Dinwiddie, Fletcher Down, But Are the Buffs Out?

The pain on his face told you everything you needed to know.  There was no need for Buff Nation to hold it’s breath for the news on Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury.  His fate was inevitable immediately.  The concern on Tad Boyle’s face, Xavier Johnson sitting on the court next to his teammate, friend, and leader, there was no doubt that the worst possible scenario for one of the nation’s premier teams had become all too real.

They say a picture says a thousand words, well this one said more, and yet in a way, it said just one.  Crushing.  Dinwiddie, a likely first round NBA draft pick, represented the face of the program.  He was their experienced court general, their best offensive player, their creator, their closer, and most importantly, their premier perimeter defender.  There were few players across the country more vital to a team’s success than Spencer Dinwiddie, pure and simple.

The team struggled to recover, losing a halftime lead and eventually bowing out in Washington 71-54, their worst defeat of the season.  But that result’s relevance paled in comparison to the realization that this team was now without the Mayor.

How exactly can this program fill the void left by undoubtedly it’s most important presence?

One, Dinwiddie can’t disappear.  While his production obviously will be lost, his leadership can not be.  His role must transition into a teacher, mentoring younger guards like Jaron Hopkins and Xavier Talton, who will be heavily relied upon to perform in his absence.  He needs to maintain a positive mentality and support his teammates as they transition into new roles.  He can help mitigate the drop-off by representing an emotional and encouraging influence.

Secondly, Askia Booker must become an entirely new player.  He now becomes the team’s most experienced guard, he was their vocal leader even with Dinwiddie healthy, and that must continue going forward.  He must transition his game into the team’s facilitator, he can’t hoard all of the shots that Dinwiddie will no longer be taking.  His assist numbers must dramatically improve, and he needs to prove he can make his teammates better.  Without that transformation, this team has no chance to succeed.

Wesley Gordon, Xavier Johnson, and Josh Scott must see additional paint touches.  That now becomes our advantage over opponents.  Josh Scott is better than nearly every big man we will face throughout the rest of the season.  College teams struggle to get elite paint players consistent touches.  We must figure it out, and do so quickly.  Our half-court offense must become more efficient, and there’s no better place to start than Scott.  Gordon and Xavier Johnson must aggressively search for shots, especially Johnson, who’s struggled to find his shot this season.

Someone must step up defensively.  This team no longer can lean on Dinwiddie’s elite defensive abilities as a crutch.  The team’s focus on the perimeter must never waver, will someone be capable of stepping up and being the next lock down defender?  Treshaun Fletcher would have likely become that guy, but with him also being out for the remainder of the regular season, we’ll need to go even further down the bench to find a spark.  George King and Jaron Hopkins would be the leading candidates, we’ll need one of them to develop quickly or this team’s defense could be running on life support.

The question at this point becomes, are the Colorado Buffaloes still a tournament team?

The immediate answer is: who knows?  Honestly, it will probably take a few weeks as our young guys adjust to more prominent roles.

Unfortunately, we’re now at the mercy of the committee, who is by no means obligated to even consider the resume we compiled with Dinwiddie on the court.  Honestly, that’s fair, that team won’t be on the court in March, so to them, it means next to nothing.  Come March, you’ll look at our resume and say that’s absolutely tournament quality, and I’d agree, but we’ll be judged solely on our performance in these last 14 games and the Pac-12 Tournament.

The goal should be to finish conference play at 7-7, there is precedent for tournament teams to finish with a .500 record in high-major conference play and still make the tournament.  We won’t know if this is a realistic goal until we see the newly crafted Buffs take the court, but for now, it’s a reasonably guideline for argument’s sake.  The Buffs still have winnable match-ups with USC (home and away), Washington State (at home), and Utah (at home).  Additionally, they have Arizona State twice, Washington at home, Stanford on the road, and Utah on the road as potential opportunities to sneak out victories.

One thing we know for sure, is that this team will fight.  Askia Booker, Josh Scott, and Tad Boyle will demand it.  This team still has talent superior to the team’s throughout the first decade of the 2000s, all is not lost.

This team needs our support more now, than ever.  I expect to see every seat filled for UCLA, every body donning white, and going absolutely bananas for the team that we love.  Coors Event Center has a few tricks up her sleeve if we do our part, it’s time to bring the ruckus.

GO BUFFALOES AND ROLL TAD!

The 3 Most Overrated Teams in College Basketball

The issues with college basketball rankings are pretty simple.  They rely heavily on preseason rankings based on pure speculation, they show bias to programs with name recognition, and they are prone to overreaction.

For the most part, they get it right, but sometimes, there are notable issues.  That’s where I come in.  For clarification, I don’t hate these teams, and most of the time, I don’t even question that they are good, or even great, basketball teams.  That said, their current ranking is not deserved, and thus, they find themselves highlighted here.  Welcome to my first edition of the 3 most overrated teams in college basketball.

#3 Ohio State (15-1)

Of course, they lost this week, losing some of the luster off this piece.  Next time, I’ll learn to write this piece up quickly to avoid these future issues (which will come up more than once).  However, this loss further illustrates my point, it was probably their most impressive performance of the season, and they lost.

They’ve beaten zero teams ranked in the top 50 in both KenPom and expectedRPI.  Their best wins of the season are against Ohio, Marquette, Notre Dame, Maryland, and North Dakota State.  Middling, at best.

Of course, they play in the Big 10, so they will have plenty of opportunities to prove their place in the rankings in the coming weeks.  But for now, nothing about their resume says “#3 team in the country”.

