Colorado Recruiting Class Comparison: 2006-2015

On the boards, the debate never ends.  Do stars even matter?  JJ Watt and Aaron Rodgers would tell you no, but are those names exceptions to the rule, or the faces of a flawed system?

This piece will hopefully help solve the riddle when it comes to Colorado football, as we break down each class from 2006-2015 and try to determine what exactly we can expect from each recruit that joins the program moving forward.

The first breakdown I wanted to show was an average of RR rating for each class.  For those who don’t know, RR is how Rivals.com rates their prospects. I chose to use this metric rather than average star rating because it gives a more exact and true breakdown of each individual in each recruiting class.  Why?

  • 2* on Rivals are rated anywhere from 4.9 to 5.4, with 5.4 being the highest possible.
  • 3* on Rivals are rated anywhere from 5.5 to 5.7
  • 4* on Rivals are rated anywhere from 5.8 to 6.0.
  • 5* on Rivals are rated at 6.1.

This further illustrates the point that not all 3* are created equally.  A 5.7RR 3* recruit should not be viewed as a similar commit as a 5.5RR guy, and those who review strictly average star rating will not see that distinction in their metrics.

Here are how the Colorado Buffaloes’ recruiting classes rank over the past 10 seasons.

Average RR:

  • 5.633 – 2008
  • 5.524 – 2012
  • 5.522 – 2007
  • 5.500 – 2009
  • 5.494 – 2015
  • 5.488 – 2010
  • 5.452 – 2014
  • 5.443 – 2013
  • 5.439 – 2011
  • 5.336 – 2006

A few interesting notes breaking down this data:

— The bottom 3 classes are all “transition” classes, or classes that newly hired head coaches had to quickly put together following their arrival in Boulder.  This would suggest that some continuity among head coaches would serve the program well in the long run in order to obtain and retain quality talent.

  • 2013 was the class transitioning from Embree to MacIntyre
  • 2011 was the class transitioning from Hawkins to Embree
  • 2006 was the class transitioning from Barnett to Hawkins

— MacIntyre’s transition class was the highest among the three, but his other classes have not, thus far, had as much initial quality as Hawkins or Embree.  Of the 7 “non-transitional” classes in the past decade, Mac’s classes rank 5th (2015) and 7th (2014) respectively.

Of course, this data doesn’t take into account how those recruits actually performed on the field, and whether or not they actually completed their college career in Boulder.

Therefore, the next step is to track the percentage of recruits in each class who both “contributed” and “graduated” for the Buffaloes.  Of course, “contribution” is tough to measure and is somewhat subjective, so I tried to include anyone that started games in multiple years or had solid  stats in at least one year while on campus.

For “graduated” players, it’s really whether or not the player exhausted their eligibility with the program.  Therefore, recruits who graduate transferred to finish their career elsewhere are excluded, while players who left early for the NFL Draft are included.

Here are the recruiting classes ranked by “Contribution %” and “Graduating %”:

       Contribution %:                                                           Graduation %

  • 2008 – 66.67%                                                             2008 – 57.14%
  • 2009 – 55.00%                                                             2011 – 56.52%
  • 2007 – 48.15%                                                             2006 – 50.00%
  • 2010 – 45.83%                                                             2010 – 45.83%
  • 2006 – 45.45%                                                             2007 – 44.44%
  • 2011 – 43.48%                                                             2009 – 35.00%

A few interesting notes breaking down this data:

— Of course, any of the classes from 2012 forward aren’t included in this comparison because we don’t have full data as many of the prospects are still eligible and playing.

— Of the 137 players we signed in the classes from 2006-2011, 69 (50.36%) of them contributed for Colorado, and 66 (48.18%) exhausted their eligibility with the program.

— The 2011 class is an interesting data point, as they had the fewest percentage of contributing players, while graduating the second highest percentage of players.  This realization suggests that this class had a lot of talent lingering around the program that didn’t really contribute to the team’s overall success.

— The 2008 class, easily the program’s highest ranked class of the past decade, has received a lot of scrutiny from fans as being “overrated” because big names like Bryce Givens, Lynn Katoa, Darrell Scott, and Max Tuiti-Mariner failed to meet expectations in Boulder.  However, this data shows that despite those issues, it still remains the most productive class from 2006-2011, with the highest contribution and graduation percentages.  Some names who helped the program:  Curtis Cunningham, Ryan Deehan, Tyler Hansen, Jon Major, Shaun Mohler, Will Pericak, Ray Polk, Doug Rippy, and Rodney Stewart.

