About tziskin

Just a guy who is way too obsessed with the University of Colorado and Cleveland sports. Yes, a brutal combination, my heart is a tough SOB.

Patiently Waiting? No more.

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When Coach MacIntyre stepped foot into Folsom Field for the first time, he accepted the biggest challenge of his entire life.  Colorado, a once proud football program, had been reduced to rubble under the supervision of Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree.

There were no pieces to salvage, no restoration project to undergo.  Only one option remained, clear away the demolition and start fresh.  Rebuilding such a program can’t be done overnight, but that fact doesn’t guarantee much patience among this proud fanbase.

Patience, of course, is a virtue.  A virtue not held among many in the sports world today.  No matter how daunting the task, today’s expectations demand instant results.  MacIntyre hasn’t met the mark.

In three seasons, the Buffaloes have seen the clock hit zero 27 times in Pac-12 play.  Just twice, the score next to their name exceeded that of the number next to their opponents’.  2-25 in conference play has predictably caused a stir among Colorado fans thinking out loud (very out loud) about whether or not Mac has worn out his welcome in Boulder.  Athletic director Rick George quickly silenced any doubt as the 2015 came to a close at a disappointing 4-9, ensuring that MacIntyre would be back in 2016 with a goal of finally turning this team into a winner.

Despite the lack of tangible results (ahem, wins) MacIntyre has undoubtedly improved the production on the field.

The year before MacIntyre took over, the Buffs posted a -30.5 scoring margin on the field, the 2nd worst mark among Power 5 programs in the past decade.  That has since been improved in every year since, culminating in a -3.1 scoring margin this season, an improvement of nearly 4 touchdowns per game.

In Pac-12 play, that 2012 team was outscored by 30.67 points per game, in 2015, that number has been drastically reduced to 12.67 points per game, the lowest in MacIntyre’s tenure.  Progress is being made, but is that enough?

The skeptics will argue that losing is losing, which admittedly rings true.  After all, that same 2012 football team did manage to win a conference game as well, matching Colorado’s conference win total this year.  At some point, being close is no longer a sign of progress, it is a sign that MacIntyre can’t get these kids to close.  In five of nine conference games this year, the Buffs either held a lead or were tied in the 2nd half, they held on to win just one.  In another conference game that didn’t fit that criteria, they had the chance to take the lead on the games final drive, they failed then too.  Of course, in every instance, the Buffs were the less talented team on the field, which obviously makes it more difficult to execute down the stretch of games.

This is where MacIntyre must improve.  Yes, he has succeeded in improving the overall talent in his short time in Boulder (as evidence by the aforementioned scoring margin improvements), but our recruiting classes are still housed in the caboose of the Pac-12 recruiting train, and that just isn’t good enough.  Just because we’re now attached to the train doesn’t mean that we’re gaining the necessary ground.

Here is how the Buffs have fared amongst their Pac-12 peers in recruiting rankings since Mac’s arrival.

  • 2013:  12th in team rankings, 12th in average stars
  • 2014:  10th in team rankings, 10th in average stars
  • 2015:  11th in team rankings, 10th in average stars
  • 2016:  12th in team rankings, 12th in average stars

In Mac’s defense, this year’s class is unusually small, so the team rankings is not only not surprising, it is pretty much inevitable.  What isn’t acceptable though, is the average stars rating.  At 2.5 average stars, this would rank as MacIntyre’s worst class at Colorado.  In lieu of quantity, it is ultra-important to land big time recruits, and he has not successfully attracted sufficient quality to date.  In fact, not only is this class currently the worst at Colorado since his arrival, it would rank as the lowest average stars of any Pac-12 team during that timeframe.

Of course, average stars is a flawed measurement tool (it rates a 5.7RR 3* as the same value as a 5.5RR 3*, which is less than accurate), but not useless enough that we shouldn’t be concerned that it ranks as the worst Pac-12 recruiting class in recent memory.  Using average RR rating, the 2016 class currently would rank 2nd out of Mac’s 4 classes, but considerably behind last year’s class (5.494 vs. 5.467).  Essentially that means this year’s class is landing a better overall “average” recruit than in MacIntyre’s 2013 and 2014 classes, but not 2015.  Comparing this class to the previous decade, the 5.467 average RR rating would also exceed the 2006 (Barnett to Hawkins transition) and 2011 (Hawkins to Embree transition) classes as well.  Simply put, it ranks below average in comparison to a recruiting decade that I wouldn’t exactly label as fire-emoji worthy.

With the recent news of 4* S Craig Watts choosing to reopen his recruitment, the Buffs are now in danger of failing to sign a 4* recruit in back to back classes for the first time in the Rivals era.  That realization is the exact opposite of what Buffs fans want to hear.  Highly touted commits Johnny Huntley and Anthony Julmisse have recently announced they won’t be taking other visits, but they’ve poked around long enough that holding off on a celebration might be a wise approach.  In MacIntyre’s tenure, the Buffs are the only program in the Pac-12 to fail to sign multiple 4* recruits.  In fact, every other program has signed three such prospects.  Shay Fields represents the Buffs lone 4* commit, in the 2014 class.

It could be argued that this Colorado coaching staff is the most talented we’ve had in Boulder since the Barnett era.  Jim Leavitt has been an absolute behemoth on the recruiting trail, and new WR/Co-OC Darrin Chiaverini has made more waves during a recruiting dead period than many of the guys on staff have done in years on the job.

They are putting the finishing touches on one of the finest indoor practice facilities in the entire country, complete with a full length practice field, therapy access, recovery pools, recruiting lounges, barber shop, and a mammoth weight room.

So where is the disconnect?  Given all of these factors, the current results in this class are not acceptable, not anymore.  We have the pieces in place to expect more, there are no more built-in excuses to explain our downtrodden results.

Luckily, this year’s results are not final.  There is still time to finish strong and find ways to bring bigger fish into Boulder.  This weekend, the dead period disappears, and a large group of visitors will make their way to Boulder.  The buzz around the potential to finish this class is definitely palpable, but this fanbase is starving for results.  No more “close but no cigar.”  These kids are coming to campus, it is time we convinced them they were home.

Sure, we all see the progress, but now we’re ready for real results.  #CUin16.

Colorado Basketball: The Full Picture

That sound is back.

No matter what else is going on in your life, that sound brings that huge smile to your face. That sound, for me, is actually two:  a basketball hitting that hardwood floor, or that same basketball sliding through that nylon net without interference, or in a non-romanticized term, a swish.  We’ve reached November, and you know what that means.

In Colorado, most people associate November with the season’s first snow.  I’m not most people.  November means college basketball is back, I love November.  There’s just something about that beautiful game, the chemistry, the flow.  It is what I know, what I love, there’s just no other way to put it.

Last year, my season preview was broken down into five specific categories, and this year’s will include all of them except for the breakdown of the rest of the Pac-12 conference.  I released them separately, but unfortunately this year, that’s not an option.  What that means for you, is that you’d better get comfortable.

As a reminder, here’s how we break this baby down.

  • Colorado Basketball:  The Schedule
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Roster
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Numbers
  • Colorado Basketball:  The Predictions

Our first section focuses on breaking down the full schedule into specific groupings to highlight key moments throughout the season and help the casual fan pinpoint important moments to key on.  We’ve seen time and time again the NCAA Tournament committee reward programs willing to play quality opponents more so than those just trying to rack up wins against inferior competition.  This reality must enter every coaches mind as he sets up the schedule for future years.

Each schedule must be carefully crafted with a smattering of high profile opportunities to make national noise, a healthy serving of quality opponents both home and away, and lesser competition to ensure a winning culture and opportunities to work out kinks in the recipe.

(I hope you enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner metaphor)

WIth that, the first section of this year’s #RollTad preview.

Colorado Basketball:  The Schedule

Grouping One:  “The Rude Awakening”

  • Nov 13:  Iowa State
  • Nov 17:  @ Auburn

The schedule does the Buffs no favors heading into the 2015-16 season.  They open up the season against preseason #7 Iowa State in a “neutral court” game that in all reality will be a road game for the Buffs in South Dakota.  Even with Fred Hoiberg manning the sidelines for the Chicago Bulls now, Iowa State has one of the nation’s most lethal rosters.

Once again, Colorado matches up with Auburn in ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon in the second game of the year.  This time, they travel to Auburn, to face what many think will be an improved ball club this year.  It isn’t the talent that worries me, though.  Road games in college basketball are a bear to win, especially coming off another road game nearly 1,250 miles away early in the year.

