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Will Whelan for AllBuffs: Fact or Fiction Part 1

Discussion in 'Colorado Basketball Message Board' started by absinthe, Dec 16, 2014.

  1. absinthe

    absinthe Ambitious but rubbish. Club Member Junta Member

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    As always Will can be found on twitter if you have comments or feedback


    BOULDER, Colo. - Myth and cliche are pervasive in the world of college sports. Ideas of amateurism, market value and others are thrown around daily by media types of all levels, often with little regard to what kind of facts may or may not support their argument.

    The same can be said for claims and arguments made by fans as to why their team is experience success or adversity. This shouldn’t be surprising, as “fan” is derived from “fanatic”, the definition of which reads, “a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal..” Hey, I get it; there’s no judgement coming from this side of the table. I’m just going to try to wade through some of the stuff floating around out there in hopes of providing a clearer picture of what this Colorado men’s basketball team is, or isn’t.

    Argument #1: This team has too much talent to be 6-3 right now. FICTION

    Teachers always taught us to handle the tough questions first so that we made sure to leave enough time to finish them. Let’s apply that here, shall we?

    I will first concede that the pure talent in Colorado’s frontcourt is impressive, by college standards. The trio of Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson compares favorably, statistically speaking, to the other frontcourts in the conference. Offensively, they combine for 36 points per game, just two points shy of Florida’s 2007 threesome of Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.. Johnson’s 47.8-percent field goal percentage is the lowest of the three and defensively, the trio averages nearly four blocks per game and 20 rebounds per game.

    With that said, and since I noted that National Championship Florida squad, the reason I answered myth was because of one thing: guard play.

    The reason that college is all about guards is a complicated explanation. First, the amount of big men across the country that actually have the ability to score with their back to the basket consistently is about...well, one-percent. Frankly, college big-men kind of suck usually. Secondly, due to the lack of overall talent in the middle of the paint--both offensively and defensively--guards of all sizes, as long as they’re quick, can penetrate into the middle of a defense and score at the rim, or get fouled. This is the difference between college and NBA basketball. Take last Wednesday night against Colorado State. A guard like John Gillon completely changed the makeup of the game in the late first half when CSU realized that no one on CU could stay in front of him on the perimeter, and no one on the inside would be able to block him without a foul being called. That’s the great equalizer in college basketball: No matter their size, guards can dominate due to lack of interior talent and protection from the officials. By the way, that Florida team’s leading scorer? Taurean Green with 13.3 points per game on 44-percent from the field and 40-percent from deep.

    Colorado doesn’t not have above average talent on the perimeter right now when compared against their high-major counterparts. It’s that simple, and it’s the reason why 6-3 sounds about right when also considering that Dom Collier has missed four full games and been limited in health otherwise.

    Argument #2: Tad Boyle once said, “A year older doesn't mean a year better.” We've seen that to be true this year. FICTION

    Here is another time that I’ll use a qualifier because it’s convenient and suits my point. Defining what exactly “better” is, seems to be a rather huge deal here. But I’ll say this: Outside of two Buffs, everyone on the roster that’s seeing double-digit minutes per game has improved in most major statistical areas. Points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, three point percentage...again, most everyone has improved. Johnson has been ridiculous from deep, because he’s taking the right threes. Josh has been automatic from the charity stripe. Fletcher is looking at statistical jumps that go right along his increase in minutes. Through nine games, this year’s Buffaloes are shooting the ball better from the field overall, considerably better from beyond the arc and better from the line.

    So, why does it feel like these numbers might be misleading?

    One argument is that a year ago, through nine games, Colorado had played a much better schedule that included a game against Baylor in Dallas, at Colorado State and games against Harvard and Kansas at home. With that kind of lineup, it’s no wonder the team’s offensive numbers were so much lower. On the other hand, last year’s group had Spencer Dinwiddie running the show. Everyone knew exactly what their role was and they played off of the talent Dinwiddie brought to each and every game. This year’s sophomores were freshmen, and so on and so forth.

    If we can allow ourselves to just go off of these statistics, it would be reasonable to assume that almost everyone on this team has improved. What is important for this team, though, is who hasn’t improved; who has regressed, and how does the answer to that parlay into Argument #1?

