Colorado Week: Six-Man Recruiting Class Bolsters Solid Set Of Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 25th, 2012

On the heels of last year’s surprisingly good recruiting class, head coach Tad Boyle landed a huge six-man class this season, signing three terrific home-state talents, while also stealing a couple more players from out of the Los Angeles area and landing an intriguing talent from Michigan. The six of these guys are all over the place in terms of their positions and their strengths, making this an incredibly balanced recruiting class that should be able to step in and immediately contribute. We’ll break all six of them down below, roughly in the order of the contributions we expect from them.

Josh Scott, Freshman, Power Forward, 6’10” 215 lbs, Lewis-Palmer High School, Monument, CO – Last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball in Colorado, Scott led his high school team to the state 4A championship while averaging 28.5 points per game (best in the state), 11 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He’s a super athlete with good fundamentals and a good feel for the game. A four-man with some of the offensive skills of a three, he can score in the post with jump hooks from either side, or can face up his man and take him off the dribble in short bursts. Like most freshmen, he needs to get stronger and he could stand to improve his jump shot, but just on his combination of athleticism and basketball IQ alone, he should be ready to play a big role right out of the gate. He should be in line for some of the minutes left behind by Austin Dufault, and could even help Andre Roberson man the front line while guarding the other team’s center. He’s got the skill set that could make him a future NBA player and all accounts are, he’s got the hard-working commitment to go with those skills.

Josh Scott, Colorado

The Reigning Gatorade Player Of The Year in Colorado High School Basketball, Josh Scott Could Step Right Into A Major Role Up Front For The Buffaloes (Eric Bellamy, ESPNHS)

Xavier Johnson, Freshman, Combo Forward, 6’6” 220 lbs, Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, CA – Johnson is one of two players who played high school ball at Southern California power Mater Dei. Over his four years at the school, he helped his team compile a sterling 129-9 record, including state championships in each of his final two seasons. As a senior, he averaged 18.1 points and 9.2 rebounds and won the CIF Player of the Year honors. And he is, in short, a beast, with dunks over Shabazz Muhammad and Austin Rivers studding his resume. He’s got a body that is ready to step in an immediately take the pounding of a 30-plus game schedule and CU coaches have raved about his competitiveness, his maturity, and his willingness to learn. And, he’ll need to learn, because while athletically he is ready to go, he’s still needs to dial in his offensive game. Nevertheless, he’ll likely step directly into a major role immediately for the Buffs, spending most of his time at the three, but displaying the toughness that allows him to spend time as an undersized four.

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Colorado Week: Running Down The Returnees

Posted by AMurawa on July 24th, 2012

Colorado returns six players who were part of the extended rotation last year, highlighted by Andre Roberson – likely a preseason All-Pac-12 player – but also extending down to two talented guards back for sophomore seasons, a seven-foot Aussie ready for more action and a couple wings who will probably enjoy similar roles this year as they did last year. We’ll go through all of those guys below, in order of last year’s scoring totals.

Andre Roberson, Colorado

Andre Roberson Has Proven His Rebounding Prowess, But Will Need To Play A Bigger Role For The Buffs This Year

Andre Roberson, Junior, Forward (11.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.9 BPG) – When Roberson arrived on campus two years ago, not much was expected of him immediately. He was long and athletic, yes, but also skinny and raw. And, with a veteran lineup, he figured to at best earn some minutes at the back end of the rotation. But once fall practice began, CU coaches knew he was going to force his way onto the court, and in his first game he pulled down 11 boards in 21 minutes. He remained heavily in the rotation the rest of the way, dominated on the glass (try a 25.5% defensive rebounding percentage and 15.1% on the offensive end), wreaked havoc defensively, leading the team in both blocks and steals (oh, and also fouls – committing more than five fouls per 40 minutes), and found nearly every possible way to contribute mightily to his team without ever once having a play run for him. As a sophomore, his usage shot way up and, as happens, his offensive efficiency numbers dropped a bit, but his rebounding numbers were just as impressive – he was second in the nation in grabbing 29.6% of all opponents’ missed shots, while also grabbing 12.7% of his own team’s misses. Now, heading into his junior season, he is squarely on the NBA’s radar and ready to show off even more skills. With Carlon Brown and Austin Dufault now gone, expect Roberson to find even more shots.  And, with his NBA future likely tied to the small forward spot, expect to see him show off his improving perimeter jumper as well as his solid handle in the halfcourt; however, he needs to be careful that he doesn’t completely abandon the dirty work he does inside while he shows off his newfound skills on the wing.

