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Will Whelan for AllBuffs: In search of "The Guy"

Discussion in 'Colorado Basketball Message Board' started by allbuffs, Dec 1, 2014.

  1. allbuffs

    allbuffs Administrator

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    BOULDER, Colo. – It wasn’t long ago that I proclaimed here on AllBuffs, “I’m just confused.” In fact, just about a week ago I was pretty darn clueless as to who exactly this Colorado team is and just what exactly happened up in Laramie.

    I mean, 33 points…really?

    A week later, and things have slowly come into a bit more focus. Sure, we’re still a ways off from getting a truly accurate read on the team as a whole, which is to be expected as we’ve seen just five games thus far. But we’re getting closer, slowly.

    Before I get into my eventual diatribe and inevitable diagnosis as to what it is that we’ve all watched this past week, it’s important to provide some context that is necessary to temper concerns stemming from two uninspiring wins over Air Force and Lipscomb. Every year since Tad Boyle has been in Boulder and leading the Buffaloes, his teams have put up a stinker or two in nonconference play. Remember the 83-81 overtime loss to San Francisco, a game where Cory Higgins and Alex Burks combined to score 57 points, or the eight point opening night win over Idaho State? If not, then you must remember the 85-80 double overtime win over Texas Southern where Omar Strong scored 39 points, including nine trey balls. No? What about the six-point victory over CSU-Bakersfield just a few weeks later? Surely, last year’s eight-point win over an Alan Williams-less UCSB squad, one where Taran Brown dropped eight threes, rings a bell.

    The reality of college basketball is that there are few elite teams every year, teams that can go on the road and dominate the way most others do at home. There are few teams in the country who aren’t handicapped offensively once the pace slows down and they’re forced to execute in the half court. Few coaches have the strategic chops to diagram flawless offensive execution and the recruiting ability to enroll the talent to make it all come together.

    Colorado would be averaging 76.8 points per game if we wiped the slate clean of their stinker against Wyoming, which of course is an asinine thing to do because it happened and it sucked and there’s not a lot to really be done about it. But this is my article, so I’ll do what I please. Outside of that day North of the Wall, the Buffs would be among the nation’s top 56 teams in scoring offense. By that same token, if we were to remove the outlier from their current stance of 58.2 points surrendered per game, the Buffs would be sitting at a cool 54 points allowed per game, which entering Sunday, was good for No. 12 in the country. Of the top 10 defenses in the country, only Kentucky, Louisville and Texas also have top 50 offenses to match them. What in the world does any of this mean? Well, it’s a short and quick sample to show you that there aren’t many teams out there who are both elite offensively, as well as defensively. It’s college basketball after all, and most of these players won’t play professionally for a reason. College teams are flawed, as are their coaches, and Colorado is no different.

    Scan the results from National Champions, Final Four teams, Sweet 16 darlings and even conference champions and you’ll find box scores on the schedule that make you scratch your head to the white meat. How the…

    But, and this is where things get interesting today, scan the box scores from NIT teams the last few years as well. You’ll see a lot of good wins, ugly wins and ugly losses. It happens to everyone, and it’s why final scores are so incredibly misleading. Yes, this is a bottom line business, but let’s try to be a bit more enlightened and at least pretend that we have the ability to be rational, critical thinking humans for a few more minutes.

    There is no doubt that this CU team has its strengths. Josh Scott, when utilized in the offense, is the most gifted offensive center in the Pac-12, and one of the four or five best in the country on that end. He’s finishing above the rim more consistently than ever in his career, shooting 68.3-percent from the field and 87.9-percent from the charity stripe. Xavier Talton, despite his one-for-six performance on Sunday is still shooting over 40-percent from beyond the arc. The frontcourt trio of Scott, Xavier Johnson and Wes Gordon is averaging right around 20 rebounds a game, and scoring just above 35 points per game. Freshman point guard Dom Collier has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and is knocking down open shots, while slowly seeing his role increase.

    The team’s weaknesses are also becoming quite apparent. Even with Collier, who I proclaimed on Twitter recently to be the best guard on CU’s roster at the moment—and maybe a bit prematurely—Colorado still doesn’t seem to have a consistent bucket getter from the perimeter. On nights when the opponent packs things in, this team doesn’t have a Dinwiddie who can get to the line at will, or break down the defense efficiently. Turnovers and sloppy play continue to plague this group, in part due to that lack of a consistent perimeter talent. Guys like Gordon and Johnson still have a tendency to float through large portions of games, and besides Tre’shaun Fletcher seeming to have found his jumper, this year’s sophomores look awfully similar to the inconsistent freshman we saw a season ago.