Splitting these two games would be a welcome start to the season that everyone should consider a fair result.  Starting 0-2 is definitely not out of the question.

Grouping Two:  “The Learning Curve”

  • Nov 20:  Portland
  • Nov 22:  Nebraska-Omaha
  • Nov 25:  Air Force
  • Nov 29:  Northern Colorado
  • Dec 2:  Fort Lewis

The Buffs return home for a five game stretch filled with opponents that should allow for the team to work through whatever issues arise, solidify their rotation, and hopefully gain some confidence as we close on the conference slate.

Portland represents a decent opponent slated to finish in the middle of the pack in the WCC.  Nebraska-Omaha is one of the newest members of Division 1 basketball and while improved is still acclimating to life at this level.  Air Force is an important game if only to maintain dominance within the state, the Falcons are picked to finish 8th in the Mountain West this year.  The same can be said about Northern Colorado, Tad Boyle’s former coaching home.  They have not found success since his departure to Boulder.  Fort Lewis is a local Division II program that, again, is unlikely to challenge the Buffs over the course of an entire game.

The Buffs can consider a sweep of these games as the only acceptable result.

Grouping Three:  “The Opportunity”

  • Dec 6:  @ Colorado State
  • Dec 12:  BYU

This grouping represents an extremely important part of the schedule for the Buffs.  Both opponents provide Colorado with an opportunity to tally quality non-conference wins that will register strong marks in the RPI.

Colorado State won’t be nearly as formidable as last season’s 27 win club, with Daniel Bejarano, Stanton Kidd, and JJ Avila all moved on.  That said, they still project to be a decent team who can provide Colorado with a quality road win in non-conference play.

BYU represents the best non-conference home opponent the Buffs will play this season. Projected to finish 2nd in the WCC behind Gonzaga, they are a popular NCAA Tournament pick this preseason and provide a big opportunity for the Buffaloes to register a tournament quality non-conference win within the friendly confines of Coors Event Center.  Tyler Hawes is gone, but returning is Kyle Collingsworth and Chase Fischer, both elite guards who will give the Buffaloes trouble.

A split wouldn’t be the end of the world, neither loss cripples our postseason hopes, but leaving this stretch without a win would be disastrous.  Finding a way to sweep these two games would likely leave the Buffs in pretty good position heading into the Las Vegas Classic.

Speaking of…

Grouping Four:  “Business Trip”

  • Dec 18:  Nicholls State
  • Dec 19:  Hampton
  • Dec 22:  Penn State
  • Dec 23:  Kent State / SMU

This year’s version of the Las Vegas Classic leaves a lot to be desired.  The first two rounds of the Tournament actually take place on campus, so the Buffs receive Nicholls State and Hampton at Coors.  Nicholls State is one of the worst programs in Division I, and Hampton, while much better, should not provide much trouble as they are predicted to finish 6th in the MEAC preseason poll.

Neutral site games are the make or break match-ups of the non-conference slate.  Penn State is projected to be just outside the top 100 of KenPom this season, and thus, is a hugely important game for Colorado.  A loss really hurts our RPI profile, a win is a solid boost.  DJ Newbill is gone for Penn State, the Nittany Lions don’t return a single double digit scorer from last season.  They do bring in two Rivals150 commits in Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves to restock the cupboards.

In a perfect world, the Buffaloes dispatch the Nittany Lions, make the Las Vegas Classic championship game and would take on SMU.  Facing a top 25 opponent in any arena is a solid boost to your tournament resume, regardless of the result.  Obviously, a win is going to move the meter far more than the alternative solution, and that’s the goal, but just getting that matchup is a big win for our profile.  SMU would have to beat Kent State, an opponent similar in strength to Penn State in order for that matchup to occur (if we lost to Penn State and Kent State lost to SMU, obviously we’d meet as well, in a less than ideal scenario).  The Mustangs return a majority of their roster from a year ago when they made the NCAA Tournament as a 6th seed so expectations remain high despite the heavy sanctions placed on them this summer.

If the Buffs are to remain on track the goal here should be at least a 3-1 run with a matchup against SMU as a part of the equation.  Losing to either Penn State or Kent State would be a blemish on the resume in terms of postseason hopes most likely.

Grouping Five:  “The Barometer”

  • Jan 1:  @ California
  • Jan 3:  @ Stanford
  • Jan 8:  Utah
  • Jan 13:  Oregon State
  • Jan 17:  Oregon

The opening stretch of the Pac-12 season will likely make or break the Buffs postseason chances.  Opening up on the road against a California team expected to make a serious run at the conference title is not exactly fun, but at least the trip will be out of the way early on in the year.

The expectations at Stanford are way down this year after the graduation on Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic, and Chasson Randle.  That game represents an opportunity to steal an early conference road game, a rare commodity in Pac-12 play.

The Buffs then return home to play another conference title contender, their travel partner, Utah.  The Utes are without the league’s best player last season, Delon Wright, who now dons an NBA jersey, but the rest of their NCAA Tournament roster from last season returns.

Oregon State returns to Coors Event Center after knocking off the Buffs last season, and this time, they’re expectations are even higher.  Gary Payton II is the league’s best defender and might even stake his claim as the best player overall.  This game is arguably the most important of the stretch as this represents the most reasonable opportunity for the Buffs to knock off a quality opponent early on in the conference campaign.

If I had to pick a team that has been the most disrespected in college basketball circles this summer, it has to be Oregon.  I wasn’t a believer in them last season, but I won’t fall into that trap again.  Elite scorer Joseph Young has moved onto the NBA, but the rest of the Ducks are back, and they have immense talent.  This is another home game that the Buffs will be hard pressed to win, but doing so would definitely elevate their argument as a NCAA Tournament hopeful.

Grouping Six:  “Making Moves”

  • Jan 20:  @ Washington
  • Jan 23:  @ Washington State
  • Jan 27:  Stanford

This grouping represents the easiest three game stretch of the entire Pac-12 schedule.  Washington returns just three scholarship players from last year, there won’t be many more opportunities to win on the road more cushy than this.

If there is one, though, it may come at Washington State.  No more Devonte Lacy up in Pullman, but baby faced Josh Hawkinson does return.  Those are winnable Pac-12 conference road games, you have to find ways to take advantage of those opportunities.

Next is a return trip from Stanford, who as we mentioned previously, is expected to finish in the bottom third of the league this year.  Home games against teams with those expectations must be won, simple as that.

Grouping Seven:  “Second Lap”

  • Jan 31:  California
  • Feb 4:  @ Oregon
  • Feb 6:  @ Oregon State
  • Feb 11:  Washington State
  • Feb 13:  Washington

The schedule in the Pac-12 always finds a quirk or two.  This year, it comes in its repetitiveness early on in the year.  The Buffs first 13 games come against just 7 opponents, and all the teams among this grouping represent return trips from games earlier in the slate.  Because of that, we won’t waste much time breaking down the match-ups other than to say this:

The first three games don’t provide much opportunity for wins, and getting two likely bottom feeders at home to follow that up represent must win games.  Coming out of this grouping with anything less than two wins would be a major disappointment.  A third win would be a fantastic bonus.

Grouping Eight:  “Proving Grounds”

  • Feb 17:  @ USC
  • Feb 20:  @ UCLA
  • Feb 24:  Arizona
  • Feb 28:  Arizona State
  • Mar 5:  @ Utah

This grouping earns the same title as last year’s finishing stretch.  Equally as brutal, the Buffs must find a way to come out of this final stretch in better shape than last year (2-4 down the stretch) if they want to find themselves battling for an NIT or NCAA Tournament berth.  Again, they close with three of five on the road, and again, three of their final five opponents are likely to finish among the top third of the league.  Also, as hinted at above, all of these opponents (minus Utah) the Buffs face just this once all season.  While it could be viewed as a benefit to see Arizona and UCLA just once, you also miss out on chances to boost your resume as well.  USC and Arizona State are both opponents the Buffs must circle as winnable games, they can’t miss on those if they want to finish the league above .500.

Overall, the shape of the Buffaloes schedule appears more favorable than last year’s, with more winnable non-conference games down the stretch against opponents that show quality but aren’t overbearing.  Avoiding UCLA and Arizona in conference play a bit provides the Buffs with some much needed breathing room to move up the standings potentially as well, so opportunities are definitely there for this group aiming to bounce back after a brutal season last year.