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Colorado Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on July 23rd, 2012

Nine players earned significant playing time for the Buffaloes in 2011-12, but for the most part it was a six-man rotation with five of those averaging somewhere between 27-31 minutes per game. Of those five players, three have used up their eligibility and will be playing for a paycheck in one place or another next year. Gone is Colorado’s leading scorer, its point guard and leading assist man, and its heart and soul along the front line. With a strong six-man recruiting class coming in, there will be no problem finding bodies to replace the departed, but the experience and savvy they possessed is not something that can be expected of most freshmen. In other words, these guys will be missed.

Carlon Brown, Colorado

In One Season At Colorado, Carlon Brown Led The Team In Scoring And Earned The Pac-12 Tournament MVP

Carlon Brown – Brown played just one season in Boulder after transferring over from Utah, but he had a big impact in his single year. He was the team’s most athletic wing and most willing shooter, taking more than 28% of their shots when he was in the game. And, unlike his previous years with the Utes, he actually made more shots than he missed and hit enough from deep to keep opposing defenses honest. But despite his ability to fill it up on offense, he was never much more than a hired gun, and one who at times openly bristled about the rare times when he rode the pine late in games while freshman teammates Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie finished things out. Still, his time with the Buffs went down as a success, as he was named the Pac-12 Tournament MVP following the Buffs’ wild ride to the conference’s automatic bid, averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals over the course of those four games.

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Colorado Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on July 23rd, 2012

Two years ago, Colorado was riding seven straight seasons without an NCAA Tournament, was mired in mediocrity at the back of the Big 12 and was in the middle of welcoming in a new coaching staff after Jeff Bzdelik abruptly left Boulder in the wake of three unimpressive seasons. Jump ahead in time and the Buffaloes have improved under new head coach Tad Boyle each of the last two years, they’ve made a splash in their one year in their new conference, and they not only broke their string of NCAA Tournament-less years, but they scored their first NCAA Tourney win since 1997. Along the way they’ve turned the Coors Events Center into a formidable home court advantage. In short, for a program who has only once in its long history won more than a single NCAA Tournament game, the future looks bright.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes Have Improved In Each Of His Two Seasons In Boulder

In Boyle’s first season in Boulder, he inherited a talented bunch from Bzdelik, with future NBA lottery pick Alec Burks paired with senior wing Cory Higgins to form an impressive one-two punch. With seniors Marcus Relphorde and Levi Knutson chipping in, the Buffs rolled out one of the most efficient offensive teams in the game in 2010-11. Unfortunately, they were about as bad defensively as they were good offensively. Still, after losing six out of seven games in the middle of their Big 12 schedule, they found themselves in contention for an NCAA Tournament bid on Selection Sunday after scoring two wins over Kansas State and a win over Texas down the stretch. Unfortunately, when the brackets were announced, the Buffs were nowhere to be seen. And with Burks joining the three seniors on the way out of town, it looked like 2011-12 – CU’s first season in the Pac-12 – would be an exercise in rebuilding.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.06.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 6th, 2012

