Celebrating Colorado Seniors Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-Tunks

Posted by PBaruh on March 9th, 2013

This week the Pac-12 microsite is celebrating many of the seniors around the league. Today: Colorado’s Sabatino Chen and Shane Harris-Tunks.

Sabatino Chen 

When Sabatino Chen transferred from Denver to Colorado, there was no excitement. He wasn’t Carlon Brown. He was the local kid down the road in Louisville who averaged a minuscule 2.5 points per game in his time there. But Chen transferred to Colorado at an opportune time as Tad Boyle created a new brand of basketball and was open to letting anyone who was willing to work hard play for him. Chen was at best, however, expected to be a role player for the Buffs.

Sabatino Chen has improved immensely in his senior year

Sabatino Chen has improved immensely in his senior year. (Daily Wildcat)

Chen averaged only nine minutes per game in his first season in Boulder, yet he brought everything that didn’t show up in the box score. He was the guy everyone hated if he wasn’t on your team. He was a defensive pest, tirelessly diving for loose balls. Offensively, he struggled. He’d cross over from right to left and try to get up a left-handed layup where it would seemingly always get blocked; or spin in the lane and throw up an out of control attempt. Nonetheless, Chen continued to work hard and prepared for his senior year.

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What We Learned Last Week in the Pac-12

Posted by PBaruh on January 8th, 2013

The first week of Pac-12 conference play wrapped up on Sunday and here are some takeaways from the first two games of action for each team.

Coming into conference play, it seemed like third place would come down to Colorado and Oregon. After their performance in Corvallis against Oregon State, the Ducks are unquestionably the third best team in the conference and have a legitimate shot to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. Dana Altman‘s team went on the road and outplayed a good Oregon State team for 40 minutes and did all of this with its freshman backcourt leading the way, most notably with the performance of Damyean Dotson, who scored a career high 21 points and also added six rebounds. A pressing question for the Ducks heading into the conference season was whether E.J. Singler would break out out of his season-long slump. He certainly looked liked the player that helped the Ducks tremendously last year against the Beavers as he had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three steals in 37 minutes. Singler is still averaging only 10.2 points per game after averaging 13.7 last year, but 15 points was Singler’s second highest scoring total on the season and could prove that the senior is ready to turn his season around. As of now, it looks like Arizona and UCLA are still the top two teams in the conference, but the Oregon Ducks are looming just behind them.

Damyean Dotson led the way for the Oregon on Sunday against Oregon State and the Ducks seem to be the third best team in the Pac-12 right now.

Damyean Dotson led the way for the Oregon on Sunday against Oregon State and the Ducks seem to be the third best team in the Pac-12 right now.

Andrew Murawa mentioned this yesterday, but it bears repeating: Colorado needs to get more production out of its bench this year. But after viewing the first week of conference play, it just might not happen. There are fixable problems on this Colorado team like their horrid free throw shooting and too many turnovers, but the bench is another story. Besides Xavier Johnson, who has had major problems with foul trouble thus far, Tad Boyle doesn’t have anyone else available whom he feels he can go to on his bench. Shane Harris-Tunks, the only true big man among the reserves, has been used sparingly, registering only 8.7 minutes per game and only 1.6 rebounds per game despite his 6’11” stature. Freshmen guards Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton have looked scared whenever they have played a team with physical guards, and, besides the occasional three from Stalzer, neither has shown an ability to score, averaging a combined 3.3 points per game on the year.

Having no bench would be a problem for any team but it could turn into a bigger problem for the Buffaloes if  they continue to get inefficient shooting nights from Askia Booker. Booker has taken 58 more shots than anyone on the team this year and is also shooting at the worst clip out of all the starters at 41 percent from the field. Boyle had a similar situation last year with leading scorer Carlon Brown, a player who struggled mightily near the end of conference play. However, the head coach was able to replace him with, ironically, sixth man Askia Booker. This year, Boyle simply does not have that option. If Colorado wants to stay near the top of the conference throughout the rest of the season, Boyle might not have any other choice than to play his normal starting lineup and Xavier Johnson for almost the entire game. It doesn’t seem like the ideal situation, but at this point, a fatigued yet talented starting five might be better than a bench that simply cannot compete with most teams in the Pac-12.

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Evaluating Colorado’s Lost Weekend in the Grand Canyon State

Posted by AMurawa on January 7th, 2013

Just looking at the way the schedule set up, one way or the other, Colorado was going to have problems with Arizona State on Sunday. Even in some alternate universe where the Buffaloes remained strong down the stretch on Thursday night, took care of the ball and hit some free throws on their way to a double-figure win over Arizona, you just knew they were going to have a tough time with the back end of their Arizona road trip after looking ahead to that conference opener since the schedule was announced.