Now, onto the next breakdown of this year’s Buffs.

Colorado Basketball:  The Roster

Gone are three key rotational pieces, Askia Booker, Dustin Thomas, and Jaron Hopkins.  There are few players to come out of this program more polarizing than the man formerly affectionately referred to as “Ski”.  Often times mesmerizing, occasionally head-scratching, there’s plenty about him that will be missed.  That said, with the chemistry issues of last year’s bunch, it is hard not to place a burden’s worth of blame on Ski’s shoulders, especially given his decision to abandon his team once it was discovered the Buffs would be taking place in the little known CBI Tournament in the postseason.  Thomas and Hopkins were young talents who didn’t develop the way we’d all envisioned in their two years in Boulder.  Jaron fluttered back and forth between weirdly accurate three point shooter to hitting the side of the backboard on repeat and disappearing for long stretches.  Thomas made the game look so easy, until the ball approached its target slightly offline time and time again.  Defensively, he struggled to stay with Pac-12 caliber players.

Arriving are four pieces unavailable to the Buffs last season for various reasons.  Probably the biggest name is Providence transfer Josh Fortune, who brings a scoring knack that last year’s bunch lacked.  Fortune has good size for a wing, and during his time at Providence showed a natural touch behind the three point stripe.  He won’t be relied on heavily with the ball in his hands, or to make plays for others, but I do think he’s more capable of the latter than given credit for thus far.  The Buffs reached far and wide for their incoming class this year, snatching Thomas Akyazili (Belgium) and Kenan Guzonjic (Bosnia) from overseas.  Neither are expected to provide big minutes for the Buffs this upcoming season, but it is hard not to get excited about Akyazili’s potential.  He had offers from big time programs like St. John’s and Utah, and while playing for the Belgian U20 team (as their youngest member) he put up fantastic numbers and showed capability as a ball handler and spot up shooter.  He’s a bigger, physical guard with incredible handles, the biggest question mark for him will be can he get accustomed to the speed of the American game as a guard with less than exceptional athleticism.  Guzonjic is still working his way back from a severe knee injury that wasn’t healed properly, but the coaches appear to be high on his shooting range as a stretch four.  Returning to the fold is George King, who redshirted last year in a move by Tad Boyle to separate himself from his classmates.  Of course, as fate would have it, both of those players have since left the program, so the playing time that King sought will be forced upon him this season.  King is a tenacious rebounder for a perimeter forward, but must prove that he can defend with versatility as he’s a bit of a tweener at the college level.  A streaky shooter in the past with a decent release, finding a bit more reliability out of him will be Tad Boyle’s challenge this season.

Likely unavailable this season is star forward Xavier Johnson, who tore his achilles in the offseason.  There are rumors of his potential return for Pac-12 play, but on a selfish level I hope that isn’t the case because the achilles is a brutal injury that takes time to properly heal, and returning too early could do serious detriment to his career post college.  Of course, we could really use his talent next year as well, which is part of the equation.  We are ensured of the unavailability of transfer guard Derrick White this season, who has one of the cooler stories in recent memory.  A local product from Legend HS, White was not given a sniff from a Division I college coming out as a skinny undersized guard.  He went to UC-Colorado Springs, quickly blossomed four inches, and became one of the best players in Division II.  Looking to make a bigger name for himself, he chose to transfer to Boulder this season, and by all accounts, he’s often been the best player at practice this summer and fall.  It is a shame the NCAA continues to disallow athletes capable of proving themselves and moving up to the Division I ranks to play right away, but Tad Boyle and the Buffs will benefit from his arrival next season.

Now let’s get down to who returns for Tad Boyle this upcoming season.  You can’t talk Colorado hoops without highlighting Josh Scott first, so here we go.  Hampered with back injuries for most of last year, many forgot just how dominant this Colorado grown big man can be.  His post footwork is unmatched by anyone in the nation, and he even added a somewhat reliable long range jump shot to his repertoire last season.   He’s a fantastic free throw shooter with magical touch with both hands inside the paint.  His only detriment is his lack of explosiveness around the rim, he finishes too often below the rim, and has trouble finishing through contact because of that issue as well.  If he found a way to improve on that, good luck to his opponents.  Think I’m overhyping the man?  Think again, in his last seven games last year, once he got back to being his healthy self, he averaged nearly 20 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.  Those are All American numbers.  Also returning is fellow homegrown big man Wesley Gordon.  He’s really struggled to make a consistent impact, especially with Scott in the lineup.  That can’t happen this year, he has to step up and be the Buffs second best player this season.  He’s a tremendous shot blocker with agile feet defensively, but has to work on his strength and ability to keep bigger guys off the block.  Offensively, he’s very gifted, even has three point range, but is often times too unselfish around the rim.  He loves to pass, but routinely makes that extra pass you don’t need instead of finishing above the rim with consistency.  Xavier Talton will look to bounce back from a disastrous year.  As a sophomore, Talton surprised people with his growth, knocking down perimeter jumpers with consistency and locking down opponent wings.  Last year, it all fell apart.  His numbers worsened in every major category, including shooting a worrisome 30% from the field overall and just under 32% from 3PT range.  A bounce back campaign from the now senior would be a huge boost for this ball club.  Perhaps the biggest “X-factor” of all, though, is junior TreShaun Fletcher.  Gifted with many physical tools, Fletcher’s biggest issue is keeping him confident on the floor.  After going through a knee injury his freshmen year, he never really found his rhythm consistently last season and you could tell he was still being careful out there.  Despite that, his numbers rose dramatically from his freshmen year to last, even shooting a high quality 46% from 3PT range.  If he can maintain his aggressiveness this year, and reach his potential as a lockdown defender, Fletcher has a chance to be a big impact player for the Buffs as an upperclassmen.  Bruising sophomore Tory Miller is expected to have a big impact on this season as well.   He’s a highlight reel of big time dunks, hustle plays, and impact plays defensively, but he struggled to guard post players last year consistently, needing to add weight and quickness.  Boyle has pointed to him as the most improved player on the team, which would be bad news for all of CU’s opponents this season.  Dominique Collier, legendary product of Denver East HS, is back for his sophomore year.  His first season on campus was a struggle, getting injured, suspended, and just overall struggling to catch his feet at this level.  He’s a heady point guard who can use his first step quickness to get into the lane and create for others.  He has a flat jump shot, but the mechanics are there, if he can just add some air under the ball he could really become a plus shooter.  He doesn’t have a lot of explosiveness, so he’ll need to find a craftier finishing ability in the Pac-12, but I expect a big time improvement from him this season.  Lightly used Eli Stalzer is also back in the fold, but with his music taking up a majority of his time, he often misses practice and will probably be passed on the depth chart by Akyazili this time around.  He remains a fan favorite who is entirely capable of stepping onto the court and hitting a big shot or two.

Overall, this year’s group has too many question marks to formulate any semblance of expectations overall.  You look at the depth and you are probably satisfied with the first three guys off the bench, but who is your second best player?  Your third?  Someone besides Josh Scott must step up and become a consistent scoring threat or your going to just see every team double him down low and let others beat them.  Will anyone be up for that challenge?  We honestly just don’t know yet.  If the answer is yes, this group will improve on last year’s disappointment, if its no, then we will see a lot more of the same from 2015.

Colorado Basketball:  The Numbers

In this segment, I pull out a few numbers, whether statistics, or rankings, or whatever, that I think Colorado basketball fans will want to keep an eye on this upcoming season.  There are several key metrics that coincide with the effectiveness of a team in a particular year.

220th

Where the Buffs ranked nationally in points allowed last season, a number in which I know makes Tad Boyle cringe.  Giving up 68.1 points per game in one of the worst scoring seasons in college basketball history will put you behind the eight ball in many situations.  Those of you familiar with Colorado basketball will recognize the term “TadBall”…which refers to his style of play, play defense and rebound.  I find it hard to imagine that this program continues to struggle defensively.

35.3

The percentage of three pointers made by Colorado opponents last season, ranking the Buffs 231st in the country in defending such shots.  This is the biggest issue for me right now, and apparently the staff as well, as they announced in the offseason that they’d be switching up their defensive philosophy to try and run teams off the three point line.  This is a wise change, as three pointers have become more commonplace in college hoops and are now used more as a weapon than an afterthought.  Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon are both proficient shot blockers, trust them to make plays when opponents are forced to attack the middle.