  1. We skipped last week because of a dearth of news as we head into the dead days of summer, so now we’ve got a couple week’s worth of catching up to do. The biggest news in the past two weeks was the NBA Draft, where more Pac-12 players heard their names called than conference teams did on Selection Sunday. Washington, who won the regular season title but was banished to the NIT, had two players – Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. – get drafted, while Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham became just the 13th Beaver picked in the first round – the first since Corey Benjamin went with the second-to-last pick of the first round in 1998. The Huskies, meanwhile, have had much more recent success on draft night, with nine players drafted in the past eight years, six of those in the first round, a record that head coach Lorenzo Romar is making sure gets heard. With many elite recruits using college as a mere launching point toward NBA careers, Romar’s success at sending players to the NBA can only help his recruiting efforts.
  2. The Huskies also landed a new player this week when it was announced that seven-foot center Gilles Dierickx would be transferring into the program from Florida International. Dierickx (gee, thanks basketball gods – I only just got used to confidently spelling Krystkowiak) was a freshman last season with FIU, where he played just under 15 minutes a game and averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. He’s a face-up stretch four who will be eligible to play for UW beginning in 2013-14. But, as Ben Knibbe at the UW Dawg Pound points out, this leaves Romar with just three open scholarships for the 2013 class, a highly regarded recruiting class in which the Huskies are pursuing several five-star talents. As we’ve seen elsewhere, the fact that a program has a player under scholarship doesn’t preclude the possibility of a coach running off one or more players who are no longer necessary in order to make room for a more desirable prospect, but with the Huskies putting so much emphasis on the 2013 class, this is something of a head-scratcher.
  3. At this point in the summer, no news is generally good news for most collegiate programs. It means that nobody is getting into trouble with the law, nobody’s getting injured while working on their game, and nobody’s making a late decision to transfer. About the only really exciting news for a program at this time of the year is the announcement of the upcoming schedule, something Utah did last week. And, wow, is it ever underwhelming. The first three home games are an exhibition against something called Simon Fraser, then the season opener against Division III Willamette, followed by a match-up with Sacramento State. Now, to be fair, SSU was actually ranked higher than the Utes in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings last season (#292, compared to UU’s #303). The next three home games are part of a four-team round robin event on the Utah campus over Thanksgiving weekend, when the Utes will play Central Michigan, Idaho State and Wright State. Elsewhere in the non-conference schedule are games against Evergreen State of the NAIA and Cal State Northridge. There’s also a home-and-home series with SMU, a visit from Boise State, a trip to Texas State, and their renewal of their annual rivalry with BYU at the Cougars’ Provo campus. In other words, the Utes should be ready to dial up significantly more wins than the three non-conference wins they posted last year, while the ever-important RPI number should still remain in the gutter. Also of note, the Utes also finalized their plans for their trip to Brazil this summer, where they will play five games against Brazilian teams over the course of their 12-day trip.
  4. Another thing to keep an eye on as the summer progresses is landing spots for Pac-12 players who weren’t drafted by the NBA. For instance, former Colorado point guard Nate Tomlinson is heading back home to Australia to play professionally for the Melbourne Tigers. And he’s even trying to do a little recruiting of his own, trying to get former teammate Austin Dufault to follow him along, although he is also considering Europe and China. Meanwhile, Carlon Brown hasn’t yet given up on his NBA dreams despite going undrafted. The 6’5” wing is hoping to catch on with a summer league team and may need to go the D-League route. Elsewhere, Washington State forward Abe Lodwick will be playing professionally in Germany, while Arizona’s Kyle Fogg and Brendon Lavender both still harbor dreams of NBA careers, with Fogg set to play for Houston’s summer league team and Lavender putting on an Atlanta Hawk jersey for the summer.
  5. Lastly, we’ve got a couple of previews to point you to. First, we did so a few weeks back, but the always-excellent Doug Haller at The Arizona Republic last week broke down the returnees for the Arizona State team. And then there’s Dick Vitale, who gives his thoughts on the Pac-12, eyeing UCLA and Arizona as the clear favorites, while pointing to Stanford as the dark horse and predicting an improved conference from top to bottom.
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Colorado: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 10th, 2012

Over the course of the next two weeks, the Pac-12 Microsite will break down each team’s season: what went well, what didn’t, and a look ahead at the future. Today’s subject: Colorado.