In their defense, KenPom disagrees with me despite their unimpressive resume, his system has them ranked as the #2 team in the nation.

#6 Wichita State (15-0)

I know, I know.  You’re sitting here wondering how in the world could Wichita State be overrated?  I was surprised myself, but check out the facts.

They’ve played just 5 Top 100 teams according to expectedRPI, and while 5-0 against those teams, that’s not exactly a brutal schedule given they play in a mid-major league and won’t get many opportunities to improve on that number moving forward.  They have just two wins vs. high major opponents, and both are in the weak SEC (Tennessee and Alabama).  Their other quality wins come against Northern Iowa, Saint Louis, and BYU.  Just two of those victories have come against teams that appear to be likely tournament teams.

No one is questioning that this team is very good, and should be highly ranked, but 6th is just too high.  Compare their resume to Iowa State, who is also undefeated and ranked 9th.

Iowa State has six victories vs. the top 100 (two of their opponents are common in BYU and Northern Iowa), but those wins also include Michigan, Iowa, Boise State, and Baylor.  Three of those teams have spent a good portion of the year ranked, and all four are basic locks for NCAA Tournament berths.  Iowa State has also played a superior schedule according to KenPom (88th vs. 124th for Wichita State).

In this case, both expectedRPI and KenPom agree with my thoughts, as they both have Iowa State ranked ahead of Wichita State (they have WSU ranked 11th and 12th, respectively).

#12 Louisville (13-3)

I had to slightly edit this portion after watching Louisville lose at home last night to #24 Memphis.  Louisville, of course, is your reigning NCAA champion, so it’s unreasonable to expect that they would not receive special bias this season.  They have the benefit of starting the season very high in the rankings, but their overall resume this season is the true definition of mediocrity.

They have played just four games against expectedRPI top 100 opponents, and they are now 1-3 in those games.  Their lone win?  Southern Miss.  Yay?  Their second best win?  Louisiana Lafayette, who sits just outside the top 100 in both KenPom and expectedRPI.  Ewwwwwwwwww.

Shockingly, KenPom still has the Cardinals ranked 10th.  Another curious case of the margin of victory factor.

Buffs Exceeding Lofty Expectations

Prior to the season, I set this expectation that this would be the most talented Colorado men’s basketball team of all time.  I wasn’t positive that talent would translate into the most successful squad to ever step foot in Coors Event Center, but I was certain that the collection of talent had the potential to get there.  I wasn’t sure when, but I knew they were capable, and I felt confident that it would happen sooner rather than later.

We’ve reached that moment.  There were a lot of doubters early on this season about just how good Oregon really was.  Plenty of voices could be heard screaming that they entered the season overrated.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but that team that just left Coors Event Center with it’s first taste of defeat, is in no way, shape, or form, overrated.

Sorry C-Unit, you’re got it wrong on this one. That team is legit.

Our Buffs just outran what is probably the most potent scoring attack in all of college basketball.  Their guards are lightning, they can score from anywhere on the floor, and their depth allows them to maintain speed throughout the ball game.  They don’t let up, and if you do, they’ll make you pay.

Askia Booker has become infamous among the Colorado faithful.  For many, he’s a trigger-happy guard who remains inconsistent, he’s unreliable, impatient, and turnover-prone.  I can not refute that Booker represents those traits… at times.

But what is Askia Booker, really?

He’s the most important player on this basketball team.  He’s a leader, he’s a spark plug, and he’s exactly what this team needs.  He’s instant offense, he’s an emotional boost, and at times, he’s unstoppable.

On Sunday, he played his best game ever at Colorado, in one of this program’s biggest ever games.  27 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers (yep, 0).  Anytime Colorado needs a play at home, expect Askia Booker to make it.  He’s not perfect, but would it be as fun if he was?  He’s one of the most polarizing Buffs of all time, and I absolutely love him.

Colorado took advantage of an Oregon team who tried to prove they can run with anyone, anywhere.  Their effort, while valiant, fell short, and Colorado stood victorious, dropping 100 points on the Ducks in one of the most entertaining games in the history of the Coors Event Center.

When the polls were released on Monday morning, Colorado was ranked 15th in the country, the school’s highest ranking since February of 1997, when the Buffs were also ranked 15th.  The last time they were higher?  The 1969-70 season, 10th.

Only two teams in the entire country have taken out two teams ranked in the top 10 at the time of the games.  One of them is North Carolina, the other is Colorado.

Just how important was this start for Colorado?  How about this for some surprising info.  Colorado didn’t win it’s second Pac-12 game until it’s 6th game last season.  They needed a 9-4 close to finish the year at 10-8 and earn an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon, considered by nearly everyone to be a likely top 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, will not see Colorado again this season, meaning Colorado holds the tiebreaker in any scenario when it comes to the tournament seeding.

Colorado heads on the road this week to take on the Washington schools, presenting an opportunity for the Buffs to get off to a great start away from home within the Pac-12 schedule as well.  Playing .500 ball on the road is a solid goal for any team in conference play, but this road trip presents a unique opportunity for the Buffs to earn two road wins, as neither school has been very impressive on the hardwood thus far.

Should they come away successful, they return home to take on UCLA and USC.  Starting 6-0 in conference play is a lofty, but not unreasonable goal for this basketball club.  Should it happen, they’d head to Arizona for a match-up of likely two top ten squads.

Wouldn’t that be something?