— You’ve heard the phrase “leaving the cupboard bare” associated with this program a lot in the past 4-5 years.  This data is your proof that it was, in fact, true.  The last three complete classes (2009-2011) shows that just 32/67 (47.8%) contributed on the field at Colorado, and just 32/67 (47.8%) exhausted their eligibility.  The 2012 class has already seen 13 early exits from the program without contribution, so in a best case scenario, that class will see 16/29 (55.2%) in both contribution and exhausted eligibility.  Those type of numbers make it absolutely impossible to build quality depth and sustain success through injury, which is inevitable in the game of football.

— The one thing that Coach MacIntyre has seemingly been able to improve in his short time here is player retention.  As noted, the data shows that the classes from 2006-2011 had less than 50% of their players exhaust eligibility as Colorado Buffaloes.  The 2012 class might show slight improvement there, but it will be slight at best.  The classes that Mac is responsible for, 2013 and forward, have thus far seen just two players exit the program.  Of course, those classes are still fairly young, and those numbers will undoubtedly rise, but it does seem reasonable to assume that the losses in those classes will not match the previous two regimes.  Coach MacIntyre’s 2013 class would need to see 10 defections in the next few years to match the jail break averages of the past six years.

Now, to help solve the old debate about whether or not stars actually do matter.  Some of the best Buffs over the past decade (David Bahktiari, Addison Gillam, Jalil Brown, and Rodney Stewart) did not receive high marks during the recruiting process, which has led some to believe the system is flawed and means little when it comes to success on the field.  Overall, though, what does it generally mean when Colorado earns the commitment of a 2* versus a 3* versus a 4*?  Find out below:

RR — Prospects — Contributor — Cont % — Graduate — Grad % — Drafted — Draft %

4.9             10                  3             30.00%            4               40.00%         1           10.00%

5.0              2                   1             50.00%            1               50.00%         0            0.00%

5.1              1                   0              0.00%             0                 0.00%         0            0.00%

5.2              8                   3             37.50%            2               25.00%         0            0.00%

5.3              9                   6             66.67%            5               55.56%         1          11.11%

5.4             19                  8             42.11%            7               36.84%          0           0.00%

2*              49                 21             42.86%          19              38.78%          2            4.08%

RR — Prospects — Contributor — Cont % — Graduate — Grad % — Drafted — Draft %

5.5              33                15             44.45%         13               39.39%        0             0.00%

5.6              26                15             57.59%         17               65.38%        2             7.69%

5.7              13                 7              53.85%           9                69.23%       0             0.00%

  3*               72               38             51.39%         40               54.17%        2            2.78%

RR — Prospects — Contributor — Cont % — Graduate — Grad % — Drafted — Draft %

5.8                7                 5              71.43%          4                 57.14%       1           14.29%

5.9                4                 3              75.00%          2                 50.00%       0             0.00%

6.0                3                 1              33.33%          1                 33.33%       1            33.33%

6.1                2                 2              100.00%        1                 50.00%       1            50.00%

4*/5*             16              11               68.75%         8                50.00%       3             18.75%

TOTAL           137          70              50.36%        67                48.18%       7              5.11%

So what does this mean?

  • A 2* historically contributes at Colorado roughly 43% of the time, graduates 39% of the time, and has a 4% chance to get drafted into the NFL on average.
  • A 3* historically contributes at Colorado roughly 51% of the time, graduates 54% of the time, and has a 3% chance to get drafted into the NFL on average.
  • A 4/5* historically contributes at Colorado roughly 69% of the time, graduates 50% of the time, and has a 19% chance to get drafted into the NFL on average.

—  A Colorado 4/5* recruit was more than 5.6x more likely to be drafted than a 2/3* recruit over the past decade.

— A Colorado 4/5* recruit was more than 60% more likely to “contribute” than a 2* recruit and more than 30% likely to “contribute” than a 3* recruit.  A Colorado 3* was roughly 20% more likely to “contribute” than a 2* recruit.

— A Colorado 3* recruit was roughly 40% more likely to exhaust their eligibility at Colorado than a 2* recruit.

— The real break in the data seems to appear between the 5.5RR 3* and the 5.6RR 3*.  If you break up the data as such:

  • Of the 82 players at or below 5.5RR 3* rating, the data shows we’ve had 43.9% contribute, 40.2% graduate, and 2.4% of the players were drafted into the NFL.
  • Of the 55 players at or above 5.6RR 3* rating, the data shows we’ve had 58.2% contribute, 61.8% graduate, and 9.1% of the players were drafted into the NFL.

Just because, if you apply those realities to the 2015 class, which has just 3 players ranked 5.6RR or higher (Patrick Carr, Tim Lynott, and NJ Falo) it becomes clear that MacIntyre still needs to find ways to attract better talent to Colorado if we expect to improve exponentially on the field.

In conclusion, the numbers are clear.  Sure, every once in awhile you’ll find a diamond in the rough, but more often than not, getting more highly ranked players leads to higher contribution on the field, and a higher percentage chance those players will take their talents to the next level.