What Went Right

In its first season in the Pac-12, Colorado came into the season missing its top four scorers from 2010-11 and was picked to finish right near the bottom of the conference. Instead, the Buffs rode a strong homecourt advantage to an upper-division finish in the regular season then they ripped through the conference tournament to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Not content to stop there, they actually won a game, upsetting UNLV in the round of 64, quite a season for a team for whom there were no real expectations in November. Head coach Tad Boyle gets a lot of credit for shuffling these pieces together in such a way as to make the most of the team’s talent, but even with three serious contributors to this year’s success on the way out due to graduation, the Buffaloes developed plenty of young talent this season that should prepare them for some successful seasons in the near future.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle Led A Team Picked To Finish Near The Bottom Of The Standings To A Conference Championship (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

What Went Wrong

If there was one real problem for Colorado this season it was its relative inability to produce wins in a true road environment against quality competition. Despite a 4-7 record on the road, a closer look shows those wins coming against Air Force (7th place in the Mountain West), USC, Arizona State, and Utah (three teams that finished between #10 and #12 in the Pac-12). While the Buffs lost just two home games this season and just one home game in conference play, they’ll need to find a way to score quality road wins in order to compete for a regular season Pac-12 title.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.19.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 19th, 2012

  1. They were the last hope for the Pac-12, and for 30 minutes or so, it looked like Colorado had a good chance to extend their Cinderella run through the weekend. But too much Brady Heslip and too little defensive rebounding doomed the Buffaloes against Baylor, sending the conference to an early end in the NCAAs. But, looking back on the season for Colorado, it was a magical run, including a five-game win streak taking them from the outside of the tournament bubble to a Round of 32 appearance with a Pac-12 Tournament title mixed in there. All things considered, it was as good of a season as could have been expected of a Buff team that was missing its four leading scorers from the previous season and was picked as low as 11th in preseason Pac-12 rankings. And, despite the loss of seniors Carlon Brown, Nate Tomlinson, and Austin Dufault, the future is bright in Boulder.
  2. There are a handful of Pac-12 teams whose season still go on in lesser tournaments, highlighted by Oregon, who pulled off a 108-97 win over Iowa on Sunday in the  second round of the NIT in the highest scoring game in regulation this season. The Ducks trailed by as many as 15 in the game, but behind E.J. Singler’s 25 points and four other players who scored in double figures, the Ducks advanced.
  3. And the Ducks next step is a trip up I-5 to Seattle for a quarterfinal matchup with conference rival Washington, who advanced by slamming Northwestern on Friday night, 76-55. The Huskies earned the win by using their athleticism to kill the Wildcats on the glass, force plenty of bad shots and just generally get them out of rhythm. Oh, and Terrence Ross lit them up for 32 points and eight rebounds. Tony Wroten, who took a lot of heat in the aftermath of the Huskies’ Pac-12 Tournament loss has struggled to rediscover his scoring touch (just 11 points on ten field goal attempts in two NIT games), but has handed out 15 dimes. Oregon State is the final Pac-12 team still playing, and they’ll get their season back underway tonight when they host TCU in the CBI.
  4. While we’re on the topic of the three remaining Pac-12 schools, all in the northwest, The Columbian points out that one of the reasons that the Pac-12 may be down is their inability to tie up local prospects. By way of example, Greg Jayne points out that the quintet of Peyton Siva, Brad Tinsley, Terrence Jones, Kyle Wiltjer, and Brian Conklin – all kids from either Oregon or Washington who are playing elsewhere – would be a pretty darn good start on an NCAA Tournament team. The gauntlet is thrown for Lorenzo Romar, Craig Robinson, and Dana Altman: keep your local prospects at home.
  5. Lastly, in what must be considered good news for UCLA and Ben Howland, Shabazz Muhammad will be taking his final official visit to the Westwood campus at some point in early April and then will announce his decision a couple of days later. While Muhammad hadn’t previously intended to use an official visit at UCLA (since he had already visited the campus on multiple occasions unofficially), the plan is to check back in with the Bruin program in the wake of last month’s controversial Sports Illustrated article and “get the nuts and bolts of that,” according to his father Ron Holmes. Still, as UCLA has long been considered the favorite to earn the services of the elite high school prospect, the fact that he is heading back to Los Angeles just days before his announcement at the very least gives Howland and company to make the final big sales pitch.
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Four Thoughts From the Pac-12 Final

Posted by bmulvihill on March 10th, 2012

Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after Saturday’s final round at the Pac-12 Tournament.