    Now, none of that is rocket science or altogether complicated. It’s all in plain sight.

    What isn’t so obvious is the true issue behind the mask of this team: There is no real leader on the floor, and Tad Boyle knows it.

    When Boyle had Burks and Higgins in his first year, there were two primary ball handlers that, more often than not, could get the team into the right play or at least bail them out when things got rough offensively. Higgins was a consistent force in Boulder over the course of four years, and Burks needed no reminding from a teammate that he could score at will. See, the point here isn’t that those two were able to speak up in the huddle, put together the energy to get a key stop on defense or rally the team’s effort in practice. This isn’t about that kind of leadership. This is about there being no question who to look towards when the proverbial…stuff…hits the fan. It’s about giving the ball to Spencer Dinwiddie in Corvallis or Boulder and saying, “Hey, go do your thing because I trust you.” It’s about getting out of Carlon Brown’s way.

    There are going to be nights when that kind of leadership fails, and it might even lose you a game. As I said, even 57 combined points from Higgins and Burks wasn’t enough to win at lowly San Francisco in Boyle’s first year. But that combination, that certainty that no one else on the floor could do what they do, also was instrumental in beating Kansas State three times, a top-ranked Texas team at home (okay, yeah, Levi had a word in that win too) and played Kansas to within seven points twice on the season. Carlon Brown’s group wasn’t invincible either, but not a single Buffs fan would tell you there was a single player on that team more instrumental to winning the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. Despite his slumping performances through a huge stretch of conference play, his teammates never hesitated to give him the ball in the biggest of moments in Los Angeles.

    Now, this Colorado team has a talent in Scott that can take over games. He’ll hit his free throws in crunch time, more often than not make the most of opportunities given to him. But that’s why college basketball is about guards. Big men have to rely on their guards to get those opportunities, to open things up underneath enough with timely outside shooting, penetrating attacks that suck in the defense just enough to give a player like Scott the half-second needed to get off a shot.

    Askia Booker has been that guard at times through his career, but if we’ve learned anything from the first five games, and the previous three years, it might not be wise to count on that Booker to show up on a nightly basis. After Sunday, Booker told the media, seen on Pac-12 Networks, that his performance in the first four games was largely due to personal matters happening off the court. Perhaps he’s right, and we’ll see more of the 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds he put in against Lipscomb.

    Until then, though, we’ll all be waiting to see just who steps up to be “The Guy” for this Buffaloes group. Until then, Colorado will still be a good, but not great, team that will eek out a few rough wins against the Pac-12’s best, but drop games that a veteran team shouldn’t.


    Follow Will On Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/william_whelan
     
  2. BuffDog

    BuffDog Club Member Club Member

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    Thanks for the write up. Do you think a zone defense against Wyoming would have been helpful to stop the repeated dunks and given us a chance to win the game? I think we used the zone defense against Kansas or Arizona last year. I know Tad hates zone defense but it seems like trying something else might have helped.
     
  3. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    Anyone who follows Will on Twitter should take a look at his timeline, as he added some more thoughts there and then took questions.

    https://twitter.com/William_Whelan
     
  4. tante

    tante Club Member Club Member

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    Dustin Thomas is starting to be a frequent topic. He had an awesome move in the first half of the game, where he split two defender and drew a foul. It was just an incredible move. I am starting to wonder if he is a guy that is a volume shooter and needs to establish a rhythm. There are some guys that can take 4 or 5 shots in a game and shoot 50%+ no problem, but I am starting to think that Dustin is not that kind of guy.
     
  5. FLounder

    FLounder The Buffs will rise again! Club Member

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    Dustin Thomas = Melo.


    Mind blown


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  6. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    Florida, where they apparently mix weed with bath salts.
     
  7. jgisland

    jgisland Club Member Club Member

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    Scott has to have more dunks already this year then all of last year.
     
  8. PuebloBuff

    PuebloBuff Club Member Club Member

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    In Will's feed he talks about Fletch being more comfortable and making plays, which I assume means he should get more minutes. But so far, and I missed the first half of the Libscomb, he's basically been subbing XJ, right? Does that mean that meaningful minutes come by having XJ spend a little more time at the 4? While I like to imagine the versatility Fletch would give us if he could play the 2, I think he's got a ways to go for that role.
     
  9. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    XJ/Fletch/Dustin are all flexible position wise. Fletch has not been playing the 2 at all as far as I have seen.

    Tad did say that he thinks XJ is most effective when he's not tired, and that he's managing his minutes to keep him fresh.
     
  10. sackman

    sackman Club Member Club Member

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    OK, I hold Tad in the highest regard, but this is a silly statement. We're ALL most effective when we're not tired. This isn't exactly earth shattering revelations, here.
     