-1.9

The Buffs turnover margin last year, ranking a putrid 295th in the country.  College ball is a guard sport, and that is where the Buffs often times struggled last season.  They must be smarter with the basketball, and especially more efficient feeding the ball into the post to Scott, Gordon, and Miller.  Basketball is sometimes a simple game, the more opportunities you have to score the ball offensively, the more likely it will happen.  The Buffs are not the most efficient group shooting, so taking care of the ball and earning extra possessions would go a long way to helping this group get buckets.

5.0

Colorado’s rebounding margin last season, ranking them 33rd in the country.  This is what the Buffs do best.  Limit opponents second chance opportunities and create a few of their own.  Tad Boyle preaches this non-stop in interviews, practice sessions, etc, this is Colorado basketball’s identity.  In past years they packed the paint and allowed teams more open looks than you’d like, but with changes, we may see this number decrease in favor of holding down opponent’s 3PT%.  That will be something to watch throughout the year.

1.5

Dominique Collier represents your returning assist leader from last season, at 1.5 assists per game.  These types of numbers are scary for Colorado fans because we no longer have a creator capable of creating shots for himself such as Askia Booker on the roster.  Guys are going to have to sacrifice for others and make more plays.  Ideally you’d like to see 2-3 guys averaging close to 3 assists per game for the offense to really flow.

7th

Colorado’s predicted finish in the Pac-12 preseason media poll this offseason.  Expectations are down for the Buffaloes this season, but I happen to find that as a positive.  Tad has proven in years past that he can get the most out of teams with lesser talent, and I’d expect a renewed focus on defense and rebounding out of this year’s group.  They’ll need to exceed those expectations to make the NCAA Tournament, and a lot has to go right, but its possible, and that is all you can ask for.

Colorado Basketball:  The Predictions

We’ve reached the culmination of TheAirUpHere’s Colorado Basketball season preview.  You’ve learned about the schedule, the roster, and you’ve been given some important numbers to keep your eye on this season.  Tomorrow, the Buffs open their season against powerhouse Iowa State, and all this speculation will form into results.  Let’s take one last stab at how this season should shape up.

Feel free to hold me to these, they wouldn’t be predictions if I didn’t show some faith!

Pac-12 Predictions:

Conference Standings (W/L Totals)

  1.  UCLA Bruins (14-4)
  2. Arizona Wildcats (14-4)
  3. California Golden Bears (13-5)
  4. Oregon Ducks (12-6)
  5. Utah Utes (12-6)
  6. Oregon State Beavers (8-10)
  7. Colorado Buffaloes (7-11)
  8. USC Trojans (7-11)
  9. Stanford Cardinal (6-12)
  10. Arizona State Sun Devils (5-13)
  11. Washington State Cougars (5-13)
  12. Washington Huskies (5-13)

NCAA Tournament Berths (5):  

  • Arizona Wildcats (3), UCLA Bruins (4), California Golden Bears (4), Oregon Ducks (7), Utah Utes (8)

Postseason Awards:

  • Pac-12 Player of the Year:  Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Freshman of the Year:  Jaylen Brown, California
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Most Improved Player of the Year:  Jordan McLaughlin, USC

1st Team All Pac-12:

  • Ryan Anderson, Arizona
  • Bryce Alford, UCLA
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon
  • Jaylen Brown, California
  • Josh Hawkinson, Washington State
  • Jordan McLaughlin, USC
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah
  • Josh Scott, Colorado
  • Tyrone Wallace, California

2nd Team All Pac-12:

  • Andrew Andrews, Washington
  • Dwayne Benjamin, Oregon
  • Tra Holder, Arizona State
  • Nikola Jovanovic, USC
  • Allonzo Trier, Arizona

1st Team All-Pac 12 Defense:  

  • Andrew Andrews, Washington
  • Jordan Bell, Oregon
  • Gary Payton II, Oregon State
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah
  • Josh Scott, Colorado

Colorado Buffaloes (BOLD) Predictions:

  • Josh Scott will average 17+ PPG
  • Josh Fortune will have at least 2 games with 5+ 3PT makes
  • Josh Scott will lead the Pac-12 in double-doubles
  • Dominique Collier will average 4+ assists
  • TreShaun Fletcher will flirt with a 10ppg scoring average
  • Wesley Gordon will have multiple games with 5+ blocks
  • Most Valuable Player:  Josh Scott
  • Most Improved Player:  Tory Miller
  • Most Important Player:  TreShaun Fletcher

Thank you for reading, lets surprise some people this season and make watching our Buffs fun again!  See you at the Dark Horse, see you at Coors Event Center!  #ROLLTAD

Why CU Fans May Be Giving up on Mac and the Buffs A Bit Too Early…

It would be tough to paint a picture of where Colorado football is, without telling you where we’ve been.  Without perspective, nothing is truly seen.  In fact, to explain it succinctly, I present you with this combination of photos of Yao Ming (bet you didn’t think you’d open up this blog and get some Yao in your life, you’re welcome).

Fair warning: the jokes are over, and this next part is not for the faint of heart.

Obviously, Buffs fans are in tune with the fact that this program has been painstakingly awful for the past decade or so, but are we really in tune with just how low we’ve fallen compared to the rest of the country, on a macro level?

You’re about to find out.

Your Colorado Buffaloes currently own the longest bowl drought among Power 5 conference members, one day longer than Indiana.  What that means is that Coach MacIntyre is in the middle of trying to dig your beloved Buffaloes out of the biggest drought of relevance of any program currently affiliated with a major conference.  We haven’t been among the worst, we’re engineering the caboose of this here train.

The 2012-13 Buffaloes (for those of you that had successfully erased this abomination from your memory, I apologize) racked up a -30.5 scoring margin.  Now, clearly, that’s abysmal, but exactly how embarrassed should you be?

The answer:  Very.

It is the 4th worst scoring margin recorded since we last witnessed a season curtain with more wins than losses (2004), behind 2005-06 Temple (-35.5), 2007-08 Washington State (-38.0) and 2011-12 New Mexico (-32.1).  With Washington State’s appearance on that list, that makes 2012-13 Colorado the 2nd worst Power 5 conference team to step on the field in more than a decade.

What that means for MacIntyre is that he’s not climbing some sledding hill in northeast Ohio, he’s climbing Mount McKinley, and doing so with a time limit.

In 2013-14, we reduced that average scoring margin to -20.1, in 2014-15 furthermore to -10.5, and currently in 2015-16 our average scoring margin sits at +3.3.  But, but, we played Nicholls State!  Fine, take them out, and the scoring margin becomes -2.86, still a considerable improvement over years past.

In Pac-12 conference play, we’ve moved from being outscored to the tune of a -30.67 scoring margin in 2012-13 to -19.33 in 2013-14 and down to -13.78 last year.  Currently, the Buffs have backtracked to -16.33 in conference this year, but there remains time.

MacIntyre doesn’t just have to recover from one of the worst teams in recent memory, he also has to brainstorm a game plan to reverse a losing mentality that has seeped into the program’s roots over the course of nearly a decade of ineptitude.

Just how bad has this Colorado run been historically?

Here’s a list of the other Power 5 programs who have been similarly parched in the win column for a period of at least five years within the past two decades.

Kansas 2009-current (4-48) 7.69%

Duke 1995-2011 (15-121) 11.03%

Baylor 1996-2009 (14-98) 12.50%

Washington 2004-2009 (6-37) 13.95%

Vanderbilt 1995-2011 (20-116) 14.71%

Washington State 2007-2012 (8-46) 14.81%

Colorado 2008-current (10-50) 16.67%

Indiana 2002-current (19-85) 18.27%

Iowa State 2006-current (17-59) 22.36%

Kentucky 2000-current (26-88)  22.81%

Only three programs have had a run of misery more significant than Colorado in both years and winning percentage, Baylor, Duke, and Vanderbilt.

The combination of these factors make it apparent that Coach MacIntyre has himself quite a rebuild.  Yes, the process has been slow, slower than we’d like.  Yes, there’s significant frustration with the progress, as there should be among a fanbase as proud as this one.  Which is why sometimes a little perspective is needed before a rash decision is made.  Not all construction projects are the same, and nearly all don’t require the amount of patience that the one up in Boulder will require.

The expectations this year were higher, no doubt.  We were so close last year that the natural progression would be to expect more wins.  What we forget is that progress is not always linear.  Hitting a plateau doesn’t necessarily mean improvement stops forever, it just means there’s farther to reach before you get there.

