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Turning the Stream: An Optimistic Look at The Buffs

Discussion in 'Colorado Basketball Message Board' started by RealMatSmith, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. RealMatSmith

    RealMatSmith Member

    Aug 5, 2013
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    It has been an interesting few days to say the least.

    After gauging the response to this game, it felt like the CU faithful needed a reason to believe. I present to you a different perspective. I come bearing hope.

    I've been doing radio interviews and combing through the details and statistics all week and I have allowed myself to be drawn into the Whirlpool of Seduction that is, "The Numbers". I won't lie to you, on paper, this figures to be a very tough matchup for the Buffaloes and I could take time to explain how Pittsburgh has the offensive advantage, how Spencer Dinwiddie makes this a far better game, how Colorado is shooting | 39% FG | 30% 3PT FG | 64% FT | in their last 5 games, how Josh Scott was 9-31 FG in Vegas....but what does the really tell you about the outcome of tomorrow's game? Upon some thought this afternoon I realized how, from the surface, numbers are the indicators of what has occurred. They are, if you will, the effect and not the cause. While I will say that they are valuable in measuring matchups and, do they give you an idea of what the team's strengths and weakness's are? Sure. Are they indicative of how the team will play on a nightly basis? Mostly. However the numbers are generated based upon performances, and those performances, especially at this time of the year are determined by how the game is approached.

    The Buffaloes have nothing to show the country tomorrow. Does it help them with recruiting and their perception nationally if they win? OBVIOUSLY, without a doubt. That's a BONUS. The matchup with Pittsburgh is about proving to THEMSELVES that they can take the next step from becoming liked enough to get invited to Prom as 'just friends', or is this really leading anywhere at the end of the night? There is no question this Colorado team is talented, anyone who has watched them play this season is aware of that. If victorious, the Buffs will have secured one of the most significant wins in Colorado history. For all the adversity they have had to overcome and being the highest tournament seeded CU team in the modern era, it would be a true testament to what Tad Boyle has done with this program. The key for the Buffs is going to be the theme that Tad Boyle brought to light back at the beginning of the season as what he was able to take from the Navy Seals training, "Sometimes this team needs to get punched in the mouth before they get up and start fighting back." While he meant it in both a literal and figurative sense, the CU Buffs sans The Mayor, have had a significant problem with this on a consistent basis. The closest thing I've seen this year to that kind of fight was Askia Booker's 2nd half performance vs. USC in the first round of the Pac 12 Tournament. He brought energy, he brought will, he brought heart and most importantly he brought his teammates. Yes, he went on a 7-0 run that keyed a 2nd half stretch in which Colorado got it done barring a head scratching final few seconds. The game was taken over, not by Askia Booker but in the hands of Josh Scott (Scott was held scoreless in the first half against the Trojans and finished with 12 & 9). That was the first time, THIS SEASON, I have truly seen someone else step up after a teammate's fire has begun to cool and take over. While subtle, it was one of the more prominent examples of "Shoulder to Shoulder"-esque play I've seen this season.

    That being said there are several things you can keep your eye on that are clear indicators of the Buffs level of competition:​

    • The Journey of the Road Less Travelled Makes an Experienced Traveller - They have played on pretty much every big stage this season from Opening Day to Moby Arena to matchups with players and programs in the national spotlight (ala Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart) to enjoying roasted duck and tasting the sweet succulence of a #15 AP ranking to having an entire season altered in the blink of an eye and losing the core to the relentless trek to regain an identity to staring down the long barrel of the NIT to fighting your way back into contention. It's been a unique winding road but there are lessons of a lifetime that a player can learn from this season, both on the basketball court and off. Now it's a matter of pulling from all of those experiences they have had along the way and applying them in one 40 minute stretch. Yes this group has four upperclassmen but only one of them, Booker, receives regular playing time. Can, for all intents and purposes, 1 Upperclassmen lead this group of 8 Underclassmen to a composed level of play that has yet to truly rear its head all year? Potentially, but it must be there from the start. The Buffaloes cannot allow their foe to post an early lead. Rather, they must be the one to deliver the punch to the teeth with as physical a team as Pitt is.