  11. Tadploe

    Tadploe Member Club Member

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    I was at the game vs Lipscomb and as the Buffs in the second half were falling apart, A fan behind us yelled at Tad "It's a zone figure it out" He was right on the money. They stand around way too much.
     
    CVilleBuff likes this.
  12. PuebloBuff

    PuebloBuff Club Member Club Member

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    May have been a nice way of saying XJ doesn't have the stamina of some our other players. But if this is what a "rested" XJ looks like, I'm all for it. He's shooting 43% from 3, and (knock on wood) 73% from the line. Never thought I'd see that kind of a jump from any of our guys at the line.
     
  13. jgisland

    jgisland Club Member Club Member

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    I think he's more or less trying to say there are guys that can play 30+ minutes a night and those who can't. XJ isn't somebody who can play 30+ minutes a night right now.
     
  14. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    Kind of like a defensive lineman you get more out of if you have him playing like his hair's on fire for 2 downs instead of getting less per play by having him out there for every snap.
     
  15. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    You know, I think I'm watching a different game than a lot of other fans. I thought that was the best ball movement and back cutting I'd seen from a CU basketball team in years.

    The main issue was awful defense, which also meant that we didn't get any transition offense off of stops. That bogs things down into a boring half court game.
     
  16. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    Right there with you. They got WAY to many easy baskets in the paint in the 2d half. Even with that little guy getting hot from 3, they still lose by 20 without those.
     
  17. torerobuff

    torerobuff Dancing is forbidden Club Member

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    I agree totally. The offense was not the problem. The defense in the second half was atrocious.

    A couple offense comments though: Dom and XT didn't not play well together when they were the two guards. I'm hopeful that's just a lack of reps together, and their chemistry will improve. Second, I'm as a big of an XT defender on this board, but damn man, give Josh the ball on the block more than once every 5 possessions. It almost seems like he actively tries to avoid giving him the ball down there.
     
  18. wyobuff

    wyobuff Well-Known Member

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    I still think that dom is going to be "the guy" - It's unfortunate that he has not gotten more playing time (for various reasons)
     
  19. tante

    tante Club Member Club Member

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    Dom looked like he tweaked his ankle against Lipscomb. Hope it doesn't turn into one of those nagging injuries.
     
  20. Highlander

    Highlander Club Member Club Member

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    Please, no. We really need his minutes in the OOC to be ready for conference play.
     
  21. wyobuff

    wyobuff Well-Known Member

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    that would be terrible news. I think he's played very well for a freshman.
     
  22. MarkW

    MarkW Well-Known Member

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    I'm with Whelan on this point, CU doesn't have "The Guy" this season and it's gonna make it difficult come conference play to be consistently successful. During Spencer's sophomore and junior seasons he was able to bail out the team when they absolutely had to get points. His ability to get to the basket or line was amazing. Now there is no one on the perimeter like him. And when teams play like Wyoming - defending in a zone and going at a pedestrian pace on offense - CU needs the backcourt to set the tone. This doesn't mean they have to score a ton of points, but they need to have the attitude and will to lead the way.

    I love Ski, but I am just not sure how consistent he can be, plus he's relatively small and thus doesn't present the match-up problems someone like Spencer did. At the same time he can lead in ways other than scoring a gazillion points a game. Being positive and helping the team find the right tempo on offense while playing sold defense would be a good start. And being consistent as well.
     
  23. wyobuff

    wyobuff Well-Known Member

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    Anyone who was in foco last year/watching on tv for the game @ csu knows we dont win that game without spencer. and honestly, it probably wouldnt have been a close loss either. It's because of the bolded above that we won that game (and probably countless others) last year and the year before.
     
  24. Quattro

    Quattro Banned BANNED Club Member

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    We put up 83 points. We gave up 74. For some reason I think we figured out their zone.
     
  25. cu2x

    cu2x Club Member Club Member

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    Our inability to penetrate against lowly Liscomb is a major worry
     
  26. AztecBuff

    AztecBuff Club Member Club Member

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    [tweet]539839102703509504[/tweet]
     
  27. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    didn't we score 40+ points in the paint?
     
  28. jgisland

    jgisland Club Member Club Member

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    51% (25 of 49) of the shots came at the rim where CU shot 80% (20-25) from. We only shot 8 2 pt jumpers in that game, CU did a great job of getting to the rim and not settling for mid range (aka garbage) in that game.
     
  29. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    someday you and [MENTION=2261]Rugged[/MENTION] are going to fight over this point.
     
  30. Goose

    Goose Hoops Moderator Club Member Junta Member

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    I'll sell tickets.
     

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