And yet, at the under-12 media timeout, the Buffaloes were up 17-4 and cruising. But, here’s where the insidious hangover effect kicked in. Rather than take out all their pent-up frustration over Thursday night’s controversial loss to Arizona, CU eased up just slightly, Arizona State got a couple of easy baskets, and the momentum for the rest of the evening shifted, never to return. After hitting eight of their first 14 attempts from the field, the Buffaloes hit less than 30% of their shots the rest of the night, including just 1-of-17 from beyond the arc. Even worse, while their opponent started 2-of-12 from the field with five turnovers in their first 15 possessions, they had just five turnovers in their last 48 possessions and hit better than 50% of their field goals the rest of the way — in part because Colorado’s defensive intensity left for an early flight back to Boulder. As Spencer Dinwiddie put it, “As a group, we stopped playing defense and stopped rebounding.” And so the Buffaloes return home from a weekend in Arizona with nothing to show for their efforts.

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado

Despite An 0-2 Start In Conference Play, All Is Not Lost For Colorado (Daily Camera)

Where to go from here? Well, the good news is they’ll be back in the friendly confines of Coors Event Center next week, as they host the Los Angeles schools, and they’ve won 41 of their last 45 games there; that stat alone indicates that nothing will heal up this Buffs team like some good old-fashioned home cooking. But, there are some deeper, long-term concerns for this team. First if not foremost is that pesky free-throw shooting thing. Back in November, the Buffaloes did their best to give away the title game of the Charleston Classic to Baylor, missing five of their last six free throws (and 15-of-19 on the day) and displaying plenty of iffy decisions in the final couple of minutes before eventually holding on for the good win. But that situation, and the fact that the team as a whole is shooting just 65.9% from the charity stripe on the year (good for 252nd in the nation) indicated that there would be problems in the future. With key figures like Andre Roberson and Xavier Johnson flirting with the 50% mark from the stripe, and with secondary ball-handler Askia Booker not much better at 64%, this doesn’t seem like a problem that is going to go away any time soon.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Colorado vs. Dayton

Posted by KDanna on November 15th, 2012

The non-conference tournaments get under way in earnest this week, and our Pac-12 microsite game of the week takes us to South Carolina for the Charleston Classic, where Colorado will play Dayton in a first round game Thursday afternoon.

Why It’s Important: Get used to this phrase for the next couple of moments, but this is the ultimate RPI boost game for Colorado. Take a look at the bracket for this tournament: If Colorado wins, it will most likely face some two-game combination of Baylor, St. John’s and Murray State. If Colorado loses, then likely dates with Boston College, Charleston and Auburn are on the ledger. Notice the difference in level of competition? Again, the Pac-12, more than any conference, needs as many opportunities to play high-RPI teams as it can get. Going 1-2 in Charleston with a win over Dayton and losses to Baylor and either St. John’s or Murray State is a whole lot better than going 2-1 with a loss to Dayton and wins over Boston College and Charleston or Auburn. Last year, the Buffaloes went 1-2 in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but that win didn’t come until the seventh place game in which they beat Western Michigan after losing to Wichita State and Maryland.

Colorado Player to Watch- André Roberson: An obvious choice, but maybe not for a reason that would be considered obvious going into the season. The only player to average a double-double in the Pac-12 last year, Roberson struggled in the season-opening victory against Wofford, scoring just seven points to go along with six rebounds on 2-8 shooting from the field. After the fact, Roberson agreed with Tad Boyle’s assessment that he didn’t play with enough energy. Never a good thing to hear after the first game of the season, and Roberson can ill afford to give a subpar effort against an Atlantic 10 team that is more than capable of beating the Buffs.

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Pac-12 Season Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

Posted by PBaruh on October 8th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release are the Colorado Buffaloes.

Strengths: Tad Boyle is starting to build up quite a reputation in Boulder. In his two years at Colorado, he’s gone 32-4 at the Coors Event Center and after being snubbed from the NCAA Tournament in his first year, he proceeded to win the Pac-12 Tournament and upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year. Boyle has a system that relies on getting out in transition while playing great team defense, and everyone on this team fits that mold.

