Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Colorado

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 29th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Colorado.

What Went Wrong

On the morning of Sunday, January 12, Colorado was getting ready to play Washington in its fourth Pac-12 conference game. Up to that point, the Buffaloes had gone 14-2 on the season, won all three of their previous conference games, and were rated 31st in KenPom, down a bit from their season high of 28th (following their non-conference finale against Georgia). And then, late in the first half against the Huskies, junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie took a false step on a fast break, his left knee buckled, and everyone’s worst fears were confirmed as a torn ACL was later verified. The Buffaloes went on to lose four of their next five games, and posted a middling 9-10 record the rest of the way, stumbling ever-steadily to a KenPom low of #68 by the end of the year. Tad Boyle and company could never truly recover from the loss of their best player and team leader.

Colorado Was Never The Same After "The Mayor" Went Down With An Injury

Colorado Was Never The Same After “The Mayor” Went Down With An Injury

What Went Right

Following the loss of Dinwiddie, the team did its best to rally together, with junior guard Askia Booker in particular deserving extra praise. Booker had been known as  an inveterate gunner who had never seen a shot he didn’t like with Dinwiddie alongside him. But down the stretch of the season, Booker took over the bulk of the point guard duties and played the part of good teammate, looking to get everybody involved. Sure, he wasn’t always particularly effective in that new role, but the Buffs fought the good fight the rest of the season with him in the lead.

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Previewing #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh

Posted by Matt Patton & Andrew Murawa on March 20th, 2014

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Pittsburgh will take on Colorado in Orlando at 1:40 PM ET Thursday afternoon on TBS. RTC correspondents Matt Patton and Andrew Murawa sat down and conducted a quick Q&A about the game featuring ACC vs. Pac-12 squads.

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable especially on offense. (credit: David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Without Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado seems vulnerable, especially on offense. (David Zalubowski, AP Photo)

Matt: Obviously Colorado took a step backwards when it lost Spencer Dinwiddie in January. How have the Buffaloes replaced his offensive production, and is their seed inflated because of what they did with Dinwiddie earlier in the season?

Andrew: The biggest adjustment that Colorado has made to adjust following the Dinwiddie injury was to slide junior Askia Booker – previously known as an inveterate gunner – over to the point guard slot. Since that time, the number of shots per game out of Booker hasn’t changed much (only twice in the 17 games since the Dinwiddie injury has Booker hoisted fewer than 10 field goal attempts), but the quality of those shots has improved and it has been balanced by an obvious interest in getting his teammates involved. Other guys like Xavier Talton and Jaron Hopkins have seen their minutes and production increase as well, but both have been fairly inconsistent. All of this leads to the fact that while it has been admirable how the Buffaloes have held it together after the loss of their floor general, this team isn’t much of a threat to surprise in the NCAA Tournament, and the #8 seed is a generous appraisal of the team that will take the floor on Thursday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Weekend Round-Up: Arizona, Justin Cobbs, Hallice Cooke and More…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 3rd, 2014

What a great sports weekend, am I right? There were 10 Pac-12 basketball games since last Wednesday and eight of them were decided by two possessions or fewer. The #1 team in the nation went down. Outside of the Pac-12, the #2 team survived by the skin of its teeth in overtime. Wichita State and San Diego State continued highly successful (and improbable) seasons. I’m sure there were even some sporting events that didn’t involve basketball, too. Maybe. But before we let the weekend get behind us, let’s spend some time to look back at several of the important things we learned in this week of Pac-12 basketball. Because if you hold a blink a beat too long, the next time you open your eyes, we’re going to be in the middle of conference tournaments. Yes, this season is getting away from us. It’s now February, and every conference school has finished half of its conference slate. And despite all that, we’ve still got more questions than ever.

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

Brandon Ashley Is Done For the Year, But Arizona Still Has Plenty Of Talent (Casey Sapio, USA Today)

  • First, Arizona. The Wildcats took their first loss on Saturday night to Cal (and in the process assured that the 1972-73 UCLA squad will remain the last team to go through conference play without a loss), then took an even worse loss on Sunday when it was confirmed that sophomore power forward Brandon Ashley is done for the season with a broken foot. That doesn’t make things any rosier for the Wildcats’ long-term outlook, but there were more than a handful of things from Saturday night’s game that should give Arizona fans plenty of hope. First, as much as junior point guard T.J. McConnell has earned props for his ability to run an offense, contribute defensively and just intangible his way into Arizona fans’ hearts, he hadn’t displayed much of an ability to help out by putting the ball through the hoop. But in a couple of close recent games, he averaged 12 points per night and showed a willingness to get his own when it was appropriate. Hopefully fans across the nation are starting to see just how good this guy is. He’s like Aaron Craft-lite with perhaps a bit more offense. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Thoughts: On Jahii Carson, Colorado Without Dinwiddie and Richard Solomon…

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 20th, 2014

Here are some notes from around the Pac-12, coming out of another busy weekend.