It is true that it is far from a certainty that a high ranked player will pan out at Colorado (just look at Lynn Katoa, Bryce Givens, or Darrell Scott for proof), but that doesn’t change the fact that its far more likely that they will succeed than a 2* player, as the data has proven.

Recruiting is a numbers game, not on an individual level, but on an overall level.  This is a game that Colorado has been losing over the past decade.  If you are able to bring in highly ranked players consistently, some of those players will pan out.  Maybe not necessarily the ones you project off the bat, but enough that your overall production will have some quality.  For example, once again refer to the 2008 class, the most productive class of the decade besides several high-end busts.  If Colorado can improve their retention percentages and find a way to recruit better players to Boulder, they just may find themselves opening the door to that Pac-12 basement.

GO BUFFS

Bubble Math 2015 v2.0

bracketology

As we alluded to in the first version of our 2015 Bubble Math, this year’s version of the bubble is among the weakest we’ve seen this decade, and the parody is top-notch.  Our second version of the analysis has seen an incredible 10 new teams added to the data set since last week, making our data set a total of 30 teams.

The new teams added to the data set are:  Boise State, BYU, Illinois, LSU, Oregon, Stanford, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UCLA, and UMass.

As always, only 16 teams in the data set are grouped into Lunardi’s “bubble”… so the remaining 14 have worked their way into the field or played their way out of contention.  This week, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, St. John’s, Temple, and Xavier have earned their way safely into the field.  Clemson, Florida, George Washington, Kansas State, Michigan, Richmond, Tennessee and Wyoming have stumbled their way off the bubble according to Lunardi’s latest bracketology.

To clarify, Lunardi’s top two groupings (labeled Last 4 Byes and Last 4 In) represent the 8 teams he projects to make the Tournament.

– If RPI metrics were used solely to determine the last 8 teams getting in from the data set, these teams would make the field:  Oklahoma State, Colorado State, Temple, UMass, Ole Miss, UCLA, Xavier, and St. John’s.

– If KenPom metrics were used solely to determine the last 8 teams getting in from the data set, these teams would make the field:  Oklahoma State, Xavier, Ole Miss, LSU, BYU, Florida, St. John’s, and Stanford.

– Kansas State leads all teams in the data set with an impressive 4 victories over RPI top 25 opponents.  Unfortunately, they are also just 8-13 vs. RPI top 200 opponents, worst among the teams in the data, and thus are not really being considered for the Tournament at this point.

– The only other team to own multiple wins vs. RPI top 25 opponents and not be considered “on the bubble” at this point?  Tennessee.

– The least impressive resume among the “Last 4 Byes” category has to belong to Texas A&M at this point.  The Aggies are 0-5 vs. RPI top 50 opponents, and their only win vs. a team expected to be in the field is @ LSU.  They have no bad losses, which is more than can be said for nearly everyone on the bubble, but the committee tends to favor quality wins over the lack of bad losses.

– Compare that resume with say, NC State, who is currently projected among the “Last 4 In”.  NC State is 3-7 vs. the RPI top 50, including wins over Duke, @ Louisville, and Boise State.  They also own two more RPI top 100 victories than Texas A&M.  A&M has one more road win and a better winning % vs. RPI top 200 opponents, and NC State owns a bad loss @ RPI #128 Wake Forest, but wouldn’t you rather see a team in the Tournament capable of beating big names?

–  George Washington is the only team in the data set to avoid multiple losses vs. opponents ranked outside the top RPI that isn’t projected to be in the field.  Why?  They are just 3-7 on the road, own just 9 wins vs. RPI top 200 opponents (t-24th in the data set), and just 3 wins vs. RPI top 100 opponents (next to last in the data).

– The 30 teams in the data set are a combined 112-146 on the road, a winning percentage of 43.4%.

– The 30 teams in the data set are a combined 75-137 (35.4%) vs. RPI top 50 opponents

– The 30 teams in the data set are a combined 163-205 (44.3%) vs. RPI top 100 opponents

– A team not among the data set that has a chance to make some late noise?  UTEP.

The Miners own solid non-conference victories over Xavier, Washington State, and Kent State, and also played Colorado State, Arizona, and Washington very tough.  If they can find a way to win @ La Tech next week, you may start to see them pop up on some people’s radar.  They aren’t deserving of a bid as it stands today, but they aren’t being talked about enough either.

Be on the lookout for Bubble Math v3.0 early next week!

bracketology

We’ve reach February, which means we’ve officially walked through the doors of bubble watch season in college basketball.  This is the fourth season I’ve spent time trying to decipher which teams on the bubble are worthy of inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, and without a doubt, it remains one of my favorite projects.  This season, however, has the potential to be the craziest one to date.  The bubble is extremely weak overall, and there are dozens and dozens of teams piled up trying to fight through the muck and earn one of the last eight or so spots into the Big Dance.