From a roster standpoint, a returning trio of Andre Roberson, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Askia Booker will certainly help the Buffaloes try to overcome their lack of experience. The core of this team is very strong; Booker and Dinwiddie provide quickness, power, and efficient shooting while incoming freshman Josh Scott should present a good complement to Roberson with his rebounding ability. The biggest strength in the starting five is Roberson, as he averaged a double-double last year and continues to improve in every facet of the game. There is no one better than him defensively in the post in the Pac-12 and his rebounding skills are hard to match.

Andre Roberson is a candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year. (AP)

Weaknesses: It’s safe to say this team is very young. There are no impact seniors and only one impact junior. Consequently, the youth of this team could very well affect its depth. However, when you take a look at last year’s team, the same things were said and look where the Buffs ended up. Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson, two projected starters, are incoming freshmen and will be expected to make an impact immediately. Although college basketball is a sport where freshmen can be influential right away with the most ease, it’s no sure thing. The bench of this team is still very much in question. Sabatino Chen can shoot the ball well when open and Jeremy Adams can get a bucket here and there, but the bench’s ineptitude is going to hurt the Buffaloes early on until someone proves they can contribute. The depth and youth of this team will determine how successful the Buffaloes will be this year.

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Colorado Week: Q&A With The Ralphie Report

Posted by AMurawa on July 27th, 2012

As part of our Colorado week, we wanted to reach out to the guys at The Ralphie Report for their takes on the upcoming Buffalo basketball season. Parker Baruh was kind enough to spend some time with us and give us his thoughts.

Rush The Court: In two years at Colorado, Tad Boyle has once taken his team to the verge of the NCAA Tournament, then broken through last year, even scoring a win. Along the way, the basketball team has garnered unprecedented fan support from the students. Is this the start of something special in the CU basketball program?

Ralphie Report: If Tad Boyle remains at Colorado for years to come, this is the start of something special in the CU basketball program. When Boyle was hired, Larry Brown said Boyle had the same qualities as Gregg Popovich, John Calipari and other great coaches that he has worked with. Ever since Boyle has been at Colorado, he has proved that. His first recruit, Andre Roberson, is going to play in the NBA. The guy is a nonstop worker and preaches team basketball and more importantly, team defense. In two years, he has changed an entire program that used to be only known for having Chauncey Billups. The Colorado basketball program will continue to improve and be an elite program in the future because of Tad Boyle.


The Success Of Colorado Basketball Under Head Coach Tad Boyle Has Given Buffalo Fans A Lot To Cheer For

RTC: You began your answer with “If Tad Boyle remains at Colorado.” Last offseason Boyle was briefly tied to the open Kansas State job and appears to be a rising prospect. What are the odds that Boyle will be around in Boulder in two years? In five years? And, if CU is just a temporary stop, what are the odds that the momentum he has helped begin can continue if he leaves?

RR: It’s difficult to evaluate Tad Boyle and whether he not he will ever leave Colorado. He say it’s his “dream job” and the way he talks about Colorado makes it seem like he really doesn’t ever want to leave, yet if a top school wants him with a little more history and prestige than Colorado, I don’t know if this still will be his “dream job.” If CU is a temporary stop for Boyle, the momentum would continue because of the fan support and Boyle’s recruits would still be at CU, but the environment would be so much different. Boyle brings so much energy and confidence to this program that it would be very hard to replace. However, Colorado fans shouldn’t worry too much because top jobs don’t become available too often; the only place he seems like he would go would be Kansas, and that doesn’t look like its opening up anytime soon. Other than that, it’s just hard to see him leaving. So, yes, the odds are good he’ll be around in two years and in five. Ultimately, Colorado fans are lucky to have Tad Boyle and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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Colorado Week: One-On-One With Shane Harris-Tunks

Posted by AMurawa on July 25th, 2012

Shane Harris-Tunks came to Colorado in the same 2009 recruiting class that featured 2011 NBA Lottery Pick Alec Burks – and, he was actually more highly regarded than Burks. A true center from Australia, Harris-Tunks got his feet wet as a freshman earning double-digit minutes and earning a handful of starts. But, just prior to the start of the 2010-11 season, he tore his ACL in his left knee and missed the year. He came back last season and again played a part in the CU rotation, but now with big man Austin Dufault lost to graduation, Harris-Tunks has a chance to earn a bigger role for the Buffs. However, he’ll have to fight off incoming freshmen like Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson for time in the frontcourt. Rush the Court’s Andrew Murawa talked with him yesterday about his time in Boulder and his hopes for the upcoming season.

Andrew Murawa: Let’s start from the beginning. Coming from Australia, how did Colorado wind up with you on their radar and what convinced you that it was the college for you?