    Argument #3: This team was overrated coming into the year. FACT

    As constituted, this team didn’t have enough reasons to be picked ahead of UCLA or Stanford in the preseason media poll. The mix of veterans, talent and guards on those two teams should have always led to them being favored in predicted standings.

    But they weren’t.

    People thought that Askia Booker would put together a year that might even put his name into the conversation for conference Player of the Year. They thought Talton’s off-season would lead to a more play-making approach to the game, and cut down on silly turnovers at inopportune times. Wesley Gordon was supposed to take the next step, one that was firmly focused on consistency. The sophomores were supposed to be ready to shine and live up to their immense potential.

    Sometimes, we’re wrong. Sometimes, it isn’t solely on the coaching staff as to why their team isn’t living up to external expectations. Sometimes, those external expectations weren’t realistic. I don’t know what the truth here is, whether they’re vastly underperforming or were just vastly overrated, but I know one thing. Very, very few people locally or nationally gave much credence to this group’s record without Dinwiddie last year. We all kind of figured, “A year older, a year better.” Perhaps we all should have paid a bit more attention. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether they were overrated or not. If no one paid any attention to the team over the offseason and there weren’t any preseason polls, and all we had to go off of was the end of last season and the beginning of this, we’d all think it ridiculous to think that the team looks like a Pac-12 contender right now and be more focused on how the team can improve rather than debating whether Boyle has hit his ceiling or not. But we do pay attention and there are polls...perhaps I’m just annoyed about polls and the idea of “expectations” in general, but that’s another story for another day.

    I like a lot of the pieces on this roster, and still think that if things come together a bit, this team can make a run in conference play. If Collier gets healthy and continues to improve, then I think you’ve got a serviceable trio of guards that can all affect the game positively in their own way.

    But this team’s biggest problem isn’t their talent or coaching.

    What is the biggest problem?

    I’m glad you asked, because it’s really quite simple. As I’ve written before, Colorado lacks leadership coming from its own players. There aren’t multiple seniors like in years passed that are willing to hold others accountable and set a pivotal example of how things are supposed to be done. There aren’t transcendent talents that demand respect, or at least deference, on the court when things begin to unravel.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve said it, and it won’t be the last.

    Why, all of the sudden, is there such a discipline problem inside the program? To be fair, it’s not the kind of discipline issues that other programs have to call their local police department for, but it’s hurting this team. Why have Xavier Johnson, Wes Gordon and Askia Booker missed multiple starts or faced other forms of discipline as it relates to playing time? I don’t know. I’m not sure Boyle understands it either. Here’s the tough part about it:

    As a coach, you walk a fine line between coddling and condemning. You don’t want to go too far either way. So when one of your best players is late, you decide to just take him out of the starting lineup because missing a whole game would be too costly a punishment (for both sides). You do that, because it’s light enough not to cause a serious rift in the relationship, but heavy enough to upset the player. But what if the player doesn’t care? Highly competitive spirits don’t want to miss a minute of game time. They want to be on the court for every possession, scraping and clawing their way into the best chance available for a win. Missing out on a start should anger a junior who’s running out of time to make their mark on a program. It should anger a redshirt sophomore who’s just beginning to understand how good they can be, and understanding that they need to show it. Sitting on the bench should piss someone off. What if it doesn’t?

    That, not the offense or defense, is the biggest hurdle that Boyle, his staff and this team must get over. How does a team that starts five third or fourth year players continue to lack focus?

    Fixing something that deep, that far into the mental approach of a human, isn’t done by a basketball coach. The only way someone can truly change their approach and focus to a task is to do it themselves. That’s what growing up is about. That’s what responsibility is about. That’s what finding a leader is about.



    ***This is Part I in the Fact or Fiction series where I’ll be diving into three popular sentiments seen on message boards and debating on their merit. I’ll probably be wrong, often.***
     
    WasianCU likes this.
  2. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    Got to at least make the Diamondhead final. Might need to win it, considering how much CU's opponents have under-performed and been RPI killers.

    Can they come together after having a great finish to the UNCo game and a week to get their **** together?

    :popcorn:
     
  3. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    Never know which team you are going to get these days. I like the awesome version, fwiw.
     
  4. wyobuff

    wyobuff Well-Known Member

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    could tournament ski show up and become a team leader at the same time?
     

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