The fanbase has leaned on nearly every positive sign in hopes that it would be the right one to push us over the edge.  The most recent wave of optimism surrounded the team’s level of returning experience, a luxury the past few teams have not been afforded.

That statement remains true, but what many left out, was that this club was noticeably devoid of senior leadership.  There’s obviously something to be said for returning experience in general, but with many of that experience still developing, it hasn’t quite taken on an immediate impact the way many expected.  Looking around the Pac-12, many of the league’s most successful programs are stocked full of senior leadership, a distinction not many cared to explore prior to the season.

Here’s the current Pac-12 standings with the number of current seniors starting for those programs in parentheses.

Pac-12 North:

  1. Stanford: 4-0 (14)
  2. California: 2-1 (13)
  3. Washington St:  2-1 (8)
  4. Oregon: 2-2 (11)
  5. Washington:  1-2 (8)
  6. Oregon State: 0-3 (6)

Pac-12 South:

  1. Utah:  4-0 (11)
  2. Arizona St:  2-2 (13)
  3. Arizona: 2-2 (7)
  4. USC: 1-2 (9)
  5. UCLA:  1-2 (7)
  6. Colorado:  0-3 (5)

The correlation is pretty clear.  The two teams still searching for a conference win have the smallest number of senior starters in the conference, and of the teams .500 or better, just Washington State and Arizona have less than double digit senior starters.  Obviously this is a small sample size, but it is what we have to work with and that works both ways.  Arizona has beaten Oregon State and the Buffs to date, and I think we’d all agree Washington State is unlikely to finish .500 or better in league play.

The results are similar when you compare the standing to the number of total seniors on the two-deep of each roster as well.  Included are the starters for the team’s kicker, punter, kick returner, and punt returner, but not their backups because they are rarely utilized unlike the offensive and defensive units.

Pac-12 North:

  1. Stanford: 4-0 (23)
  2. California: 2-1 (20)
  3. Washington St:  2-1 (12)
  4. Oregon: 2-2 (12)
  5. Washington:  1-2 (10)
  6. Oregon State: 0-3 (8)

Pac-12 South:

  1. Utah:  4-0 (14)
  2. Arizona St:  2-2 (15)
  3. Arizona: 2-2 (13)
  4. USC: 1-2 (13)
  5. UCLA:  1-2 (10)
  6. Colorado:  0-3 (9)

Again, the only two teams without ten or more seniors on the roster (Colorado and Oregon State) are still searching for a conference win, while every team in the league with multiple conference wins have 12+ seniors.  Only USC (13) has a losing conference record among teams with 12+ seniors.

Ideally, I would have loved to compare this against previous years as well, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to find copies of depth charts for most of the teams going farther back than this year.

So where do you place the blame for a program inexplicably having only 9 seniors among its two deep?  The answer is simple, recruiting.  It is well documented that the Buffs have struggled to bring in Pac-12 level talent since the 2008 Dan Hawkins class that brought in significant talent and brought quite a bit of buzz to the program on Signing Day.  However, less often talked about is the reality that there are two distinct things you must have success in when it comes to recruiting:  Talent, which we’ve discussed, and Retention, which is often overlooked but is a huge reason for the Buffs demise in the past decade.  Let’s take a look.

The 5 starters all reside from the 2011 (Nelson Spruce and Stephane Nembot) and 2012 recruiting classes (Kenneth Crawley and Justin Solis).  The 2011 class was the transition class from Dan Hawkins to Jon Embree, and the 2012 class was all on Jon Embree.  The 2011 class actually had the 2nd largest percentage of players exhaust their eligibility (the retention piece) at Colorado in the last ten years (52.17%), but only Spruce, Nembot, and Alex Kelley still remain with the program this year, so that number is not of much use in the current year.  Here’s where the issues begin.

The 2012 class actually ranked as the 2nd best in the past decade per Rivals average RR rating (the talent piece) at 5.524 average RR.  The issue, of course, is that talent is not very useful to a program if it doesn’t actually play football there.  The 2012 class was huge, with 29 total commitments, and thus the program would rely on it heavily to rebuild its depth chart for the coming years.  Mission failed.  13 of the 28 signees that year were gone by their third year in the program, and at this point, it appears that just 11 of the 28 (39.29%) will have contributed anything of significance at Colorado.  Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that two additional projected starters (Jeromy Irwin and Josh Tupou) are not available for this season and additional prospects such as Marques Mosley, Clay Norgard, Dejon Wilson and Yuri Wright have not been able to find ways to help the team on the field.

MacIntyre is trying to win football games with his upperclassmen coming from historically the two worst classes in the past ten years in terms of contribution percentage. Both of those classes belong to Jon Embree, and that’s how long he took this program.  That’s reality. That’s the battle.

Fast forward to Coach MacIntyre’s current recruiting class, which possesses an average RR rating of 5.530, which would rank 2nd among all of the signed classes in the past decade, bringing up another complication with a potential coaching change.  You’d be trading in statistically our best class since 2008 for another “transition” class, which historically has produced minimal talent.  In fact, in the past ten classes, the three with the lowest average RR rating were all transition classes:

  • Embree to MacIntyre in 2013:  5.443
  • Hawkins to Embree in 2011:  5.439
  • Barnett to Hawkins in 2006:  5.336

Similarly, the two classes who have exhausted their eligibility (2006 and 2011) currently rank as the bottom two in percentage of significant contribution, with 2012 likely to take over as the worst overall at the conclusion of that classes eligibility.

Simply put, transition classes have historically resulted in poorly ranked commits that in turn do not produce on the field at Colorado.  Introducing another one of those classes into a fragile rebuild is not a wise judgement call in my estimation.

When considering the removal of MacIntyre could also result in the loss of Jim Leavitt, who in his short stint at Colorado has dramatically improved recruiting efforts in Florida and Georgia, not too mention seen significant improvement in the production of the defense.

In fact, Coach Mac has improved his recruiting in each year he’s been on campus, a feat that neither of his predecessors accomplished before their short stints in Boulder expired.

His transition class in 2013 brought in an average RR rating of 5.443 as mentioned previously, the 2014 class came in at 5.452, last years group posted a 5.494, and halfway through this recruiting cycle our incoming kids have an average RR rating of 5.530.  The Hawkins recruiting wagon fell off its wheels following that huge class in 2008, tallying falling average RR ratings in 2009, 2010, and 2011 before being replaced.

Another piece of the puzzle causing a delay in improvement may be the schedule.  With the Pac-12 unbalanced schedule, half of the teams play 4 conference home games per year while the others play 5.  As you’d expect, there’s a notable advantage to the teams playing 5 games at home every year.  8 of the other 11 league members have better records in league play during their seasons playing 5 home games.  Colorado, unfortunately, is in the midst of a conference season in which they receive just 4 conference games at Folsom Field.  Among the other issues would be the strength of the South division.  Last year marked the first time a division had 5 teams with records above .500 since the Pac moved to 12 teams in 2011, and the potential is there for that to occur again this year.  For a building program, that spells disaster.  At worst, the Pac-12 South is currently the 2nd best division in football, a reality that makes Colorado winning football games more difficult.

All in all, the cards are still stacked against us at the moment, but with patience, that same deck can be our ally down the line.  Next season, the Buffs enjoy a five game conference home slate.  In 2017, Stanford and Oregon slide off the schedule.  If MacIntyre can’t make things happen at that point, with his seniors, then a change becomes warranted.  But not now, not when we’ve made tangible improvement in many facets both on and off the field, and set the groundwork for future success.  Not unless you can promise me a candidate we know is a step up, and I don’t think you can.

Projecting the Field: The 2015 NCAA Tournament

Selection Sunday is upon us, at 6PM EST we will find out which 68 teams will fight for the NCAA Championship.

With Wyoming earning their way into the NCAA Tournament by winning the Mountain West tournament, the bubble lost a spot, which will add further tension to the watch parties of the teams most glued to the bubble line.  This year’s version of the bubble is considerably weaker than average, especially with the struggles of most of the bubble squads throughout their conference tournaments.