Jahii Carson (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Jahii Carson is Slumping Right Now (Jeff Gross, Getty Images)

Arizona State is off to a 2-3 start in conference play. It is not ideal, but then again, the Sun Devils have played three road games and two at home, so that record is not terrible. And given that Herb Sendek’s team probably plays the toughest opponents in the unbalanced schedule (along with traveling partner Arizona, Arizona State is the lucky team that only gets to play Washington, Washington State and USC once), they’ll probably be just fine if they get to 9-9 in conference play, because that means they’ll have some quality wins under their belt. But. All of that being said, the elephant in the room right now is Jahii Carson, who is definitely slumping. He hasn’t hit better than 50 percent from the field in a game in over a month. He’s turning the ball over; he’s generally not making his teammates better; and most disturbingly, he’s not scoring and seemingly not as explosive. We pointed to these trends before, but it is clear that as Carson goes, so go the Sun Devils. Need proof? Check out the numbers below:

carsonstats2Need an explanation? Let’s not beat around the bush. Carson has been awful in Arizona State’s five losses. And Carson is not an awful player; in fact he’s very, very good. In order for the Sun Devils to take the next step, however, and get into the NCAA Tournament, Carson needs to up his game and be the type of consistent performer he was as a freshman. Carson toyed around with the idea of leaving for the NBA Draft last season, but he returned to Tempe with the hope of tightening up his jumper and proving his NBA credentials. Unfortunately for his prospects and team, a sophomore slump has left more questions than answers.

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Spencer Dinwiddie’s Injury Totally Sucks: How Colorado Can Save Its Season

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 15th, 2014

Ever since Spencer Dinwiddie went down in a heap late in the first half Sunday afternoon and had to be carried by teammates from the floor; ever since we saw the normally stoic veteran guard team leader in tears; ever since head coach Tad Boyle confirmed our instinct to be very concerned by saying this was probably “not good”; we’ve all been careful to avoid speculation. We’ve seen before when injuries looked real bad at the time, but then upon closer inspection were not quite as horrible as feared. Still, in the back of our minds lingered three dreaded letters that we tried not to think, much less say, or write. Unfortunately on Monday Colorado’s worst fears were confirmed with those three letters: ACL. Done for the year. Surgery coming soon. Grueling minutes and hours and days and weeks and months of rehabilitation ahead. Unkind. Unfair. And plenty of well-deserved other curses that you’ll just have to imagine.

Spencer Dinwiddie's ACL Injury Puts Him Out For The Season (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie’s ACL Injury Puts Him Out For The Season (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

This sucks, to use a technical term. It sucks when it happens to anyone. It sucks when it happens to some scrub down at the local gym having fun on the weekend. It sucks when it happens to Jernard Jarreau two minutes into the season. It sucks when it happens to Andy Brown four times before the young man is even 23 years old. And it sucks when it happens to a guy like Dinwiddie at the top of his game, a key player that his Colorado team has come to rely on, a guy who seemed to have an NBA future waiting as early as next season. That NBA future still awaits, as Dinwiddie is a gifted, skilled, hard-working and intelligent athlete who will no doubt put in the requisite blood, sweat and tears to come back from this fate, but damn, this still sucks.

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Takeaways From the Pac-12′s Weekend Games

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

It was a busy Pac-12 weekend around the conference. Here are some thoughts on each of the weekend’s five games.

Colorado 100, Oregon 91

  • It was a game that largely lived up to the hype, with both teams looking good for long stretches. But over the last 10 minutes of the game, it was – get this – Colorado’s guard play that was the deciding factor in the game. It was supposed to be the undefeated Ducks with the bevy of play-making guards that had the advantage on the perimeter, while the Buffaloes were going to need to take advantage of a weak Oregon frontcourt in order to win this game at home. Instead, over the final quarter of the game, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 25 of Colorado’s 39 points, sophomore guard Xavier Talton chipped in six more, and Jaron Hopkins was the guy to get everything started with a three off a Dinwiddie dime. All told, the five Colorado guards outscored Oregon’s by a total of 66-52.

