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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Pac-12 Morning Five: 03.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 16th, 2012

  1. With California’s defeat in the First Four on Wednesday night, Colorado is left alone to carry the flag for the Pac-12 conference in the NCAA Tournament. And they made a fine showing on Thursday night, roaring out to a 20-point second half lead over UNLV before letting off the gas, and allowing the Rebels back into the game. But, the Buffaloes were able to cobble things back together, sparked by a great block from Andre Roberson that turned into a Carlon Brown slam on the other end. At the end of the regular season, the Buffs were in a do-or-die scenario, needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament to advance even this far. But, it is clear now, as they ride a five-game winning streak that “do” was the choice the team made.
  2. In the wake of California’s loss to South Florida, there is a feeling of disappointment around the Golden Bear program. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, they were tied for first in the Pac-12 conference and seemed to be on the road to a special season. Instead, they lost four of their last five, capped by a terrible performance against the Bulls. Now seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp move on, while head coach Mike Montgomery is, apparently, left to rebuild around guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs. But with every season the 65-year-old head coach wraps up, there is some question as to whether he’s nearing the end. Thus far, there are  no indications that he’s planning a retirement party in the immediate future, but, especially after October’s bladder cancer scare, there is the chance that at any time, Montgomery could be ready to move on.
  3. One of the defenses of Johnny Dawkins’ poor showing in his time at Stanford is that he inherited a bare cupboard when he took the program over from Trent Johnson. But Jon Wilner sees through that claim and shoots it down, noting that Dawkins’ first roster included two all-conference honorable mention selections from the previous year (Anthony Goods and Mitch Johnson), an all-conference first-team member from two years previous (Lawrence Hill) and junior forward Landry Fields who was about to turn into an NBA-caliber player. Now, of course Dawkins should get some credit for Fields’ development, but the fact is there was enough talent on the Cardinal roster to finish higher than the ninth-place slot they wound up in.
  4. Utah’s offseason is off to a pretty good start, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak got his first oral commitment from a 2013 recruit on Thursday, from 6’3” point guard Julian Jacobs. With freshman Kareem Storey having taken over the lead guard role in the wake of Josh Watkins’ dismissal this year, he may have the edge on Jacobs when the newcomer arrives, but as Krystkowiak learned this season, you can never have too many point guards.
  5. Arizona State is another program that needs and influx of talent. And while they’ve got some Division I recruits (Bo Barnes and Evan Gordon) that will be eligible next year and freshman point guard Jahii Carson finally able to kick start his career in Tempe, head coach Herb Sendek is spending his NCAA Tournament time hitting the road in search of additional help.
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Rushed Reaction: #11 Colorado 68, #6 UNLV 64

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Outworked. For roughly the first 30 minutes of this game, Colorado was the significantly better team. They were killing UNLV on the glass (and wound up recording a 75.5 OR% and a 30 DR%) and blistering them from the field in building the lead as high as 20. Colorado was beating the Rebels to every loose ball, running crisp offense and defending like crazy, rapidly turning a highly anticipated game into a blowout.
  2. Bounceback. But, the Rebels didn’t give up and mounted a furious comeback, getting within two after a 26-8 run. They turned on a full-court press which gave CU all sorts of trouble (the Buffs turned it over 14 times in the second half on the way to 23 for the game), did a better job of attacking the hoop and even saw some three-pointers fall. Part of the reason for the turnaround seemed to be that the Buffaloes felt they had the game in the bag and let off the gas a little bit and it took them a while to right the ship. But when Andre Roberson blocked an Anthony Marshall shot, collected the loose ball and fired a Kevin Love-esque full-court pass to Carlon Brown for a dunk, the Buffs had their mojo going again and finished off the game from there.
  3. Main Matchup. Roberson and Mike Moser are similar players and coming into the game, their matchup was the primary individual matchup to keep an eye on. While Moser may be the name more known nationally, Roberson’s team not only won the war, but he won the battle. While Moser’s ten points and nine rebounds look okay, they came along with inefficient offense and despite the fact that Roberson, who wound up with 12 points and 16 rebounds, beat Moser to loose balls time and time again

Star of the GameAndre Roberson. He was spectacular at the start, a major cog in the Buffs building up their early lead and he was instrumental in getting the Buffs back rolling again after they stalled out. While plenty of players made major contributions for CU, they’re heading back to Boulder if not for Roberson.

Sights & Sounds. After a stellar showing at the Pac-12 Tournament last weekend, the Colorado student section did it again tonight, turning out a big crowd and making The Pit a home floor for their Buffaloes. Apparently the CU athletic department put together an offer too good to be refused, offering students transportation to the game, a ticket and lodging all for $50 a person. If it helped earn the Buffs an extra game in the NCAA Tournament, it was a great deal for CU.

Wildcard. Askia Booker was a sparkplug for the Buffaloes off the bench in the first half, scoring 12 spectacular points in 11 minutes (on his way to 16 points on the game) and providing several plays that helped staunch a building sense of Rebel momentum.

Quotable. Brown on Booker’s statement that he is surprised at his success in his freshman year: “Can I say something to that?  He’s not surprised.  He just told you a nice lie because earlier when we were in the room he said, “Man, as long as Colorado got me, we’re going to win.”  So he’s very confident in himself.  We’re glad he’s confident.  He played a great game today, and glad to have him.”

What’s Next? Colorado faces Baylor Saturday evening, hoping to extend their season-high winning streak to six games and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Roberson will get another chance to add to his credentials when he matches up with the talented Baylor frontline.

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Pac-12 Who’s Going Where

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 13th, 2012

Here’s a look at each Pac-12 team’s postseason capsule, by order of each team’s tip-off. Enjoy!


Who, When, Where: vs. LSU (18-14) in Eugene, Oregon, NIT First Round, 3/13, 6:30 PM PDT, ESPN

First Up: What the Tigers lack in scoring they make up in rebounds and points in the paint. LSU averages 37 RPG and they are led by big men Justin Hamilton and Storm Warren. What makes the Tigers dangerous is their ability to adapt to a certain style. They will play at the pace you want the game at, and then beat you with your own style.

Best Case Scenario: With the way Oregon has been playing of late (Pac-12 Tournament notwithstanding), the Ducks can easily make a run in this tournament. With players like Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim that are able to create and knock down their own shots, Oregon should be able to beat LSU in the first round. After that things get much more tough, but I can’t see the Ducks losing a “best case scenario” game until they would likely meet either Seton Hall or Arizona in the championship.

Worst Case Scenario: Even if the Ducks do not play well against the Tigers, home-court advantage should pull them through to the next round. However, they would likely have to travel to Dayton in the second round, and the Flyers pose matchup problems all over the court for Oregon. Expect an Oregon-Dayton matchup to be much like last Thursday’s Colorado-Oregon game. The Flyers stingy defense and potent offense should build a large lead early on against the Ducks, and while Oregon battles to cut the deficit to three with four minutes left, it is never able to come all the way back after a long road trip and an emotinal comeback drians all of its energy.

Devoe Joseph's offensive prowess has the Ducks dreaming of a trip to Madison Square Garden. (credit:Jayne Kamin)

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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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