Shane Harris-Tunks: I played a lot of international basketball, so I played against a few American teams overseas with the junior Australian team so that went a long way towards getting me on their radar. And then, I guess out of all the schools that recruited me, I came and visited Boulder and loved it. And I was really impressed by the coaching staff that was here at this time [Jeff Bzdelik’s staff], so I wound up signing here at Colorado.

Shane Harris-Tunks, Colorado

With His ACL Injury Now In The Rearview Mirror, Shane Harris-Tunks Could Be In Line For A Bigger Role (Jake Schoellkopf/AP Photo)

AM: That was the previous staff that recruited you.

SHT: Yeah.

AM: How was the transition between coaching staffs?

HST: It was very smooth. The current coaching staff is very good. I have absolutely no complaints about them. I was obviously nervous about it as it was going on. Being from Australia, I’m not all that familiar with the college system, so when that started happening I wasn’t sure where I stood and how that was going to affect me. But once I figured all of that out, it was fine and it has been a really good transition. Coach Boyle has been great for the program.

AM: After getting some solid playing time as a freshman, you tore your ACL just prior to the 2010-11 season. How disappointing was that and what was the recovery process like?

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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: 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: 03.23.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on March 23rd, 2012

  1. After some speculation that Oregon head coach Dana Altman might be interested in returning to his Nebraska roots and taking the open Cornhusker position, it seems set in stone now that he will remain in Eugene. However, even after two seasons in which his teams have exceeded expectations, Duck fans may be beginning to get a little impatient. Already. Complaints include his inability to bring in big time recruits and, somewhat unbelievably, an inability to develop talent. Such is the culture of college basketball at this point that even coming into a program with cupboards completely barren, results are expected immediately and any disappointments are chalked up to some perceived failures with the head coach. To me, the fact that Altman had his team earn a postseason berth last year with that mishmash of a roster with nobody taller than 6’6” playing more than 50% of the team’s minutes was incredible and worthy of conference Coach of the Year consideration. And in fact this season, we gave him our Pac-12 COY for his work in the regular season. However, for some people, anything short of immediate deep runs into the NCAA Tournament is unacceptable. Of course, this seems like the same type of instant gratification mindset that led Altman’s top recruit Jabari Brown to leave the program after just two games.
  2. Across the conference at one of the newest Pac-12 schools, Colorado has no such disappointments with its head coach, Tad Boyle. After the team’s second consecutive 20-win season and an NCAA Tournament win, Boyle appears to have the Buffaloes on the fast track to success. In the first two parts of a series, The Ralphie Report pays respect to the seniors who have used up their eligibility, while looking ahead to the future of the program. Starting with a core of Andre Roberson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, there are some good pieces returning for Colorado. Shane Harris-Tunks made big strides down the stretch this year after missing last season with a torn ACL. He’s still got two years of eligibility remaining and he could possibly turn into a very solid Pac-12 big man. Elsewhere, Sabatino Chen and Jeremy Adams return, while there is some talk that Shannon Sharpe and Ben Mills, two little-used players, could transfer out of the program. With a strong freshman class coming in (which will be the topic of part three of that series), fresh minutes for Mills and Sharpe could be hard to come by.
  3. At Arizona, there’s time to pay respect to senior guard Kyle Fogg as his eligibility in the desert has expired. A key player in the transition from the Lute Olson era to the Sean Miller era, Fogg goes down in the Arizona record books as an unlikely figure among other more widely recognized Wildcat greats. But now, going forward, this program is truly Sean Miller’s with all of the key components in Tucson as a result of the new head coach.
  4. As part of the Utah plan to rebuild its program from the depths of a 6-25 season, the team will be heading on an international trip in August, with either a tour of France and Italy or a trip to Brazil still in the planning stages. NCAA rules allow schools to make such a trip once every four years and with the Utes expecting to break in a heap of new players next season, including transfer from Southern Utah Dallin Bachynski (brother of ASU center Jordan Bachynski), returning LDS missionary Jeremy Olsen and three high school seniors, the trip will serve as a chance for the team and head coach Larry Krystkowiak to get in ten extra practices, as many as seven games and a bunch of time bonding as a team.
  5. Lastly, back on the hunt for clues as to Shabazz Muhammad’s mindset, the father of incoming UCLA recruit Kyle Anderson says that he expects Muhammad to pick UCLA, if only because his parent are from Los Angeles and they might want to get back there. The elder Anderson admits that he has no inside information and is just throwing out opinions, but even with the problems in the Bruin program lately, it still appears that UCLA has been the choice all along for Muhammad.
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