First of all, let me talk about what it is, exactly, that I track, and how I determine which teams to include in my data set.  As I’m sure you know, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi puts together bracketology updates throughout the year as we approach March, and he has teams around the bubble broken into these specific categories:  Last 4 Byes, Last 4 In, First 4 Out, Next 4 Out.  Any team that appears in one of those four categories starting February 1 through the end of the season gets included into my data set, because those teams are determined to be “on the bubble”.  As mentioned above, I expect the number of teams included in the data set to be the highest ever, given all of the parody.  Once a team is included in the data set, they are not removed for any reason.  Should teams work their way securely into the field, or off the bubble completely, they still remain in the data and can be used as data points for the other teams to strive for (or against).

I break out each bubble teams resume in various categories, including RPI top 25, top 50, top 100, and top 20 W-L records, RPI 200+ losses (bad losses), strength of schedule, and road W-L records, among others.  Combined, these factors create an image of each team’s resume that can be compared to one another to determine who is worthy of inclusion into the Tournament.

The first version of my data set includes 20 teams, 16 of which sit in the categories we discussed before, and 5 total who moved out of those categories within the past week.  Oklahoma State has worked their way safely into the field, while Michigan, Florida, and Davidson have since dropped off the bubble.  The 16 teams still sitting on the bubble are as follows:  Clemson, Colorado State, George Washington, Iowa, Kansas State, Miami FL, NC State, Old Dominion, Ole Miss, Purdue, Richmond, St. John’s, Temple, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Xavier.

Let’s break down the numbers for this first group:

— RPI considers Colorado State to be the “best” team in the data set, ranked 28th by their metric.

— KenPom loves Oklahoma State, ranked 26th, but of the teams still on the bubble, Xavier is the highest ranked team, at 27th overall.

— No team in the data set owns more than 2 victories against RPI top 25 opponents, in fact, just 4 teams own more than 1 win against such opponents, Tennessee, Kansas State, St. John’s, and Xavier.

— Kansas State and Oklahoma State both own 4 RPI top 50 wins, the most amongst the data set.  Kansas State has also played the most games vs. RPI top 50 opponents (10), while Old Dominion has only played 2 such opponents (should be noted that ODU is 2-0 in those matchups).

— Colorado State, sitting at 19-4, has earned 11 of their victories over opponents ranked outside the RPI top 200.  Outside of Wyoming and Temple, who has 10 and 8 such wins respectively, no other team in the data set has more than 6 such wins against “weak” opponents.  This realization can further be highlighted by their strength of schedule numbers, where Colorado State is just one of three teams in the data to own a SOS outside the top 150 in the country.  Wyoming’s SOS is ranked 306th nationally, among the worst of any team in the nation, and thus, sits last in our data set as well.

— There are just 7 teams in the data set with above .500 road records.  Colorado State, Temple, and Davidson lead the way with 5 victories away from home.  Of the teams in high major conferences, only Miami FL (4-2) and Tennessee (3-2) own winning records on the road.

— Who is overrated?  To me, Iowa and Temple are leading the way right now.

Temple, of course, has a resume built entirely on their win over RPI #1 Kansas.  Of course, you can’t ignore that victory, but does one win make a resume?  That’s up to you, I suppose, but in my eyes, the rest of their body of work is not worthy of inclusion right now.  Outside of that win, they’re next three resume pegs are wins @ Uconn and over La Salle and LA Tech.  Not great.

Iowa’s resume is also incredibly mediocre.  Lunardi currently has them among the “Last 4 Byes” which means they are almost safely into the field, yet, their resume suggests they are overrated.  They are just 2-7 vs. the RPI top 50, and just 8-9 vs. the RPI top 200.  They’ve swept Ohio State, sure, but they’re best win OOC is currently Pepperdine.  Ohio State remains the only team they’ve beaten all year expected to make the Tournament.

Be on the lookout for the next version of Bubble Math next week!

The Resurgence of the College Big

The adage has never changed.

The NBA is a man’s game, and college basketball is a guard’s game. The college game is riddled with scorers, scorers who are incapable of properly feeding entry passes into the post, or penetrating in order to create opportunities for an easy bucket off the block. Big men rely on perimeter players to allow them to make an impact on basketball games.  Guards bring the ball up the court, if they have no interest in feeding the post, the post stays hungry. Talented bigs have been frustrated for years by their lack of touches in the college game.

In fact, through yesterday’s games, just 25 players in Division 1 college basketball average six assists per game or more, which highlights that many of the same issues remain.  That lack of ball movement is not unique to this season, as evidenced by the presence of just six centers among the NCAA’s top 250 scorers last year.  None of those six played for schools in power five conferences.