The Colorado Buffaloes won the Pac-12 Tournament in their first year as a member of the conference. Driven by strong inside play, senior leaders, a 2011 snub, and 50 of their most rabid fans, the Buffaloes are making an unlikely appearance in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

1. Strong inside play and missed free throws - Prior to the game, the key match-ups were going to be in the paint. Arizona’s Solomon Hill, Jesse Perry, and Angelo Chol versus Colorado’s Andre Roberson, Austin Dufault, and Shane Harris-Trunks. The Buffs ended up dominating the glass with a 37-29 rebounding margin and 12-10 second chance point margin. The long arms of Roberson proved to be the difference on the glass. Additionally, Arizona’s inability to make free throws cost them the game. The Wildcats were 10-18 from the free throw line. With a tournament bid on the line, free throws are too important to miss in these tight games.

The 2012 Pac-12 Tournament Champions - Colorado Buffaloes

2. 2011 Bubble Motivation - After going 21-13 and 8-8 in the Big 12 in 2011, the Buffaloes sat squarely on the bubble. The Tournament selection committee did not end up giving them a bid and it has stuck with the team all season long. At the post-game press conference, coach Tad Boyle said he sent a text at 1:30AM to six of the players on that team last season and told them today’s game was for them. Boyle welled up with tears when asked what this win meant to him relative to the emotions he and his team went through last year. This win meant more to the Buffs than most of us could have imagined.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.27.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 27th, 2012

