Tag Archives: Tad Boyle

Jordan-Adams

Jordan Adams Changed His Mind

In December, we looked into how Jordan Adams had changed his game. A mid-range threat as a freshman, Adams had improved his offensive efficiency by getting to the rim. He had changed his game.

And now he’s changed his mind.

News dropped over the weekend that the efficient shooter would be foregoing his remaining two years in Westwood to head to the NBA. This differs from his initial April 17 declaration to stay in school. He gone.

This flip flop is a major blow to the Bruins. Their starting lineup will be 80% brand new and Bryce Alford will almost certainly be starting. Stay tuned for rants of Daddy Ball wielded by the Hoosier Loser (fear not, you’ll never read that here).

You don’t need me to spell out the significance of Adams’ departure. He was arguably the best returning player in the conference and was easily the best player on UCLA’s roster. With the Family Wear and Kyle Anderson already gone, Adams was going to be the centerpiece, likely expanding on what was already the conference’s 8th highest usage percentage. This is kind of a big deal.

And with regards to the Pac-12 landscape, I had hinged the Pac-12 off-season on the professional decisions of Adams and Spencer Dinwiddie. Both star guards were faced with tough choices. Furthermore, both seemingly held the fate of their teams’ 2014-15 success in their hands. Both have now chosen pro pastures and leave Alford and Boyle with some significant coaching opportunities. Good luck, gentlemen.

Of course it should be noted that both teams project to be in the upper half of the conference. UCLA has pieced together a nice class and Isaac Hamilton has had a year on the pine (after transferring from UTEP) to learn the Alford way. Colorado has a talented group that will now have the added benefit of knowing exactly what they’re working with and can lose their “deer in headlights” look they wore following Dinwiddie’s injury. It’s an uphill battle for both but a challenge both rosters are prepared to handle.

All of which begs the question: Is it November yet?

basketball image

Pac-12 Conference Awards: Top 5 Lists

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

  1. 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.USATSI_7709655_221257_lowres-001
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. TBD – We haven’t yet played the Pac-12 tournament. So…full credit to UCLA?


Top 5 Games

  1. #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.
  2. #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.
  3. 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.
  4. #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.”
  5. #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

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. 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

  1. CJ Wilcox -  I could watch this guy take jumpers for days. He’s sixth all-time in Pac-12 three pointers made.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Jordan Bachynski - The conference’s all-time leading shot blocker. Additionally, Jordan has one of the finest career makeovers we’ve ever seen.JordanB
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Booker_Rumbles_1-19-12

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

 

P12 Colorado Arizona Basketball

Q & A with Colorado Buffaloes. No Reviews.

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

SeanMillerESPN3

Fourteen Things to Watch in Pac-12 Conference Play

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. DaVonte Lacy – There aren’t going to be many reasons to watch Washington State so I present this guy:
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Dunks
  11. 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.
  12. Jahii Carson – Because he’s Jahii Carson.
  13. #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.
  14. 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.
wane

WANE: The PacHoops Podcast – On the Air at Last

With this we introduce WANE: The PacHoops Podcast. It’s our first and we’ve been discussing getting this thing going for 10-months or 6-weeks depending on whether you ask me (Adam) or Spencer (Spencer). Give it a listen:

 

And whoa it was easy to produce. Now we’ll make no bones about it: E1S1 – On the Air at Last is raw as sushi but we got it up like grandpa with a blue pill. Like a tent in the rain. Like Askia Booker for the win. Because at PacHoops we don’t let perfection get in the way of done.

Enjoy. Here’s a table of talking points to find the exact insight you want. And by the way, WANE stands for we are not experts. Jam it:

0:00 – 0:38 – Rise Buffalo Nation
1:12-1:18 – Great awkward silence

1:27 – More Buffalo love following Booker’s big shot. Spencer aptly uses the phrase “PROGRAM WIN”

4:53 – Spencer asks what the conference’s top story is and Adam says he takes his homer hat off but then talks about how great #1 Arizona is. It’s also roommate Tim’s first background noise appearance. He’s talking to a friend in Fiji. This is also the segment with a token “UW won the conference but didn’t make the NCAA tournament the Pac-12 was rock bottom” reference. Spencer pumps the Buffs.

6:56 – Randomly a UCLA discussion emerges

9:56 – Transition to Cal and the whereabouts of Richard Solomon

10:08 – Tangent about the internet and the use of “Six Degrees of Schedule Separation” to navigate ESPN.