That said, the tide appears to be turning for college bigs.  Thus far, you can find eleven centers among the top 250 in scoring, still obviously a small number, but nearly doubling last year’s totals.  Even more notable though, is the number of high-profile guys among that list.  Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas, and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor are listed, powering some of the elite programs in the country.  Kaminsky and Okafor specifically, are considered front runners for National Player of the Year, which would be a rare achievement for a post.  Anthony Davis won the award in 2011-12 (you can make arguments about his “big man” status), but outside of that, just Andrew Bogut in 2004-05, and Marcus Camby in 1995-96 and Tim Duncan in 1996-97 claimed the award for the big man brotherhood.

Even on a more broad scale, college front courts are starting to make a more pronounced impact on the college basketball landscape.  Checking out the current teams ranked among the top ten, they are riddled with teams that possess elite front courts.  Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Duke are considered to be the four premier front courts in the nation, and coincidentally, they also own the top four spots in the current polls.  At #5 sits Louisville, led by another Player of the Year candidate in Montrezl Harrell, who while it would a stretch to call a center, is most certainly one of the best power forwards in college basketball.  At #6 comes Texas, who without Isaiah Taylor, have relied heavily on front court mates Myles Turner and Johnathan Holmes to lead the way.  Gonzaga sits at #9 in the current polls, and most consider them to be the team rounding out the top five in terms of quality front courts, as transfer Duke transfer Kyle Wiltjer and frosh big man Domantas Sabonis lead their team in scoring.

Even NBA draft projections are riddled with front court prospects.  ESPN’s Chad Ford shows a current Big Board that predicts six college big men (PF/C) to be lottery picks and an additional 8 college posts to be selected in the 1st round.  By comparison, the 2014 draft had just six big men selected in the first round, the 2013 draft had nine, and the 2012 draft boasted 12 college bigs.  In fact, should 14 college post players be selected as Ford projects, that would be the highest total in an NBA Draft first round since 1996.

So while guards will likely rule the college landscape more often than not, maybe, just maybe, we’ll see this game mold into a more balanced floor game, where regardless of size, a team’s most talented player will see ample touches.  Enjoy the season of the bigs, college hoops fans!

The Lost Art: The Regular Season

Last night’s Spurs vs. Cavs match-up had all the makings of a premier showcase.  The national networks pumped it up, coloring it as a “rivalry” game between LeBron and the Cavs and his biggest nemesis of all, the Spurs.  After all, they own a 2-1 record against him in the NBA Finals, and are in many ways responsible for his homecoming in Cleveland.  He looked around at his counterparts after getting demolished in last season’s Finals and knew that in order to come out in top, he’d need to make a change.

Fast forward to present, and those who watched were treated to a fantastic game.  There was something notable missing though, even with the Spurs managing to actually play their entire roster, a rare reprieve from their normal strategy of giving little thought to the opening months of the regular season.  The game was tightly contested throughout, the Cavs had one of their premier defensive showings of the year, and the contest came down to the final possession.  The end result, though, meant little.  The Cavs proved they belong, yes, even when the expectation was that they wouldn’t, but the reactions post-game were mild at best.  That’s just the issue, the Spurs, despite gracing us with their entire roster, aren’t alone in their approach of the regular season.

The Cavs currently sit at 5-5, with three early home losses, including embarrassing efforts against the lowly Knicks and Nuggets, yet few people care.  Of course, there are built in excuses that come along with a roster with nearly a dozen new faces.  The defense needs time to mold, bad habits from stars who haven’t tasted the playoffs must be broken, and a first time NBA coach must find a workable rotation.  I get all that.  The problem, though, is that at this point, the first few months of the regular season are a glorified practice session.  Not only do they have time to make all of those adjustments, but few even have to pretend to be concerned about the progress, or lack thereof, thus far.

Even further, few cared to watch.  I’ve never understood the NBA’s stubborn view that the start of their season needed to coincide with the upcoming NFL playoffs.  By shifting the season just a few months, you’d have little need to compete with football, and the playoff run would fall just prior to the return of America’s beloved sport.  As of now, the two months of July and August serve as a sports black hole for most fans in a country where baseball is much closer to a distraction than a pastime these days.  Could you imagine if the NBA wised up and filled that gap with their playoffs?

Over the years, the NBA has gained a reputation as a league who cares little about its regular season.  The quality of the games is, at best, passable prior to the All-Star break, because it just doesn’t matter.  The season is too long, the games have little meaning.  The players coast through until it matters, and then the real fun begins.  The coaches act in kind, sitting stars to keep them fresh until they deem them necessary.

There is literally no reason that a match-up between the league’s best team and its best player should mean so little.  When teams find it more appealing to rest their stars than show out for a game, an alarm should be sounding in the league office.  When people have to be grateful that a team played all of its players in such a game, doesn’t that suggest changed must be made?