Here is how I project the seeds to look when they come out later today:

1.  Kentucky — Villanova — Duke — Arizona

2.  Wisconsin — Virginia — Gonzaga — Kansas

3.  Notre Dame — Baylor — Iowa State — Maryland

4.  Oklahoma — Wichita State — Arkansas — Louisville

5.  North Carolina — Northern Iowa — West Virginia — Butler

6.  VCU — Providence — Oregon — SMU

7.  Xavier — Michigan State — Georgetown — Iowa

8.  St. John’s — NC State — Utah — San Diego State

9.  Dayton — Ohio State — Cincinnati — Oklahoma State

10.  Georgia — Purdue — Davidson — LSU

11.  Indiana — Texas — Ole Miss — Colorado State — BYU — Temple

12.  Harvard — Wofford — Stephen F Austin — Buffalo

13.  Georgia State — Valparaiso — Wyoming — UC Irvine

14.  UAB — New Mexico State — Northeastern — Albany

15.  Eastern Washington — North Dakota State — Coastal Carolina — Belmont

16.  North Florida — Manhattan — Texas Southern — Lafayette — Robert Morris — Hampton

Last 4 In:  Ole Miss — Colorado State — BYU — Temple

First 4 Out:  Boise State — Tulsa — Texas A&M — UCLA

Next 4 Out:  Richmond — Miami FL — Murray State — Illinois

Bubble Watch: Musical Chairs

This time of year, the focus always remains on the bubble, but just how many spots are there?

That’s a loaded question, as that depends on who wins their conference tournaments and whether or not any of those champions would have been left out of the field without their title.  We call those situations “bid-stealers”, and they are a bubble team’s worst nightmare.  In this game of musical chairs, a space is removed nearly every day at this point in the season, so who will be left standing?  Let’s find out.

The teams have been broken down into four categories, as described below:

  • Locks:  These teams have, for all accounts and purposes, earned their NCAA berth
  • In the Gym:  These teams are in pretty good shape (get it?)
  • Blowing Bubbles:  These teams are squarely on the bubble
  • Grass is Greener:  These teams are on the wrong side of the NCAA Tourney fence

One-Bid Leagues:

America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, SWAC, Summit, Sun Belt, WAC.

Total “Locked” Bids (19)

American:

Locks (1):  Southern Methodist

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (3):

  • Cincinnati Bearcats (21-9, 12-5 AAC) — RPI:  38 — KenPom:  37 — SOS: 101

After a dominant road win at Tulsa this week, the Bearcats are in good shape in comparison to some others on the bubble, but their resume shouldn’t have them breathing easy just yet.  Non-conference wins vs. San Diego State and @ NC State will be staples of their resume along with their season sweep over SMU.  Losses at East Carolina and Nebraska, and a recent home loss to Tulane are definite warts.  Avoid a home loss to Memphis in the regular season finale, and the Bearcats are probably safe.

  • Temple Owls (21-9, 12-5 AAC) — RPI: 36 — KenPom:  58 — SOS: 96

Temple is definitely taking advantage of their non-conference win vs. Kansas right now.  They have beaten two teams in the RPI top 150 since the first week of conference play, and are just 1-5 against the other teams at the tops of the league.  They remain just 9-9 vs. RPI top 200 opponents, the worst of any program currently on the bubble.

  • Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (21-8, 14-3 AAC) — RPI:  46 — KenPom:  74 — SOS:  118

Tulsa is now in a world of hurt despite being 14-3 in league play after getting blown out at home by Cincinnati.  Yes, they swept Temple and own an 8-3 road record.  Trouble lies ahead though, as they close the conference season @ SMU, find a win somehow and they are probably in, lose, and they will have stumbled enough to make people remember that they lost to a Division II opponent earlier this season.

Grass is Greener (0):

Atlantic 10:

Locks (2):  Dayton, Virginia Commonwealth

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

  • Davidson Wildcats (21-8, 13-4 A-10) — RPI:  31 — KenPom:  28 — SOS:  103

Davidson is currently in possession of one of the top slots in Joe Lunardi’s “Last 4 In” category, so you could say they are the face of the bubble mayhem right now.  After dropping back to back games against St. Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure it looked like the Wildcats were done, but they’ve since won 8 straight including a sweep of George Washington, a win @ Rhode Island, and, most recently, a dominating win over depleted VCU.  Avoid a horrible loss at Duquesne this weekend, and the Wildcats will be in good shape.

Grass is Greener (0):

ACC:

Locks (5):  Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

North Carolina State Wolfpack (18-12, 9-8 ACC) — RPI:  47 — KenPom:  41 — SOS:  20

After this week’s win @ Clemson, the Wolfpack are in pretty good shape.  They now have road wins vs. Louisville and North Carolina along with wins against Duke and Boise State. Unfortunately, in the past month they’ve also lost @ Boston College and Wake Forest  A home win vs. Syracuse this week would place them “in the gym”, but a loss would be another blemish that would keep them on the bubble.

Grass is Greener (2):

Miami FL (19-11, 9-8 ACC) — RPI:  65 — KenPom:  63 — SOS:  49

Miami won at Pittsburgh this week without star PG Angel Rodriguez, keeping them alive in the bubble race.  They are still on the outside looking in, but a run in the ACC Tournament could push the Hurricanes on the right side of the fence depending on what happens to the team’s in front of them.

Pittsburgh (19-12, 8-9 ACC) — RPI:  62 — KenPom:  77 — SOS:  52

Simply put, after that disastrous home loss to Miami, the Panthers will need to win at Florida State and at least make the ACC semis to even crawl back into the discussion.

BIG XII:

Locks (5):  Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (2):

Oklahoma State Cowboys (18-11, 8-9 Big XII) — RPI:  41 — KenPom:  32 — SOS;  7

After dropping four in a row, including bad road losses to TCU and Texas Tech, the Cowboys were able to right the ship a bit by beating TCU at home this week.  They are in pretty good shape overall, having played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, and owning 3 top 10 RPI wins.  Unless they find a way to win @ WVU in their finale, they will finish conference play under .500, can the committee overlook that and see their overall body of work?

Texas Longhorns (18-12, 7-10 Big XII) — RPI:  46 — KenPom:  21 — SOS:  8

The Longhorns are still alive after a crucial OT win at home against Baylor.  Before that, Texas hadn’t beaten a Tournament team since mid-January, and even with that result, Texas is just 6-12 vs. RPI top 100 opponents.  Their best resume bullet point?  No bad losses, they’ve lost to just one team ranked outside the RPI top 50 (Stanford at home).

Grass is Greener (1):

Kansas State Wildcats (15-15, 8-9 Big XII) — RPI:  78 — KenPom:  81 — SOS:  5

A win @ Texas in their season finale could garner them some late interest because of their number of quality top-end wins, but Kansas State is just 10-15 vs. the RPI top 200 and 1-9 away from home, so it would be a pretty significant miracle for them to be selected by the Committee at this point.

Big East:

Locks (4):  Butler, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova

In the Gym (1):

St. John’s Red Storm (21-9, 10-7 Big East) — RPI:  34 — KenPom:  31 — SOS:  43

St. John’s is now approaching “lock” status for me.  After avoiding a bad road loss at Marquette, St. John’s closes at Villanova, which will do no damage to its resume should it leave with a loss.  They’ve clinched an above .500 league record, they own three top 25 RPI victories, and nine RPI top 100 wins.  I see no reason they should be left out.

Blowing Bubbles (1):

Xavier Musketeers (18-12, 8-9 Big East) — RPI:  42 — KenPom:  27 — SOS:  18

Xavier’s resume is actually somewhat similar to Kansas State’s, but they’ve found a way to get a few more crucial wins along the way.  They own three RPI top 25 wins, five RPI top 50 wins, but they’ve also lost neutral court to Long Beach State, @ Auburn, @  DePaul, and at home to Creighton, all bad losses.  Their finale is at Creighton, a loss would put the Musketeers in serious jeopardy.

Grass is Greener (0):

Big Ten:

Locks (4):  Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin

In the Gym (1):

Iowa Hawkeyes (20-10, 11-6 Big Ten) — RPI:  39 — KenPom:  21 — SOS:  35

The Hawkeyes are in great shape, currently sitting T-3 in the Big 10 standings with their lone “bad” loss of the season coming at Northwestern.  Their win at Indiana this week gives them five RPI top 100 ROAD wins this season, if that doesn’t get you in, I’m not sure what would.

Blowing Bubbles (3):

Illinois Fighting Illini (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) — RPI:  58 — KenPom:  53 — SOS:  64

Illinois has a bit of a bland resume overall, owning just five RPI top 100 victories, but with just a single bad loss @ Nebraska.  They do own wins vs. Baylor, Maryland, and @ Michigan State, which hold some weight.  Their finale @ Purdue could certainly act as a NCAA Tournament play-in game.