10:59 – Return to Cal/Richard Solomon

12:15 – Complete tangent on UC-Santa Barbara because we are not experts

13:04 – Attempted smooth transition into UNLV-Arizona

13:41 – Roommate Tim is cited as a reference

16:54 – WARNING: Two Arizona Wildcat fans talking about TJ McConnell

18:32 - Roommate Tim background noise (Fijian phone call)

19:12 – Awkward Stanford/Aaron Bright conversation. Feel bad for the senior missing out on his season.

22:06-17 – Choppy 11 seconds

23:10 – Adam making noises that he thinks describe Stanford

23:31 – Stanford football thanked, segment salvaged

23:48 – Transition to our closing segments the first of which is What does Adam want to talk about. You can hear Roommate Tim on the dishes while Adam talks about his trip to Ann Arbor to see Arizona @ Michigan on Saturday.

24:48UMHoops.com is referneced. Adam is going to do a Q&A with them this week. Great site!

28:51What does Spencer want to talk about and so we discuss UW needing to get things going

31:11 – We stumble into the finish line like a marathoner.

 

Booker3win

Askia Booker for Three

I’m not even going to tell say I told you so. I won’t remind you that I’ve sung the importance of his testicular fortitude for a year-and-a-half now because as Askia Booker euro-stepped past that Sherron Collins-lookin’ bulldog of a KU #0, there wasn’t another player on the floor prepared to make that play. Not NBA bound stars Spencer Dinwiddie or Andrew Wiggins. Not Josh Scott or Xavier Johnson or Tad Boyle. You don’t euro-step past a defender with two-seconds remaining in a tense and climactic ball game unless ONIONS.

While a lot of the Sabatino Chen three-pointer in Tucson narrative has resurfaced, I see few similarities beyond the timing. Chen wound up with the ball by utter mistake. He heaved a basketball he wasn’t supposed to be holding at a rim he wasn’t sure was there from behind a line he’d shot behind less than twenty times. Sabatino Chen was not supposed to take that shot.

Askia Booker was born to make that shot.

Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. “It felt really good,” he’d say crammed next to ESPN anchors and coeds. Damn right it felt good and he’d go on to talk about the confidence instilled in him by his coaches and teammates. Because when you fire up shots the way Askia does, you’d better have the support of those guys. They love him because he’s not afraid to take those shots. Sans conscience, Askia Booker gives Colorado swagger. Dinwiddie and Scott provide credibility and Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon bring muscle. Jaron Hopkins, Tre’shaun Fletcher, and Dustin Thomas offer depth. Ben Mills has a scholarship.

But Booker provides that intangible characteristic of not giving a f***.

And who doesn’t need that every once in a while? Who doesn’t need that as your team is exhaustively holding off the sixth best team in the country who calls your arena the western version of their own? The Keg has been a Kansas house for years and it had every reason to remain Phog-West as Perry Ellis bullied his way into the lane for the tie. Xavier Johnson was so ill prepared for the immediacy and magnitude of those two points that he nearly inbounded the ball to the Jayhawks; giving them possession 30-feet from their rim. But Johnson didn’t quite give it up. Tad collected his team and ensured the ball would be in the hands of the one man he knew feared nothing of this moment.

Askia Booker was born to make that shot.

Or at least he believes he was and that’s all that matters. Tad Boyle knows this so he let his scrappy off-guard do his thing and he did it and then everyone else came to join him.

This isn’t a resolution. Booker still has his flaws and may shoot Colorado out of – or dangerously close to – a few games. But as I said a few weeks ago: Askia Booker is the hero Colorado needs and deserves.

Askia Booker knew he was going to make that shot. It’s all that matters.

NickJohnson_JahiiCarson

Arizona Prep Stars aren’t always good, but when they are…

The state of Arizona has not produced a wealth of basketball talent. Just 19 NBA players prepped in the Grand Canyon State, Greg Smith the most recent and Sean Elliott the most successful. Mike Bibby, born in Phoenix and attended HS at Shadow Mountain, played the most NBA games of any Zonie, 1001. Arizona produced pros have played 125 cumulative seasons in The League. Comparatively, The Palmetto State (South Carolina) has produced 21 pros playing 170 seasons. Two additional pros, 45 mores seasons. By that sophomoric arithmetic, Arizonans generally aren’t that great of hoopsters. Those nineteen pros rank just 35th in America, ahead of Utah’s 17 (Shawn Bradley!) and behind the aforementioned 21 from SC (Jesus Shuttlesworth) and West Virginia (Logo).

So when players from the state move on to play Division 1 basketball, it’s a significant accomplishment. And when players in the state start scoring 40 points in a game or flirting with triple doubles, we’re on to something special.