The Spurs and Cavs are a combined 12-10, yet no alarms are sounding, and they shouldn’t be.  That’s whats wrong with the product.

Colorado Basketball: The Predictions

We’ve reached the culmination of the Colorado basketball TheAirUpHere preseason preview.  We’ve dissected each and every angle of this team leading up to their opener with Drexel tomorrow (man, that’s fun to type!). The schedule has been broken down, the roster has been analyzed, the numbers have been crunched, and the Pac-12 breakdown has been laid out.

Now, there’s just one thing left to do!

Its prediction time!

Below you’ll find a variety of predictions regarding the Pac-12 itself, including standings, awards, and NCAA Tournament teams.  Additionally, there are a few team specific predictions as well.

Tell me where we’re wrong, tell me where we’re right, tell me you’re ready for some Colorado Buffaloes basketball!

Pac-12 Predictions:

Conference Standings (W/L totals)

  1. Arizona Wildcats (16-2)
  2. Utah Utes (13-5)
  3. Colorado Buffaloes (12-6)
  4. Stanford Cardinal (11-7)
  5. UCLA Bruins (11-7)
  6. California Golden Bears (9-9)
  7. Washington Huskies (9-9)
  8. Oregon Ducks (8-10)
  9. Arizona State Sun Devils (7-11)
  10. Washington State Cougars (6-12)
  11. USC Trojans (4-14)
  12. Oregon State Beavers (2-16)

NCAA Tournament Berths (5)

  • Arizona Wildcats (1), Utah Utes (6), Colorado Buffaloes (7), Stanford Cardinal (9), UCLA Bruins (10)

Postseason Awards:

  • Pac-12 Player of the Year:  G Delon Wright, Utah Utes
  • Freshman of the Year: F Stanley Johnson, Arizona Wildcats
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  G Delon Wright, Utah Utes
  • Most Improved Player of the Year: G Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington Huskies

1st Team All-Conference:

  • Anthony Brown, Stanford Cardinal
  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona Wildcats
  • Stanley Johnson, Arizona Wildcats
  • DaVonte Lacy, Washington State Cougars
  • Norman Powell, UCLA Bruins
  • Chasson Randle, Stanford Cardinal
  • Josh Scott, Colorado Buffaloes
  • Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington Huskies
  • Joseph Young, Oregon Ducks
  • Delon Wright, Utah Utes

2nd Team All-Conference:

  • Brandon Ashley, Arizona Wildcats
  • Askia Booker, Colorado Buffaloes
  • Jordan Loveridge, Utah Utes
  • David Kravish, California Golden Bears
  • TJ McConnell, Arizona Wildcats

1st Team All-Conference Defense:

  • David Kravish, California Golden Bears
  • TJ McConnell, Arizona Wildcats
  • Norman Powell, UCLA Bruins
  • Robert Upshaw, Washington Huskies
  • Delon Wright, Utah Utes

Colorado Buffaloes (BOLD) Predictions:

  • Askia Booker will average more than 4 assists per game
  • Josh Scott will average just shy of a double-double this season (16.3ppg, 9.5rpg)
  • Dustin Thomas will at least double his 3PT% from last season, when he shot 18.2%
  • Freshman Tory Miller will play more minutes this season than freshman Dom Collier
  • Wesley Gordon will average more than 2 blocks per game
  • The Buffs will have 8 players average 5+ PPG this season
  • Colorado will lose just ONE home game in 2014-15
  • Most Valuable Player:  C Josh Scott
  • Most Improved Player:   F Wesley Gordon
  • Most Important Player:  F Xavier Johnson

Let’s get this season underway, the Buffs have a lot of questions to answer!

#RollTad #KeepitReal

Colorado Basketball: The Pac-12 Breakdown

The Pac-12 is coming off one of its stronger years in recent memory, placing six teams into the NCAA Tournament field, including three (Arizona, Stanford, UCLA) that made runs to the Sweet Sixteen.

This year most expect the Pac-12 conference to enter a bit of a recession due to a mass exodus of talent among the league’s teams this off-season for a slew of reasons.

First, the league had a ton of talent declare (or graduate) into the NBA Draft.  This includes lottery picks Aaron Gordon (Arizona) and Zach Lavine (UCLA), along with first round picks Jordan Adams (UCLA), CJ Wilcox (Washington), Josh Huestis (Stanford), and Kyle Anderson (UCLA).  Additionally, Spencer Dinwiddie (Colorado), Nick Johnson (Arizona), and Dwight Powell (Stanford) were selected in the second round.  Even further, Eric Moreland and Jahii Carson elected to enter the draft early, but went undrafted.  Moreland is currently playing in the D-League, while Carson is playing overseas in Australia.  Graduated UCLA twins David and Travis Wear are also making a splash in NBA waters, with Travis playing for the New York Knicks, and David playing in the D-League.