    Askia Booker, Colorado

    Big Game Askia? Who Knew? (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

  • Meanwhile up front the Ducks were just okay against that tough Colorado frontcourt. On the offensive end, they were great, grabbing better than 41 percent of their own misses and getting a terrific 24-point performance out of Mike Moser. But the bigger concern is their ability to defend on the interior, and here they were exposed a bit, allowing Colorado to grab better than 46 percent of their misses, leading to lots of easy putbacks for the Buffs. Oregon’s guards are going to keep them in a lot of games, but they need to clean up their frontcourt issues in order to reach their potential.
  • For some of the surprises in this game, the most expected angle proved completely true: Colorado is going to be really, really tough at home. With a strong seven-man rotation plus a couple other guys ready to provide spot minutes, the Buffs are deep, athletic, big, strong and – most importantly – good. And the Coors Events Center is a great homecourt advatange. KenPom.com has the Buffs expected to win their next six games at home by an average of just under 10 points per game, but that only takes us to February 22 when they’ll host Arizona in their last home game of the season. Right now that KenPom projection is Arizona, 68-65, but in what could be Dinwiddie’s final home game, the early inclination is to lean Buffs. Not that trying to project a game seven weeks out is good practice.

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Is It Time for Colorado Fans to Panic?

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013

Prior to the start of the season, Colorado was considered one of maybe three teams in the Pac-12 that was expected to be in the chase to pressure Arizona for a Pac-12 title. Now here we are, four days and two games into the season and the Buffaloes so far have looked, well, not good. Against Baylor on Friday night, they combined to miss 19 of their 21 three-point attempts, they showed no ability to slow a very good Baylor offense, and they crashed back to earth in an ugly 12-point defeat. Sunday night, against a bad UT-Martin team, the Buffs wound up eventually running out to a 26-point win, but along the way, didn’t look a whole lot better. So, after a small two-game sample, should Colorado basketball fans start to panic?

Well, we’re not going to go that far, but, we have spotted three areas for concern in those first three games:

Spencer Dinwiddie And The Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly (AP Photo)

Spencer Dinwiddie and the Buffaloes Have Started Out Slowly. (AP)

Where’s the Defense? Colorado isn’t missing many players from last season, but in terms of impact, losing Andre Roberson a year early to the NBA is huge. On the very, very short list of best defenders in the conference last season, he was not only capable of locking up his own man defensively, but of offering help defense to his teammates and grabbing what seemed like every rebound. Against Baylor, the Buffs did a fair job of rebounding, but there were plenty of times where they wound up way out of place on defense and allowed good looks, both in the paint and behind the arc. These issues continued against a far less potent UT-Martin team, especially in the first half. For now, let’s just agree to call this year’s defense a work in progress, at least during the period of adjustment, because there are plenty of reasons why Colorado has a chance to become a terrific defensive team. One thing this team does not lack is athletic depth. And, as they’ve already shown, outside of maybe the center spot, this is a team that can switch on everything. Wesley Gordon has already shown his ability to defend effectively on the perimeter, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are a proven defensive backcourt. And those youngsters — guys like Tre’Shaun Fletcher and George King and Jaron Hopkins? These guys need to dial up their consistency of effort, but there is a lot of defensive upside here. The Buffs will be fine defensively.

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Pac-12 Team Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on November 5th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings. 

Colorado Buffaloes

Strengths: While Colorado has a lot of strengths, its biggest may be balance. They’ve got a veteran backcourt featuring an all-conference point guard in Spencer Dinwiddie, but they’ve also got a frontcourt with size, athleticism and, perhaps most importantly, upside. Sophomores Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson are regarded as possible breakout players, while redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon is ready to get back into the swing of things after spending last year improving his body and his game. They’ve got guards that score in the paint and from deep and they’ve got frontcourt guys who can not only post up, but can step outside and knock down perimeter jumpers. This team has a lot of options.

Xavier Johnson Will Be Chief Among The Players Called On To Help Replace Andre Roberson's Production

Xavier Johnson Will Be Chief Among The Players Called On To Help Replace Andre Roberson’s Production.

Weaknesses: There are a few main concerns for Colorado. First, while Tad Boyle thinks he’s got enough frontcourt bodies to ease the transition away from the Andre Roberson era, there is no one guy who can do all the things that Roberson did. For instance, while Josh Scott was quite effective on the offensive glass last season, he’ll really need to step it up on the defensive end to make up for Roberson. And frankly, there is nobody with the defensive versatility that Roberson had; the Buffs will need to prove that they can defend as well without Roberson’s freak athleticism. Then there remains the concern that Askia Booker still hasn’t seen a shot he didn’t like and is far too inefficient an offensive force (31.2 percent from three and just 39.5 percent from inside the arc) to be monopolizing so many shot attempts (12.7 FGAs per game). With efficient scorers like Dinwiddie, Scott and, to a lesser extent, Johnson around, there are far better options than Booker hunting looks.