Something special is what former Phoenix-area prep stars Jahii Carson and Nick Johnson are doing. Hailing from the same state as me, they chose to compete for rival universities and they’re currently crushing the college basketball scene.

*WITH A KISS* [Raftery voice]

*WITH A KISS* [Raftery voice]

Let’s start with Carson, the riquickulous one, who almost single handedly defeated the Runnin’ Rebels Tuesday night. He scored 40 points and dished 7 assists. He played 39 minutes and in case you needed a refresher, college basketball games are 40 minutes long. He shot 64% afield and bucketed 1.02 points per minute. He’s a measly 5’10” and made 14 of his sixteen shots AT THE RIM. Do you realize that UNLV has blocked the ninth most shots in the nation (30)? That their 7.5 blocks per game rank fifteenth nationally? The Rebels saw Carson driving the lane and they were licking their chops, ready to put Carson’s shot into XS. Instead, they’re licking their wounds as Carson tear dropped his way – and how beautiful a shot is that floater? – to 40 points and the Devil’s first 5-0 start since Arizona was one year into 27 consecutive NCAA tournaments. What Carson has done in Tempe is nothing short of angelic. On this, his farewell tour, Carson is about to make sure we won’t soon forget his name. He’ll be remembered in the same breath as Fat Lever, Eddie House, and James Harden.

But like Lever before him, he’ll be special because of his Arizona ties. Lever prepped in Tucson, at Pueblo High School. The same HS I never lost to as a starting baseball player and where I got a 4 on a botched administration of the AP Spanish test (though honestly it could’ve been a 3). He’s a legend in the state.

And while Nick Johnson spent a portion of his prep years at Findlay in Las Vegas, make no mistake that he has strong ties as an Arizonan. His father is Joe Johnson who famously held the world record for dunking on the highest rim (11’7”) and attended ASU. Nick grew up in Gilbert before honing his skills at prep school. He now finds himself the centerpiece of a Final Four contender. His role, a changing one according to Sean Miller, is to be the leader of that team. High stakes for anyone, let alone an Arizona prep star. Allow me some other names who’ve held similar roles: Mike Bibby, Sean Elliott, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson. Just one of those players never attended a Final Four (Frye) and we’re not going to talk about it. Every one of them was a lottery pick. That’s the sort of rare and special territory Johnson now finds himself in.

On Tuesday night, Johnson continued his onslaught of Arizona’s non-conference slate. And while it’s not been the most impressive competition, Johnson has been the Wildcats’ rock. Though it’s really too early to try and quantify his season, I’ll qualify it by citing his 23 points inside a raucous and hostile Viejas Arena. Early in the game Johnson squared up and hit a deep three pointer. Across most possessions, this might have been considered ill advised. But I thought it served as a message to his team. That it was OK for them to compete and that he had their backs. Sure the bucket may have come well before the first media timeout, but it resonated across his bench: Game on.

That’s Johnson’s new role, while Carson’s remains about the same: to be really damn good. They’re both fine ball players who grew up playing with and against one another. As the adage goes, you’ve got to play the best to be the best. Today they find that they’re the best after years of Middle school, playground, AAU, high school, and now college competition. Challenging one another to get better and better.

NickJohnsonSDSU

Follow me, boys

And that drive and competition has perhaps left something of a legacy. Jaron Hopkins out of Dobson High (2013) garnered big offers before winding up at Tad boyle’s blossoming program in Boulder. Michael Humphrey’s (Sunnyslope, #80 2014) is a big out of PHX and is headed to Stanford with fellow Zonie, Dorian Pickins (Pinnacle, 2014). Meanwhile, Zylan Cheatham (South Mountain, #68 2014) is headed to SDSU.

But that’s the future and we can keep an eye on that for another time.

For now, let’s enjoy what Johnson and Carson are doing. It doesn’t happen often.

ColoradoCEC

Getting to know Colorado: Altitude the dog

Did you know that these Buffs return four starters from an NCAA tournament team? Google translator will tell you that means high expectations. And indeed expectations are high in Boulder as I think they’re now wearing a target. But interestingly, despite this gaudy number of starters heading back to The Keg, Tad Boyle’s opening statements at Pac-12 Media Day were to call these accusations of experience a “misnomer.” Ten of the thirteen players on this team are freshmen or sophomores. It’s a youth movement out there but one of those non-yougins’ is Spencer Dinwiddie. And he has a mustache.