Additionally, a lot of top notch talent transferred out of their respective programs for a variety of reasons.  One of the best freshmen in the league, Hallice Cooke left Oregon State for Iowa St.  Byron Wesley, one of the league’s leading scorers, bolted USC for the greener pastures of Gonzaga.  Princeton Onwas, a solid role player for resurgent Utah, moved on to San Jose St.

In Oregon, the storyline was far more grave, where the team has been decimated with departures due to rape allegations (Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin), transfers (Ben Carter and AJ Lapray) and graduation (Jason Calliste, Mike Moser, Johnathan Loyd, Richard Amarti, Waverly Austin).  Needless to say, we’re going to see some unfamiliar faces in Eugene this season.

In the previous three installments of this year’s Colorado basketball preview, we broke down every aspect of the team, from the schedule, to the roster, to the numbers.  In this fourth segment, we break down the rest of the Pac-12, providing some context behind what we see forthcoming in Boulder this season.

Just in case, here’s another visual reminder of what TheAirUpHere has upcoming in this five-part series, and of course, links to the previous pieces as well.

Arizona Wildcats: 33-5 (15-3)

  • 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament
  • NCAA Tournament Elite 8 Appearance

Returning:  Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, TJ McConnell, Kaleb Tarczewski

Departures:  Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson

Arrivals:  Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Craig Victor, Stanley Johnson, Dusan Ristic

Despite losing studs Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson, who both left early for the NBA, there isn’t a team in the league with more talent than Arizona.  Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is expected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, as is frosh standout Stanley Johnson.  Craig Victor and Dusan Ristic arrive as impact freshmen as well, and you can’t leave out Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. Zeus is a menacing beast who has worked hard to improve his offensive repertoire, and Ashley is an athletic match-up nightmare.  That group represents the best front-court in college basketball.

PG TJ McConnell is the perfect fit for this roster, tenacious defensively and a pass-first pure guard who will have no problem penetrating opposing defenses and handing off to one of his uber-talented sidekicks.

Arizona State Sun Devils:  21-12 (10-8)

  • 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament

Returning:  Johnathan Gilling, Shaq McKissic, Bo Barnes

Departures:  Jahii Carson, Jermaine Marshall, Jordan Bachynski

Arrivals:  Connor MacDougall, Tra Holder, Kodi Justice, Savon Goodman, Gerry Blakes

Few teams in the league lost more significant talent than Arizona State heading into this season (nearly 59% of their minutes and 68% of their scoring are now departed).  Jahii Carson was one of the league’s best players, and big man Jordan Bachynski was one of the most dominant rim protectors I can remember in college basketball.  Jermaine Marshall was an underrated piece of the puzzle for the Sun Devils last season as well, averaging over 15ppg.

It is never a good sign when Shaq McKissic and Jon Gilling are your best returning players, and while ASU brought in a solid freshmen class, they likely aren’t going to have enough impact to return this program to the NCAA Tournament this season.  That said, rumor is that Tra Holder has been fantastic in camp, and Kodi Justice, Gerry Blakes, and Connor MacDougall will be integral pieces for this group as well.  Transfer Savon Goodman is a tough player who should help their depth issues when he becomes eligible in mid-December.

California Golden Bears:  21-14 (10-8)

  • 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 2 seed in the NIT Tournament
  • NIT Elite 8 Appearance

Returning:  Jabari Bird, Tyrone Wallace, David Kravish, Jordan Mathews

Departures:  Richard Solomon, Justin Cobbs, Ricky Kreklow

Arrivals:  Dwight Tarwater, Kingsley Okoroh

There is no denying the talent at the top for California, despite losing studs Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon to graduation. Their sophomore class just oozes with potential, with Jabari Bird still being considered a potential lottery pick despite an underwhelming freshman campaign.  Jordan Mathews is a crafty player who can score in a variety of fashions.  Tyrone Wallace has steadily improved in his two years in Berkeley, but can he improve his outside game enough to complement his lethal ability to attack the paint off the dribble.  That said, there wasn’t a player more clutch in crunch time than Cobbs, and Solomon was one of the league’s best big men.  They will be sorely missed on a roster lacking any semblance of depth.

The problem, as hinted above, is their front court.  David Kravish is a capable big man with a tremendous spot up game and remains a quality defensive presence and a plus shot blocker.  But then…who?  Christian Behrens is probably the next man standing, but he’s proven little thus far and Cornell transfer Dwight Tarwater is undersized.  Freshman Kingsley Okoroh may be forced to play significant minutes this season, which has to be a concern for the Golden Bears.