Non-Conference Tests: The Buffs open up on Friday with a tough battle against a talented Baylor team in Dallas, and that is just the first of three match-ups against former Big 12 rivals on their excellent non-conference slate; the other two come in December: a visit from Kansas followed by a neutral site game against Oklahoma State in Las Vegas. There are also three Mountain West teams on CU’s schedule: Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State. None of those teams are world-beaters, but they’ll all help the RPI numbers. Throw in a visit from a very good Harvard team, a visit from an Elon squad that is the favorite in the Southern Conference, and a visit from a middling SEC team in Georgia, and Boyle has put together arguably the best non-conference slate in the Pac-12. Put together a good record before the New Year and the Buffs will be prepped for a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 8th, 2012

  1. We’re back to do the Morning Five five days a week again, with an eye towards games tipping off just over a month from now. However, for many Pac-12 fans around the country, the question of how and where to watch many of the basketball games this season remains a big question mark. The Pac-12 Networks have been live for months now, but many television viewers, particularly customers of the nation’s largest satellite television provider, DirecTV, are still shut out. The conference and DirecTV have been going back and forth since late August over terms of a proposed deal, but with football season chugging along and basketball on its way, it appears likely that DirecTV is ready to be stubborn as long as necessary in the hopes that the Pac-12 caves. Jon Wilner is as good of a go-to guy as there is on this topic, and he not only sees through DirecTV’s fact-challenged statements and loaded proposals, but fully expects that any changes to the situation are not readily approaching. In other words, if you’re a Pac-12 basketball fan and you’ve still got DirecTV, it is time to explore other options.
  2. After Reggie Moore’s promising freshman season, it looked like Washington State was not going to skip a beat after the graduation of Taylor Rochestie. However, after lackluster sophomore and junior campaigns that failed to ever show serious improvement over his rookie year, Moore was dismissed from the Cougar basketball team, as we detailed a couple weeks back. To put a bow on Moore’s WSU career, the mercurial point guard sent a statement to columnist Vince Grippi at The Spokesman-Review, owning up to an unnamed “costly mistake” that led to his dismissal and apologizing to the university and its fans. He’s still in school working towards a degree, with eyes on a future in basketball at some level. These kinds of things always have that bittersweet feel to them. On one hand, you hate to see a collegiate career end like this, but on the other, given the fact that Moore has had some disciplinary problems during his time at Pullman, you hope he uses this event as a wake-up call to get his act together. He’s been a frustrating player to watch over the last couple of years, but at this point, I’m sure there are many Pac-12 fans, including this writer, who are hoping for Moore to make the best of a bad situation.
  3. Another veteran Pac-12 player’s senior season is over before it even began. In Thursday’s Morning Five we mentioned that 7’6” center David Foster of Utah reinjured the same foot that kept him out of action last year and will have to undergo surgery that will keep him on the sideline again this year. But, rather than disappear into the ether, on the sidelines is exactly where Foster will stay. Citing the strong chemistry between the largely new roster in Salt Lake City, Foster will sit on the bench during games and do whatever he can to help out the young team, albeit in a non-playing role. Foster still hopes to have his foot recover well enough so that Utah’s all-time lead in blocked shots can pursue a professional basketball career overseas.
  4. We’ll have a more comprehensive recruiting post later in the week, but we wanted to mention Tad Boyle’s latest signings at Colorado. After getting a commitment from 6’5” three-star wing Tre’Shaun Lexing at the end of September, last week Boyle got a commitment from 6’8” power forward Dustin Thomas out of Texarkana, Texas. Thomas is a four-star talent according to ESPN, a skilled big man capable of playing the pick and pop game or defending and rebounding inside. Along with guard Jaron Hopkins, these two make for a strong three-man class already for the Buffs, which is getting to be a habit for Boyle. Boyle credits the fact that he has been able to consistently send guys off from Boulder to play professionally as part of the reason for his recent success on the recruiting trail. With former Buff Alec Burks entering his second season in the NBA and with six of the seven graduating seniors over the last two years playing professionally somewhere (the lone non-pro is Trey Eckloff, who is pursuing a law degree), Boyle can certainly sell the fact that four years in Boulder preps basketball players for professional careers.
  5. Lastly, it was announced last week that former UCLA great Bill Walton has agreed to a book deal. The book will be named Back From the Dead, and knowing Walton’s history, not only in Westwood, but including his high school career in San Diego, his injury-riddled professional career including a tumultuous time in Portland and his off-the-court adventures in and around the counterculture, this is going to be a must-read. Pac-12 fans will get plenty of chances this season to reacquaint themselves with Walton, as he has agreed to work with both ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks in doing color commentary on Pac-12 games.
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