Why I love them: It’d be easy to sit here and tell you how great Spencer Dinwiddie is. That he represented USA basketball at the World University Games and that he gets to the free throw line than faster than a co-ed to The Sink for dollar wells (more later). Spencer Dinwiddie is good and it’s going to get boring how good he is. And so I love the Buffs because of Xavier Johnson. The athletic wing is versatile and the kind of matchup that causes havoc. Remember that Roberson guy? Think of him with a legitimate shot at legitimate outside shot. He shot 44% from distance a year ago and had a 57% eFG. That eFG compares favorably to the following 2012-13 performances: Anthony Bennett, Jeff Withey, and Seth Curry. Maybe you’ve heard of them. And if we’re talking about loving the Buffs, I must mention that an improved Josh Scott makes for a frightening team. There isn’t much depth after him but he’s a game changing kind of player – especially if Askia Booker is shooting well. Much gets made of Booker’s volume shooting. The fact of the Colorado matter is they get things done defensively. They had a top 20 defense last year (90.9 AdjD was 19th in the country). That’s how Tad butters his bread: with your bricks. I also just need to go in on Dinwiddie and the free throw line real fast. 76.7 FTRate from last year and it was the nineteenth best rate in the nation. He was just one of a handful of guards to have such a high rate and with this season’s rules changes and a presumed increase in whistles, expect to see Dinwiddie imposing Hack-a-Mayor on the opposition.

Why I hate them: Well all that inexperience exposes an evaluation of the Buffs to a lot of question marks and last year – even with “seniors coming off the bench” as Boyle reminded us – they played like a youthful group. Remember when they beat Arizona in Boulder? Then they lost to ASU in Boulder. Remember when they beat Oregon in Boulder? Then they lost to Oregon State in Boulder. To the untrained eye, maybe the Buffs just lose to State schools? But you and I understand that these guys play emotionally, they recognize the given “magnitude” of a game and seem to have the gift/curse to play to their opponent. Now to be clear, I’m judging this group off of last season’s performance which may or may not be fair. But if Boyle wants to make it clear that this team is inexperienced, then maybe he has another thing coming. Also, ASKIA BOOKER TOOK 29% OF HIS TEAM’S SHOTS A SEASON AGO WITH THEIR FOURTH WORST ORTG. THIS CAN SERVE AS A RECIPE FOR DISASTER. That is all.

Stat you need to know:

10.5

This is the number of points that home court advantage at altitude is worth. Playing at altitude is a bitch. Seriously. You click that link and you’re getting a face full of data that boils down to that conclusion: 10.5 points. For comparison’s sake, the normal home court advantage is just 3.5 points. Boulder’s Keg is 5,430 feet above sea level where UW, USC, UCLA, Cal, and Stanford play and practice. A group that has combined for just two wins in Colorado. Yeah, it’s a bitch.

In their words: From @CUGoose, an admin at AllBuffs and a damn fine Buffalo, man, and interwebs presence.

Adam has just spent 500 words going over the brilliance that is The Mayor. And he’s not wrong. But while I will be enjoying The Mayor’s last year in Boulder this year, I will also be keeping a close eye on the best big man in the Pac-12 – Josh Scott. While Arizona’s horses up front may be a better unit, there’s not a better talent than the man known as Jelly. He’ll get some help this year from redshirt freshman Wes Gordon (who will do his best to replace Dre’s defense in the post) and a group of four true frosh who all bring different things to the table (keep an eye out for Jaron Hopkins, who could have a Dinwiddie-esque career in Boulder when it’s all said & done). But Jelly will be leading the pack. Expect a breakout year from the sophomore as he and the Mayor lead the Buffs to a top 3 finish in the Pac.

Quotable:

“Spencer has emerged as a valuable point guard for us. He can play three different spots and is able to get his shot. He could be the catalyst for setting the tone for our defense.” – Bob McKillop, Head Coach, USA World University Games

Outlook: I like this year’s Buffs. Spencer is practically that senior guard I love as he’s darned near gone to the League. Josh Scott gives them a legitimate threat on the post and I love Xavier Johnson’s motor. The culture they’re touting heading into the season gets me heated as a Wildcat fan and appreciative as a bystander. Askia Booker has just enough DGAF to be the instant offense this team needs when they’re shooting turns abysmal. I can’t say it enough: playing at altitude is a bitch. And despite this being a roster of newcomers, if they aren’t going to be relied upon for offensive output (I see you Scott, Dinwiddie, and Booker returning your respective 22, 22, and 29 percent of shots) then Tad – with depth for one of the first time’s in his CU tenure – can throw defensive bodies onto the floor for as long as the flat irons are beautiful. Dancing Buffs.