    • Mental Temperature - For the Buffs to win, it's a given that Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson must both have productive yet efficient basketball games. They will be guarding Pitt's two best players in Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson respectively. It's vital that the two of them do not become frustrated because, at times, they can withdraw themselves from the game emotionally if things are not going their way. Can they stay aggressive on the offensive end without getting in foul trouble on defense? One thing is for sure, without these two guys on the floor the Buffs are VERY vulnerable.

    • Between Two Trees - The key to Colorado's success in the paint is the play of Wesley Gordon. It's clear that CU's most significant, consistent offensive threat is Josh Scott in the post. He was the rock all year, up until the final regular season game of the year, where he started a slide and is 12-40 from the field in that 4 game span. Not so coincidentally, Wesley Gordon had 2pts and 6rebs in Berkeley. The fact of the matter is the proven recipe to beat Colorado until shown otherwise is to blitz Josh in the post early and often and remove him from the game. Dating back to the loss @ Cal, 66-65 in Overtime, Scott is 12-40 from the field. The Bears were able to throw double teams at Scott. At this point it seems if the defense is able to pester Josh then after a while, he'll become flustered and expect the double team. That leads to hesitation on the attack as well as unbalanced and forced, contested shots. That being said, if Wesley Gordon can score, it will really open up the paint for the Buffaloes and for not only Josh Scott, but the backcourt as well. Since Spencer Dinwiddie's injury Wesley Gordon has scored 2.1 more ppg in wins w/o Spencer Dinwiddie.

    • There's a Reason They Call It The "Charity Stripe"...IT'S FREE - The Buffs HAVE to improve from the Free Throw line. This was one of the biggest areas that clutch FT's by The Mayor down the stretch was able to cover up. There's no way of ignoring the numbers here, the Buffs are shooting an average of 43.2% on 8-18.8 at the line in CU Losses w/o Spencer Dinwiddie. THEY ARE SHOOTING JUST 63.4% on 17-26.8 in CU Wins w/o Dinwiddie. As if the margin for error weren't thin enough already, Colorado leaves an average of around 9 points on the board every game w/o Dinwiddie. For a team that has been struggling to reach above 60 points on a consistent basis, they're not making things easier on themselves by missing opportunities like this. The ability to manufacture points in the tournament is vital. Without The Mayor, Colorado must be consistently on the attack. Especially if they want to avoid the notorious scoring droughts plagued by bad ball movement and inconsistent intensity. Xavier Johnson & Wesley Gordon at the Free Throw line leaves you on the edge of your seat, and if the Buffs want to win tomorrow, that better change.

    • XT For 3 - Xavier Talton is averaging 7.5ppg, 3.3rpg and 3.5 apg in CU Wins w/o Spencer Dinwiddie. He is averaging just 4.8ppg, 2.1rpg and 1.7apg in CU Losses w/o Spencer Dinwiddie. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, XT's 3s have become very important for Colorado. He really might be the only player on opposing team's scouting reports labeled as a "Shooter" now. He had a big 3 on the road @ Stanford to put the Buffs up by two possessions, 55-51 in the waning moments. Then in the 2nd round of the Pac 12 Tournament against Cal he buried a 3 from straightaway with a hand in his face to put the Buffs up 54-50 in the closing minutes. It was crucial as the Bears had cut the lead to 1 and had several chances to take the lead and never did. A lot of people didn't see the value in Xavier Talton, but all he needed was some playing time and his natural ability has done the rest. He is still very raw and a much better athlete than most believe. He played wide receiver in high school and is very shifty. His handle is not where it needs to be for him to be a consistent shot maker from inside the paint. He'll get there, but either way the Buffs needs some big shots from Little X tomorrow.