  1. It doesn’t go down as a surprise of any kind, but Colorado’s win over California on Sunday afternoon certainly doesn’t lack in importance. The Buffaloes got off to a strong start and withstood some pushback from the Golden Bears to lead for the final 30 minutes of the game and knock Cal from their perch atop the conference standings. Colorado, meanwhile, kept themselves in the mix for one of the four first-round byes in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Buffaloes were led by Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson, who celebrated their Senior Day in style, as Dufault went for 15, while Tomlinson had 11, four assists, and four boards and had a major hand in throwing a wrench into the Cal backcourt. Jorge Gutierrez and Justin Cobbs were held to a combined three-of-18 from the floor Sunday night, and in both games against Colorado this season, that duo was just eight-of-44 (18.2%) from the field. Lost in all the lovey-dovey Senior Day celebrating was fellow Colorado senior Carlon Brown slumping on the bench and seemingly not all that pleased to watch freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker finish the game off. Maybe Tad Boyle is already sick of Brown’s act (it is his first year of eligibility in Boulder after transferring from Utah), but with important games still remaining for Colorado (not just their trip to Oregon next week, but the Pac-12 Tournament, which it seems like they will need to win in order to earn an NCAA Tournament invite), Boyle will have to find some way to get something out of Brown, who is just 22-of-76 from the field in the month of February.
  2. The California loss leaves Washington all by its lonesome in first place in the conference. The Huskies needed a second-half comeback to knock off Apple Cup rival Washington State on Saturday, and they earned that victory largely at the free throw line, not bad for a team in the bottom 10% of the nation in free throw percentage. The Huskies made ten of its final 12 free throw attempts while the Cougars hit just 17 of their 32 second half attempts from the charity stripe and U-Dub escaped with a four-point win. Tony Wroten led the way with 21 points (albeit on 6-18 from the field), while Terrence Ross, in his first game after being declared the Pac-12 POY favorite by yours truly, was limited to just 21 ineffective minutes by foul trouble – he was just one-of-five from the field with two points and three rebounds.
  3. It’s been a long, rough season for Utah, with little talent and as a result, little to play for. But, give credit to head coach Larry Krystkowiak who has kept the Utes scraping hard all season long, and give credit to his team, who the head man describes as “resilient.” It took until the middle of December for the Utes to win a game against Division I competition, and there have been two separate eight-game losing streaks, but Utah got back on the right side of the final score on Saturday, knocking off Stanford 58-57. Junior Chris Hines hit a game-winning three with 27 seconds left and Cardinal senior Josh Owens missed a potentially game-tying free throw with eight seconds, and the Utes escaped with just their sixth win of the year. Meanwhile, for a Stanford team that looked brilliant on Thursday in handing Colorado its first home loss in Pac-12 play, it is just the latest in a long line of uneven performances in conference play.
  4. Normally, if there’s an Arizona/UCLA game being played on the last weekend in February, that’s the headliner in this conference. But, the fact is, as go the Bruins and the Wildcats, so goes the Pac-12. There have been more problems around the conference than just some ordinary teams in Westwood and Tucson, but you have to imagine that if these two stalwarts had lived up to their reputations, there would be a lot less jabbering about the weakness in the conference. As far as the game goes, the Wildcat seniors protected their Senior Day with Kyle Fogg leading the way. The senior guard has averaged at least 24 minutes per game every year of his career, but he is certainly wrapping up his eligibility in style. After going for his second double-double in three games against USC on Thurdsay (and the only two double-doubles of his career), Fogg came just one rebound shy of yet another double-double, but still wound up with 20 points and nine rebounds. The ‘Cats tried to give the game away down the stretch, missing four of six free throws in the final minute, but a Jerime Anderson jumper that could have sent the game to overtime was awry.
  5. Elsewhere around the conference this weekend, the nightmare season for USC continued with a four-point loss at Arizona State, as the undersized and undermanned Trojans couldn’t deal with Sun Devil sophomore center Jordan Bachynski who had 19 points and nine boards. However, it was embattled point guard Chris Colvin who iced the game, converting a three-point play with 19 seconds left to seal the win. Freshman guard Byron Wesley has come up big recently for USC, with new career-highs in each of his last two games, but there just isn’t enough help there for now. And, Sunday night, Oregon held off Oregon State in the 337th edition of the basketball version of the Civil War behind 25 points from Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim, whose parents are both Oregon State alumni.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.17.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 17th, 2012

  1. Arizona State came out of Saturday’s action with a big win over Oregon State, but along the way they took a loss as well, as junior guard Trent Lockett sprained his ankle with ten minutes left and did not return. Lockett, who had taken over as the team’s point guard in the wake of the dismissal of Keala King, is currently questionable for ASU’s games next week. But Herb Sendek hopes that Chris Colvin, who handed out five assists in the ten minutes that Lockett missed on Saturday, can use his performance against OSU as a springboard to better things. Colvin began the season as the team’s point guard in the wake of Jahii Carson’s eligibility issues, but struggled early and often, eventually losing his starting spot, getting suspended on two different occasions and being relegated to a minor role in the three conference games he has played in.
  2. Elsewhere in the infirmary, California’s junior point guard Brandon Smith has missed the Bears’ last three games after suffering a concussion against Oregon State on January 5, but could be due for a return soon. Head coach Mike Montgomery said that Smith will returns once he can pass his concussion battery tests, and currently his reaction times are not quite up to snuff. Justin Cobbs, in particular, has been excellent in Smith’s absence, handing out a career-high 11 assists in the Bears’ win over Utah on Saturday.
  3. The Pac-12 handed out its Player of the Week award on Monday morning, and Terrence Ross of Washington was this week’s recipient. We here at RTC opted for Josh Huestis of Stanford, but Ross’ 30-point outburst Sunday night in helping the Huskies come back from a second-half deficit against Washington State was certainly deserving. Ross became the third Husky to win the award this season; he was preceded in the honor by teammates C.J. Wilcox and Tony Wroten.
  4. At this time last week, Colorado was the talk of the conference, having jumped out to a 3-0 start in conference play. But, this week the Buffaloes set out on the road for the first time and were treated rather rudely in the Bay Area, losing both their contests. Head coach Tad Boyle said that he was pleased with CU’s effort in a seven-point loss at California, but that Saturday’s 20-point defeat to Stanford was something of a step back. Senior guard Carlon Brown noted that the Buffs let the road environment get them out of their game, but teammate Austin Dufault thinks the Buffs will improve on the road as the season progresses.
  5. Lastly, in the wake of USC’s 0-5 conference start and, most recently, a 19-point home loss to cross-town rival UCLA, some Trojans fans are beginning to talk about needing a new coach. But athletic director Pat Haden promises that he’ll show patience with head coach Kevin O’Neill, blaming some of SC current troubles on the mess that Tim Floyd left this program in. But even Haden admits that there is some frustration with the team’s complete inability to produce any type of offense. Nevertheless, for those Trojan fans hoping for a new basketball coach: Don’t expect any changes any time soon.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.13.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 13th, 2012

