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 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!

Oregon

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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Gritty Ducks Bests Buffs In Critical Pac-12 Matchup

Posted by rtmsf on March 2nd, 2012

Kenny Ocker is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Oregon-Colorado game in Eugene on Thursday night.

With 14 minutes to go against Colorado in a make-or-break game for both teams, Oregon senior guard Garrett Sim got one lucky bounce. As he stood at the top of the key and the shot clock fell below 10 seconds, his team leading 48-47, a loose ball fortuitously found its way into Sim’s hands, and he stepped up and snapped the net on a three-pointer, giving the Ducks a four-point lead and fans at Matthew Knight Arena a reason to cheer when there was not much to cheer about before.

Garrett Sim and Oregon Earned The Coveted First Round Bye For The Pac-12 Tourney Next Week (The Register-Guard)

Sim’s teammates seized upon the momentum his three-pointer had provided, and play after play went in Oregon’s favor. Devoe Joseph, another senior guard, coaxed a steal from Colorado forward Shane Harris-Tunks and took the ball coast to coast for a difficult layup. Buffaloes guard Nate Tomlinson, a former Oregon recruit, then stepped on the baseline, giving the ball back to the Ducks for a Carlos Emory three-pointer. Colorado guard Askia Booker made three free throws on one possession, but Sim retorted with a three-pointer of his own and Emory capped the Ducks’ run with a three-point play. Two minutes later, what had been a one-point Oregon lead had ballooned to 12, and fell below six points for only five seconds for the rest of the game. “Those big shots, I think they mostly got the crowd into it and that’s what we fed off of,” said Sim, who finished with 19 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting.

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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 Power Rankings: Week 13

Posted by Connor Pelton on February 8th, 2012

Here’s a look at the power rankings that Drew and I have compiled after the 13th week of Pac-12 games:

1. California, 18-6 (8-3): Despite Washington taking the lead in the real Pac-12 standings, I still have the Golden Bears on top here for a couple of reasons. For one, the Golden Bears defeated the Huskies in Seattle earlier in the season, which is Washington’s only home conference loss to date. Secondly, despite having a better conference record, the Huskiesl have two fewer wins and an extra loss compared to Cal. Part of the reason for that are Washington’s bad nonconference losses to Nevada and South Dakota State. Up Next: 2/9 @ USC

2. Washington, 16-7 (9-2): The Huskies move up two spots after sweeping the LA schools at home. On Thursday night they came back from a ten-point deficit with just 6:02 remaining to defeat UCLA, 71-69. Things were a little easier (to say the least) on Saturday night when the Huskies were all over USC for a 69-41 win. Up Next: 2/9 @ Oregon

Tony Wroten, Jr. leads the Huskies with 16.7 PPG. (credit: Stephen Brashear)

3. Colorado, 16-7 (8-3): The Buffaloes couldn’t have asked for a better week. On Thursday they shot a lightning-hot 51% from the field to run Oregon State out of the Coors Event Center for a 82-60 victory. Saturday night things were much more dicey, with the Buffs escaping for a controversial one-point win over Oregon. The Buffs needed the sweep to stay in contention for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, and a split this weekend in Arizona is also crucial. Up Next: 2/9 @ Arizona

4. Oregon, 16-7 (7-4): The Ducks knew coming into the week that a sweep in the Rocky Mountains was unlikely, but they didn’t know just how close they would come. Trailing 71-69 with seven seconds left, Oregon forward Olu Ashaolu put in the game-tying layup and was fouled in the process. Ashaolu missed the free throw and Buffalo guard Nate Tomlinson took the ball all the way up the court. His layup to beat the buzzer appeared to not only be blocked cleanly by E.J. Singler, but came after the buzzer sounded as well. However, after reviewing the play, officials determined that the foul came before the clock reached triple-zeroes, giving Tomlinson a pair of free throws. He put home the first, missed the second intentionally, and Oregon was sent back to Eugene with a split on the trip. Up Next: 2/9 vs. Washington Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 6th, 2012

    1. Washington sits all alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings after completing a home sweep of the Los Angeles schools this weekend. After struggling in nonconference play, the Huskies now control their own fate in the league and have one of the easier remaining schedules in conference play. While they only have two of their remaining seven games at home, the combined conference record of their remaining opponents is just 33-44. It is interesting to note that the two teams directly behind them in the standings, California and Colorado, are in a similar boat, having to play five of their final seven games on the road as well. Washington has historically struggled on the road in recent years, but this year they are 3-1 away from home in conference play.
    2. Colorado is one of the teams lurking a game back of the Huskies, and they are there on the strength of a last-second victory over Oregon on Saturday night. The Buffaloes remained perfect at home in Pac-12 play when senior guard Nate Tomlinson, with the game tied and just four seconds remaining, took the ball the length of the floor and drew a block from Oregon junior E.J. Singler with just one second left on the clock. He hit the first of his two free throws, then purposefully missed the second one, and the Buffaloes escaped with a hard-fought win. The call on the Tomlinson/Singler play at the end of the game was controversial, to say the least. The video is below. Jump to the 45 second mark for the full final scenario and decide for yourself. My call? Swallow the whistle, ref, and let’s play five more.

Video: Highlights: Oregon – Colorado

3.  California is tied with the Buffs in second place after putting a hurting on an undermanned Arizona State squad on Saturday. Cal forced 20 ASU turnovers, converted those miscues into 34 points and were never seriously challenged in a 68-47 victory. The only downsides of the game for the Golden Bears were a couple of injuries, a sprained ankle suffered by leading scorer Allen Crabbe in the second half, and a dislocated finger for Harper Kamp. Mike Montgomery dismissed the injuries after the game, but they may be something worth keeping an eye on next week as the Bears travel south for games with the Los Angeles schools next weekend.

4.  The biggest accomplishments of the weekend belong to Sean Miller and his Arizona team, who went into the Bay Area and came out with a two-game road sweep. The Wildcats capped off the weekend by completely discombobulating the Stanford offense, holding the Cardinal to just a 27.8% eFG and just six assists on their 16 field goals. Kyle Fogg was excellent all weekend for the ‘Cats, displaying heady defense in both games and coming away with 37 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals, a couple blocks and eight three-pointers for the trip. The young Wildcat backcourt tandem of Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner also displayed excellent defensive intensity throughout the road trip, and while their offense is still a work in progress, they may be playing their best ball as a duo of their young careers.

5.  Lastly, we have a Joshua Smith sighting. UCLA’s sophomore big man had his first set of back-to-back double-figure scoring games in Pac-12 play this weekend, backing up his career-high of 24 points on Thursday night with another 19 in a three-point Bruin win at Washington State. Despite dealing with constant good-natured verbal abuse from the home crowd in his return to his home state this weekend, Smith seems to be coming along just in time for a stretch run for UCLA. He hit 17 of his 22 field goal attempts this weekend, averaged seven rebounds a night, and was actually seen sprinting down the court on a semi-regular basis. Given the depths to which Smith’s conditioning plummeted at the start of this season, whether you’re a UCLA supporter or not, it is good to see a kid who is working towards being able to fulfill his ample potential.

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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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