    • "It is time." - Rafiki, The Lion King - Time will come when Jaron Hopkins finds his inner strength and the confidence needed to be a consistent player at this level. By the time he's a Junior he should be in contention for one of the All-Pac 12 Teams. He's just that talented. We have all seen what he can do, http://youtu.be/CAdCOw8pxdo. His handle isn't quite where it needs to be, but if he can move well without the ball and use his length on the defensive end (an area in which he has already greatly improved), he gives the Buffs a chance to rest Booker and Xavier Talton while still getting production out of their lineup on the floor. Dustin Thomas really needs to clean his game up next season, he fouls far too much to be effective. Constantly wrapping up his opponent on either end of the floor. His shot hasn't been as consistent as anyone would've hope and right now he has become a bit of a liability. I would expect to see more Tre'Shaun Fletcher tomorrow. He looked very good defensively in Vegas and has played in three straight games now coming off that knee surgery. It's a true shame he was injured because he was the freshman that had developed the most and things were really starting to click for Tre prior to the injury. We may have even been looking at Tre'Shaun Fletcher in the starting lineup if he had not been hurt.

    • SKI IS KEY - There is no doubt that Josh Scott is a large part of the reason Colorado is playing tomorrow however, the true X-Factor for this Buffs team is not Xavier Johnson. It's Askia Booker. The New Askia Booker. The Redefined Askia Booker. You have to give the whole team credit but when Spencer went down, no one had to take on a bigger challenge than Ski. Changing his position, changing his game, completely shifting his attitude. When Askia succeeds, CU succeeds. He averages 17.5ppg, 5.2rpg and 4.8apg in CU Wins w/o Spencer Dinwiddie. He averages 11.8ppg, 3.6rpg, 3.5apg in CU Losses w/o Dinwiddie. Ski will be going up against length tomorrow, if he can get everyone involved while getting his shots in the flow of the offense then it will free everyone else up to make plays. As he said in Vegas, "Sometimes players just have to make winning basketball plays." The Buffs will certainly need some of those from Ski if they want a chance to win. He traditionally plays well in tournament settings. He snapped his dry streak at the end of last season in the NCAA Tournament in the 2nd Round against Illinois but his three 3s were not enough to bring the Buffs back. A year older, a year wiser, Ski is the only proven shotmaker in the backcourt and he has to make shots tomorrow.

    The guys have a steep challenge ahead of them but as long as Xavier Johnson can give us a consistent performance (here's to hoping altitude can play a factor in the Buffs endurance down here at sea level), especially on the defensive end Colorado has a chance. I've heard all the #'s and poured through the data myself. However, come game-time, it will be crucial that CU is ready to play, mentally. I know it sounds cliche and that's because it is, but it is nonetheless as important as anything on Thursday afternoon.
    Against Arizona in the Pac 12 Tournament (from here on referred to as a fight with a heavyweight), the Buffs rolled with the punches and fought back. Give them credit for competing for 19:55 against a team that is firing on all cylinders as a #1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament (you also must give credit to a UCLA team who has completely recommitted on the defensive end of the floor and is playing their best basketball of the season). 27-24 at half. Clearly they allowed Zona back into the game but they held their own despite an environment so intense, that I've deemed it McKale North (anyone who attended the Pac 12 Tournament at the MGM can attest to that). The Buffs have to steer clear of stagnant movement, during their scoring droughts, the ball tends to stick. If Colorado is moving the ball on offense they have the advantage on that end of the floor. Pitt likes to slow the game down, and if the Buffs can play their game like they want to and push the tempo; creating opportunities in transition and dictating tempo, they are in for a solid afternoon.

    The bottom line is, this is a winnable game with a complete 40 minute effort. The Boyle Credo couldn't apply any better in this situation: Defense and Rebounding. If they can hold Pitt under 40% from the field and outrebound them, like Tad wants then they put themselves in a good position to win.

    All you can ever ask for in this life is an opportunity. ​

    Well I'd say they have a pretty damn good one at 11:40 MDT on TBS.​

    Shoulder to Shoulder

    - @RealMatSmith


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    Last edited: Mar 20, 2014
    wyobuff, Heywood, FChairbanks and 2 others like this.
  2. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

    Mar 20, 2009
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    Great stuff.

    Thanks for posting.
  3. BuffNut99

    BuffNut99 Club Member Club Member

    Nov 19, 2008
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    I'm feeling more optimistic already. That FakeMatSmith is a real downer.

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