Indiana Hoosiers (19-11, 9-8 Big Ten) — RPI:  53 — KenPom:  56 — SOS:  68

Indiana has taken a turn for the worst down the stretch of the season.  Once a mortal lock for the Dance, they have since failed to beat a Tournament team in nearly 2 months, and are 3-5 in their last 8 conference games, with a bad loss to Northwestern to top it all off.  It would be hard to imagine a team with wins over SMU, Butler, and Maryland, along with five additional RPI top 100 wins getting left out, but the Committee does take momentum into account when determining worthy inclusions in the field, and lately, the Hoosiers have not played like a Tournament team.

Purdue Boilermakers (19-11, 11-6 Big Ten) — RPI:  61 — KenPom:  48 — SOS: 57

It is pretty incredible that a team with home losses to North Florida and Gardner Webb could be in this position in March, but you can’t ignore a team T-3 in the Big 10 standings, especially when they sweep Indiana.  They also own non-conference wins against bubble teams NC State and BYU, which will help them when it comes down to comparing team by team.  Take care of business of Illinois at home, and the Boilermakers will be in pretty good shape on Selection Sunday barring an early exit from the Big 10 Tournament.

Grass is Greener (0):

Conference USA:

Locks (0):

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Old Dominion (23-6, 12-5 C USA) — RPI:  45 — KenPom:  65 — SOS:  191

Old Dominion is hanging on by a thread after failing to win the Conference USA regular season title.  Their lone RPI top 100 win since beating Richmond, LSU, and VCU in a week-long stretch in November, is a home win over LA Tech.  Over that stretch, they also acquired bad losses @ Western Kentucky, @ Middle Tennessee State, @ UAB, and @ UTSA.  With their signature wins both sputtering to the finish, the committee may fail to be impressed with the Monarchs’ overall resume.

Missouri Valley:

Locks (2):  Northern Iowa, Wichita State

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (0):

Mountain West:

Locks (1):  San Diego State

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (2):

Boise State (23-7, 13-4 MW) — RPI:  35 — KenPom:  37 — SOS:  124

What Boise State has done since dropping their first three league games is incredibly impressive, sweeping San Diego State along the way and likely earning a #1 seed in the MWC Tourney assuming they take care of business at home vs. Fresno State in their finale.  The Broncos do own bad losses at Fresno State, at home vs. Utah State, and a neutral court loss to Loyola Chicago.  With just five RPI top 100 wins overall, they are far from a lock to make the Dance, but avoid a bad loss down the stretch and it would be hard to leave the Broncos out after how they’ve closed the season.

Colorado State (25-5, 12-5 MW) — RPI:  27 — KenPom:  66 — SOS: 158

What Colorado State has done well compared to everyone else on the bubble is acquire wins.  Unfortunately, few of them have come against quality opponents, as they own 11 wins over teams with 200+ RPIs, the committee doesn’t like that.  They didn’t beat anyone in non-conference play that will catch the committee’s eye, and their best road win is at New Mexico State, so the Rams will have to avoid a bad loss to remain on the right side of the bubble most likely.

Grass is Greener (0):

Ohio Valley:

Locks (0):

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Murray State Racers (26-4, 16-0 OV) — RPI:  67 — KenPom:  71 — SOS:  303

Here’s the thing, yes, they’ve won 24 straight games, that’s great.  The problem is, they’ve played one of the easiest schedules in the country, they are 67th in the RPI, and their lone RPI top 100 win is home vs. Illinois State.  It would be a huge mistake for this team to earn an at-large berth, period.

Pac-12:

Locks (2):  Arizona, Utah

In the Gym (1):

Oregon Ducks (23-8, 13-5 Pac-12) — RPI:  30 — KenPom:  49 — SOS:  67

It would be hard to imagine a scenario that the Ducks get left out at this point, but the Pac-12 is so weak and their top-end resume is so average I can’t quite bring myself to put them in “lock” status yet.  That said, what they’ve done after the off-season they went through is nothing short of a miracle, Dana Altman has to be the national coach of the year.

Blowing Bubbles (1):

UCLA Bruins (19-12, 11-7 Pac-12) — RPI:  51 — KenPom:  50 — SOS:  26

The Bruins will now be in “wait’ and see” mode after finishing up conference play among the top four in the Pac-12.  They’ve played a brutal schedule, and their two “bad” losses come to Oregon State and Colorado on the road, both teams who are very difficult to beat at home traditionally. They are 3-1 vs. Oregon and Stanford, which the committee will take into account.  Unfortunately, despite all the talent they played in the non-conference portion of their schedule, they weren’t able to beat any of those teams, losing to Oklahoma, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Alabama.

Grass is Greener (1):

Stanford Cardinal (18-11, 9-8 Pac-12) — RPI:  64 — KenPom:  42– SOS:  62

After falling late at Arizona State last night, the Cardinal are in ominous territory.  They are just 3-6 in their last 9 Pac-12 games, including losses at Washington State and Colorado, and their only chance to finish above .500 in league play is @ Arizona.  Good luck with that.  Of course, that is a huge opportunity to finish with a huge resume-boosting win, but I wouldn’t say the odds are in their favor to pull that off.  It would be hard to put a team with a 9-9 record in a bad league into the Tournament, especially when they finish 3-7.

SEC:

Locks (2):  Arkansas, Kentucky

In the Gym (3):

Georgia Bulldogs (19-10, 10-7 SEC) — RPI:  33 — KenPom:  36 — SOS:  17

The Bulldogs are about as close to “lock” status as you can be now.  After inexplicable back-to-back home losses to Auburn and South Carolina, the Bulldogs rattled off consecutive road wins at Alabama and Ole Miss, and played Kentucky down to the wire this week in a fun battle.  They own 8 RPI 100 wins and are 7-4 on the road, they’ll be in the Tournament.

LSU Tigers (21-9, 10-7 SEC) — RPI:  56 — KenPom:  44 — SOS:  77

How frustrating is this team?  Getting blown out at home by Tennessee?  Seriously?  No one is as inconsistent as LSU, but the fact remains, they are 10-5 vs. the RPI top 100 and are 7-3 on the road.  They’ll be in the Dance.

Ole Miss Rebels (20-10, 11-6 SEC) — RPI:  44 — KenPom:  35 — SOS:  44

Ole Miss has quietly put together a very solid resume as wel after posting bad home losses to Charleston Southern, TCU, and Western Kentucky early in the year.  They also own a neutral court win over Cincinati, they won at Oregon and Arkansas, and swept Florida.  Should they avoid a bad home loss to Vanderbilt to close the regular season, I’d be surprised to see them left out come Selection Sunday.

Blowing Bubbles (0):

Grass is Greener (1):

Texas A&M Aggies (20-9, 11-6 SEC) — RPI:  48 — KenPom:  43 — SOS:  54

No one is more mad at LSU than the Aggies, who now own 0 RPI top 50 wins after LSU’s latest embarrassment.  They are just 6-9 vs. the RPI top 100 as well, so they are now in precarious position despite posting 20 wins and a top half finish in the SEC.  Of hose 6 RPI top 100 wins, only the sweep of LSU come against teams who will be in the Tournament.

West Coast:

Locks (1):  Gonzaga

In the Gym (0):

Blowing Bubbles (1):

BYU Cougars (23-8, 13-5 WCC) — RPI:  40 — KenPom:  26 — SOS:  80

It was mighty nice of Gonzaga to take their final regular season game off and give BYU their lone RPI top 25 (and top 50) win of the season just in time for the close of the year.  With Stanford and Umass falling off, it will likely represent their only win vs. a Tournament team, so the Cougars would be wise to avoid a bad loss in WCC Tournament play.

Grass is Greener (0):

 

To crunch the numbers, there are 48 “locks” to date, which leaves 20 open spots for the teams among the other three categories.  There are 28 teams currently “on the bubble”, that it to say, they are listed in the “In the Gym”, “Blowing Bubbles”, or “Grass is Greener” categories.  That means there will be eight teams left out of the Tournament from these categories come Selection Sunday, who are your picks to feel “snubbed”?

It is going to be a wild final week in college hoops, enjoy the madness!

