the Bears a chance to dance?
- The POY Race – I wrote really early in the year about this because why not? This is going to shake out to be a really great race because there are so many players that will be worthy of the title for so many different reasons. From Joseph Young who gets points like a Fuel Band to Kyle Anderson who does everything like a Swiss Knife, how will voters (Pac-12 coaches) evaluate? Value (Nick Johnson, Anderson, Delon Wright, Mike Moser)? Skill (Young, Jahii Carson, Jordan Adams)? Whatever the case, it’s not going to be Jorge Gutierrez.
- Arizona’s Depth – Or lack thereof. They’re a damn talented team who then ranks 312th in percentage of bench minutes. The Pac-12 season is a grind and getting into the Yorks, Pitts’, and Korcheks of this lineup could help alleviate some of stress on the core-six. But it’s a really good core-six. One thing I’ve long been interested in – ever since he started the first game of the year – is the development of Gabe York. He wasn’t expected to be getting much tick – his defense a liability and a thorn in Miller’s side. But he’s shown some ability to defend but it’s his shooting ability (42% 3FG%) that I believe could make Arizona the hands down favorite to win this whole damn thing. But he’s not quite there yet. Conference play will be his chance to cut his teeth in some big games.
- Hot Seats – I hate this topic but it’s going to come up and as a given team maybe does worse than we might expect, there could be some seats warming up all over the conference. The influx of coaching talent across both football and basketball in the past 3 years has been impressive and if you’re not keeping up with the Joneses then you’re just losing sporting events. There are going to be a few ADs with tough decisions in the coming months. You already know which ones they are and so do they.
- Dunks –
- Delon Wright and the Scorin’ Utes – Larry K’s team has exceeded the 120-point mark twice this season and they’re third in the nation in points per game (87.4). They’ve also played nothing short of a middle school schedule but that’s a whole different topic. Delon Wright has been an incredible addition to this team. He’s doing almost everything for them: 15/7/6, 138.3 ORtg. The obvious here is that I’m intrigued to see how he fairs against better competition; which begins tonight as he and the Utes host #10 Oregon and all of the guard talent in the world. The other thing to note about Utah here is that they have the fifth highest eFG% in the nation. Again, the schedule stuff, but at a certain point we have to appreciate that what Larry K’s team is doing is simply efficient. Excited to see how it translates. They’re 11-1.
- Jahii Carson – Because he’s Jahii Carson.
- #20 Colorado – The lede here is that they’re ranked and Tad’s making a name of this program and Spencer Dinwiddie is likely league-bound and then something else about Askia Booker putting up shots like a Tri-Delt. It’s all true. But let’s take a moment to think about Josh “Jelly” Scott as we head to conference play. The guard play in this conference is obscene. The Arizona bigs have been getting their love but how about Scott? Here are his numbers in Colorado’s last four games: 15 points and 11 boards. That’s a lot of everything you’d want from your big. He takes just 7 shots per game to get his points, which is grossly efficient. And this is the point in the blurb that I mention his free throw rate: 88.2. That’s a 147% increase over last season’s FTRate. He’s drawing greater than 6 fouls per forty minutes. Once perceived as soft, he’s banging his way to the free throw line and offensive success. Such a post asset is going to bode well for the Buffs as we make our way towards March.
- Vegas – Things happen there that should stay there. You know this and I know this and the Vegas travel bureau markets that. Certain things should stay there including the Pac-12 tournament. This will be year two of the three year contract that I fully expect to be renewed. But I don’t expect many teams to be sticking around Vegas. What I mean is I think there’s going to be a hearty number (seven) of Pac-12 teams leaving Vegas for the big dance. I also think this Pac-12 tourney is going to be as fun as it gets. Hoops on basketball on baskethoops.