  1. It’s tough to decide where to begin on another wild night in the Pac-12, but we’ll have to go with our RTC Game of the Week between Colorado and California in Berkeley, the game with the biggest impact on the conference race. The Golden Bears handed the Buffaloes their first conference loss of the season, and overcame a horrendous shooting night from their two stars, as senior Jorge Gutierrez and sophomore Allen Crabbe combined to hit just four of their combined 26 field goal attempts. However, they rode senior forward Harper Kamp down the stretch, as he out-dueled Colorado’s senior Austin Dufault in a battle between two unlikely stars. In the end, however, California’s experience paid off, as the Buffs suffered through some bad shots in the closing minutes and sealed their fate with an unfortunate turnover with just under a minute left, followed up by their failure to secure a defensive rebound following a missed Cal foul shot. While the game was tight throughout, the Buffs’ failure to come through in the clutch was entirely predictable for a young team playing its first road game since the late 60s. Or something like that.
  2. Across the San Francisco Bay and south a bit, Stanford was having some unlikely trouble with expected Pac-12 cellar contender Utah, who turned in its third-straight extremely solid performance in losing by just three despite coming into the game a 22-point underdog. The Utes fought back from a seven-point half-time deficit to actually lead the game through much of the early part of the second half. However, it was Cardinal sophomore forward Josh Huestis who provided the heroics, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half on six-for-six shooting (including a three) and grabbing ten total rebounds. He did miss all three of his foul shots, but that was de rigeur for the evening, as the teams combined to shoot just six-of-26 from the charity stripe, with Utah especially kicking itself by missing all but one of its nine free throw attempts. Larry Krystkowiak’s club simply does not have the talent to give away those types of points and pull out road victories. Likewise, while Johnny Dawkins will take this win and look forward to a tough battle with Colorado on Saturday, knowing they are tied with Cal atop the Pac-12 standings, this was not a win that inspired a ton of confidence.
  3. Oregon State dropped its second consecutive overtime game Thursday night, losing to Arizona in 15 less minutes than they required on Saturday night. Does that qualify as progress? The game was marred somewhat by a little scuffle late in the overtime period, following a fast break layup by Kyle Fogg that put the Wildcats up six, during which Fogg drew the fourth foul on OSU guard Jared Cunningham. Following the play, Fogg started yapping at Cunningham, which drew a shove in retaliation. From there, the Arizona bench came close to emptying, some Oregon State players came onto the court and there was some general pushing and shoving that resulted in Cunningham and Fogg both earning technical fouls – the fifth personals for each – and Kyryl Natyazkho and Joe Burton being ejected for leaving their benches. While the whole thing was stupid and immature, special demerits go to Fogg and teammate Solomon Hill, upperclassmen who are supposed to be the leaders of this Wildcat team, both of whom acted like anything but leaders. Lost in all that was Arizona freshman Nick Johnson breaking out of a mini-slump by hitting three threes on his way to 19 points in a complete performance that included a offensive rebound slam just before the dustup. Cunningham was also big for the Beavs, scoring 22 points, but it was Ahmad Starks who caught fire at the end of regulation, scoring seven points on three straight possessions, preceded by a beautiful strip of Hill on a fastbreak, to get Oregon State into overtime. Nevertheless, the Beavers fall to 1-4 in conference play, while the Wildcats keep pace with Stanford, Cal, Colorado, and Washington atop the conference with just one loss.
  4. Lastly, Oregon scored the lone road victory of the night in the conference, going into Arizona State and coming out with a workmanlike nine-point win. Just looking at the stat sheet, this was an incredibly tight game in a lot of areas, but it again came down to the fact that the Sun Devils just don’t have a point guard able to run this team effectively. Junior guard Trent Lockett did his best playing out of position, scoring 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and handing out five assists, but he turned it over seven times and Arizona State turned it over 16 times as a unit, while forcing just eight turnovers by the Ducks. Oregon was led by senior Devoe Joseph who had 15 points, three threes, four steals, and four assists.
  5. Looking ahead to the weekend, we have a couple of big rivalry games on Sunday, including Washington hosting Washington State. Last year, the Cougs swept the season series in a couple of games that weren’t really that close. This year, however, the Washington State defense has been particularly bad, in part due to the premature losses of interior presence DeAngelo Casto and underrated perimeter defender Klay Thompson. Given that the Husky defense hasn’t been much to write home about either, we could be in for quite the shootout in the hardwood version of the Apple Cup.
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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Colorado at California