Bubble Math 2015 v4.0

bracketology

What a wild week in the world of bracketology…

Here’s a quick breakdown of the huge results we’ve seen since our last installment of Bubble Math:

– BYU wins at Gonzaga

– Texas survives Baylor in OT

– Kansas State beats both Kansas and Baylor at home

– Boise State wins at San Diego State

– Davidson wins at Rhode Island

– Indiana drops to Northwestern on the road

– NC State follows up huge win at North Carolina by crumbling at Boston College

– Ole Miss blows home opportunity against Georgia

– Oklahoma State bombs at Texas Tech

– Oregon sweeps their road trip at Stanford and California

– Pittsburgh fails at Wake Forest

– St. John’s rolls over Georgetown and Xavier

– UMass explodes their bubble chances with home loss to St. Joseph’s

 

So…how do you sort all of this madness out?  Simple.  You call it March.

The strength of the bubble continues to weaken, there is little doubt that several decidedly mediocre basketball teams will find themselves celebrating on Selection Sunday.  Let’s check out the numbers and sift through the mess.

– Oregon is now a near lock for the Dance after an improbable sweep of Stanford and California on the road this weekend.  They now own 9 RPI top 100 victories, top amongst teams in the data set still considered to be on the bubble.

– Stanford and UCLA are likewise in trouble.  Especially Stanford.  They are now 0-5 against the other teams in the Pac-12 either on the bubble or projected to make the field.  Their best win in conference?  At California.  Eww.  UCLA owns just 5 RPI top 100 wins, 2nd worst among teams still in the bubble mix, and their 2-8 road record can only be described as dismal, it represents the worst mark away from home of the teams still alive in the data.

– Colorado State is in pretty good shape as well.  With the bubble teams crumbling around them, they suddenly find themselves sitting pretty despite falling on many experts seed lines of late.  They own the 4th best win percentage vs. RPI top 100 opponents, the best win percentage in the entire data set against the RPI top 200, and are 6-3 on the road.  Should they avoid a bad loss down the stretch, I’d be surprised to find them excluded from the field.

–  Indiana’s inclusion in this version of the data set is probably now warranted, but they aren’t really in danger of missing the Tournament.  They’ve struggled of late, but their resume still exceeds most of the teams sitting on the bubble.  They have the most RPI top 25 and top 50 wins among the teams on the bubble, and the 2nd most RPI top 100 wins.  They are just 3-6 on the road, though, a blemish in their resume they have no opportunity to change.

– Oklahoma State and Temple should probably start sweating a little bit.  They are the only two teams in the data set projected to make the field that own just a .500 record vs. RPI top 200 opponents.  Couple Oklahoma State’s 3-7 road record and despite a slew of quality wins, they will need to buckle up in the final few weeks of the season.

– If it were me, I’d have Pittsburgh farther off the bubble than the experts.  They are just 2-6 vs. the RPI top 50, 5-8 vs. the RPI top 100, and they are 2-7 on the road.  Their only win vs. the RPI top 100 in the non-conference portion of their schedule was neutral court vs. Kansas State.

– How important is the RPI in the experts’ bracket predictions?  Apparently very.  10 of the 11 teams with the lowest RPI rankings are considered to be off the bubble, with Miami FL being the lone team still “alive”.  They, however, are a member of the “Next 4 Out” category, so they are hanging on by just a hair.  Purdue (58) is the lowest ranked RPI team currently projected to make the field.

– The lowest ranked KenPom team projected to make the field is Colorado State (75).  The highest ranked KenPom team currently projected to miss the field is Texas (21).

– Texas’ win last night in OT vs. Baylor saved their NCAA Tournament hopes, but if it were up to me, they’d still be on the outside looking in.  They still remain just 3-11 vs. the RPI top 50, 6-12 vs. the RPI top 100, and are just 4-7 on the road.

Strap it in folks, this last week is going to be a wild ride.

Bubble Math 2015 v3.0

bracketology

With March now just four days off, tensions have risen among programs on the bubble.  Each minute, each half, each game carries heavy significance, and those who can shoulder the load will separate themselves and earn their way into the NCAA Tournament.  Match-ups against high-level opponents, especially road games, now become crucial down the stretch.  Earn yourself one of those on the resume, and you are likely to find yourself a step ahead of the competition.

The bubble has started to dwindle as several teams in our data set have fallen out of contention.  The data set now includes 34 teams, but not all of them have survived the gauntlet of the previous few weeks.  Some have fallen off the bubble but aren’t quite finished yet (Old Dominion, UMass, Wyoming), but others are likely going to have to earn an NCAA Tournament bid by winning their conference tournament in a few weeks:  Clemson, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Kansas State, Richmond, and George Washington.

Let’s break down the numbers.

 

There are 8 teams who have safely made their way into the field, for now:

Colorado State, Iowa, NC State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, St. John’s, Texas A&M, and Xavier.

 

Of those eight, who has the weakest resume? 

I’m going to let you decide.  There are three candidates, Team A, Team B, and Team C.

(Don’t cheat).

Team A:  RPI:  26 — KenPom:  72 — SOS:  143

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  2-2 — vs. RPI Top 100:  5-4 — vs. RPI Top 200:  11-5
  • 11 wins vs. opponents with 200+ RPI, 6-3 road record, 1 loss vs. 100+ RPI

Team B:  RPI:  56 — KenPom:  27 — SOS:  40

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  4-6 — vs. RPI Top 100:  6-9 — vs. RPI Top 200:  12-10
  • 5 wins vs. opponents with 200+ RPI, 5-3 road record, 1 loss vs. 100+ RPI

Team C:  RPI:  34 — KenPom:  41 — SOS:  15

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  0-6 — vs. RPI Top 100:  7-8 — vs. RPI Top 200:  14-8
  • 5 wins vs. opponents with 200 + RPI, 5-5 road record, 0 losses vs. 100+ RPI

 

The 34 teams in the data set are a combined:

  • 86-171 (33.5%) vs. RPI top 50 opponents.
  • 205-247 (45.4%) vs. RPI top 100 opponents.
  • 390-314 (55.4%) vs. RPI top 200 opponents
  • 140-177 (44.2%) on the road

 

The only team in the data set to own a winning record vs. RPI top 50 teams? 

Old Dominion at 1-0.  There are 8 others who are .500 against such opponents.

 

Let’s play another blind comparison game… Team A is considered to be on the right side of the bubble according to Joe Lunardi, among the “Last 4 In”.  Team B is considered to be on the outside looking in, among the “First 4 Out”.  

Team A:  RPI: 44 — KenPom:  22 — SOS:  16

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  1-10 — vs. RPI Top 100:  5-11 — vs. RPI Top 200:  12-11
  • 4-6 on the road
  • Bad Losses:  None — in fact, no losses to anyone outside the RPI top 60

Team B:  RPI:  53 — KenPom:  40 — SOS:  63

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  2-5 — vs. RPI Top 100:  9-6 — vs. RPI Top 200:  13-9
  • 5-6 on the road
  • Bad Losses:  3 — on the road to RPI: 128, RPI: 144, RPI: 147

Which do you prefer?

Now…what if I told you that Team A lost to Team B…at home.  Does your mind change?

Now…what if I told you that of Team Bs 9 Top 100 wins, 7 came against opponents ranked 80th or worse?  Does your mind change again?

The bubble is a fickle, fickle process.  Its all in how you view the numbers.

 

Who can take care of business away from home?

Only four high major programs in the data set have winning records on the road:

LSU, Ole Miss, Iowa, and Miami FL.

 

There are 6 mid major programs who have winning road records:

Davidson, Tulsa, Colorado State, BYU, Rhode Island, and Boise State.

 

The most inconsistent team in the data?

There are two noteworthy candidates.  Kansas State and LSU.

Kansas State leads the entire data set with 4 Top 25 wins and 6 Top 50 wins, yet they aren’t even considered on the bubble.  They are just 9-15 vs. RPI top 200 opponents, worst among the teams in the data set, and have 4 losses to teams with 100+ RPIs, also worst in the data.  They are also a horrific 1-9 on the road.

LSU is an impressive 10-5 vs. the RPI top 100, 2nd in the data set, and own a 7-3 road record, the best among the bubble teams.  Included among those, are big time wins @ Ole Miss and @ West Virginia.  Unfortunately, they also own neutral court losses to Old Dominion and Clemson, along with road losses at Missouri and Miss State, along with a home loss to Auburn.  That loss to Missouri represents one of only two losses in the data set to 200+ RPI teams among teams currently projected to make the field.

Be on the lookout for Bubble Watch 2015 v4.0, due early next week!  Want to look back at our previous versions of this piece?  You can find them here:

Bubble Watch 2015 v1.0

Bubble Watch 2015 v2.0