Posted by AMurawa on January 12th, 2012

Colorado at California, January 12, 8:oo PM, Comcast Sports Network – California

The Buffaloes are alone in first place in the Pac-12, after opening conference play with three consecutive home wins, but they’re yet to really earn any believers. They’ve certainly got a chance to fill up their bandwagon this weekend, as they make this year’s toughest road trip in the conference when they head to California Thursday night and Stanford on Saturday afternoon. By the end of the weekend, we should have a good idea whether Colorado deserves mention among the top teams in the conference, or whether this is a team that is still a year away from being taking seriously over the long haul.

In Tad Boyle’s first year as the head coach in Boulder, the Buffaloes opened Big 12 play with three straight wins, including an eye-opening road win at Kansas State, the Wildcats’ only home loss of the year. However, they then proceeded to lose their next four games, including three disappointing road losses against the dregs of the conference, going a long way towards sealing that team’s Selection Sunday fate and an NIT bid. Gone from that squad are the team’s four most prolific offensive players, including NBA lottery pick Alec Burks.

Tad Boyle, Colorado

Tad Boyle Has Colorado Out To A 3-0 Start In Conference Play For The Second Consecutive Year (photo credit: Getty Images)

But similar to last year, this vintage of the Buffaloes again has four players who are scoring in double figures (although none are approaching the 20 PPG Burks averaged last year) and five different players have led the team in scoring in at least one game. Last weekend it was senior wing Carlon Brown leading the way, averaging 23 points per game in a weekend sweep of the Washington schools, but freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie had been featured strongly, scoring in double figures in nine straight games before laying an egg against Washington State. Then there’s manchild Andre Roberson, a 6’7” sophomore forward who is arguably the most athletic player in the Pac-12 and certainly its best rebounder; he has already posted nine double-doubles on the season after posting five in his freshman season. Throw in steady senior forward Austin Dufault, who you can seemingly pencil in for ten points a night, and you’ve got a solid four-man core that has played well throughout the season. The other guard spot is a bit of a concern, as senior Nate Tomlinson, a 43.8% three-point shooter in his first three years in Boulder, is struggling with his shot this season, hitting just 32.7% from deep and having made just two of his last 14 out there. Freshman guard Askia Booker also earns plenty of playing time (he’s the only reserve getting more than 50% of CU’s minutes), and he’s an athletic ball of energy who can provide a scoring punch off the bench, but he needs to dial back his aggressiveness a bit until he cleans up his jumper and begins to take better care of the ball.

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