Colorado Buffaloes:  23-12 (10-8)

  • 5 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament

Returning:  Askia Booker, Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon, Xavier Talton

Departures:  Spencer Dinwiddie

Arrivals:  Domonique Collier, Tory Miller

Last season was undoubtedly a tale of two halves.  Heading into Washington, the Buffs sat 15-2, were ranked #15 in the country, and were considered to be a legitimate threat to make an NCAA Tournament run.  Down goes Spencer Dinwiddie, and down goes the dream.  The Buffs limped to an 8-10 finish down the stretch, and struggled to score consistently.

Luckily, no team in the Pac-12 has more returning than the Buffs statistically.  Dinwiddie, now in the NBA, is the team’s lone departure, and the Buffs still have plenty of talent on the shelf.  Josh Scott is the Pac-12’s top returning rebounder, and he’s probably a dark horse candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year.  Askia Booker will look to assume the team’s leadership role in Dinwiddie’s absence, and will look to reign in his sporadic play.  Xavier Johnson, despite a disappointing sophomore season, might be one of the league’s most underrated players.  He’s among the league’s top ten returning scorers, and top eight returning rebounders.  Wesley Gordon was one of the better freshmen in the Pac-12 last season, but will need to be more assertive offensively this season.

The depth will be what determines this team’s future, though.  Sophomores Tre Fletcher, Dustin Thomas, and Jaron Hopkins all showed flashed last season, but someone must step up and become a consistent and reliable weapon for this team to make the next step.  Freshmen Dom Collier (elite defensive capabilities) and Tory Miller (physicality) provide unique attributes last year’s roster sorely missed.

Oregon Ducks:  24-10 (10-8)

  • 7 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament
  • NCAA Tournament 3rd Round Appearance

Returning:  Joseph Young, Elgin Cook

Departures:  Johnathan Loyd, Damyean Dotson, Dominic Artis, Brandon Austin, Waverly Austin, Jason Calliste, Ben Carter, AJ Lapray, Mike Moser, Richard Amarti

Arrivals:  Jordan Bell, Ahmaad Rorie, Dwyane Benjamin, Michael Chandler

As mentioned above, no team in the country has been decimated more savagely than Oregon.  Seniors Jason Calliste, Mike Moser, Richard Amarti, and Johnathan Loyd provided veteran leadership to a strong group of young talent.  Damyean Doston, Brandon Austin, and Dominic Artis were all unmistakably talented, but now they’re unmistakably absent after getting kicked off the team amidst rape allegations.  On a positive note, Joseph Young, one of the league’s best players, is returning, as is quality starter and fellow transfer Elgin Cook.

The Ducks will once again lean heavily on transfers with Dwyane Benjamin and Michael Chandler likely to earn starting roles this season after playing elsewhere previously.  Freshman Jordan Bell has been turning heads in the preseason, and you can expect to see Ahmaad Rorie for extended minutes as well.  There’s no doubt the Ducks are in for a tough season, but if they can gel together, they may be able to surprise come conference play.

Oregon State:  16-16 (8-10)

  • 10 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • CBI Tournament appearance

Returning:  Langston Morris-Walker, Malcolm Duvivier, Victor Robbins, Olaf Schaftenaar

Departures:  Roberto Nelson, Eric Moreland, Devon Collier, Angus Brandt, Challe Barton

Arrivals:  Gary Payton

The talent was there in Corvallis last season, but as was commonplace with Craig Robinson, the pieces never fell together.  Robinson is now gone, and replacing him is Wayne Tinkle, who has already made a significant impact on recruiting.  Unfortunately, those pieces aren’t arriving until next season, and the Beavers will be without their top four contributors from last season, including the conference’s leading scorer in Roberto Nelson and leading rebounder (had he played enough games to be eligible) in Eric Moreland.

Left is Langston Morris-Walker, a solid contributor last season no doubt, but when he’s your best player things aren’t projecting well.  Gary Payton’s son is now on campus, but he’s a ways away from matching his dad’s contributions.  Don’t fret though Beavers fans, Coach Tinkle will get this program headed in the right direction.

Stanford Cardinal:  23-12 (10-8)

  • 6 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 10 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Appearance

Returning:  Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, Stefan Nastic

Departures:  Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis

Arrivals:  Reid Travis, Michael Humphrey, Robert Cartwright, Dorian Pickens

Chasson Randle is probably one of the two preseason favorites for Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Anthony Brown was the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player last year.  Nastic blew up at the end of the season and will be one of the league’s most talented big men this year.  The question on the Farm, though, will be can this team guard?  They lose two of the league’s best defenders in Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, who were both animals on the glass as well.

Their incoming freshmen class is by far the most talented they’ve brought in for years.  Reid Travis will be an immediate impact freshman most likely, and they should return to the NCAA Tournament with any production from the remaining trio of Michael Humphrey, Robert Cartwright, and Dorian Pickens, all ranked within the Rivals150.

UCLA Bruins:  28-9 (12-6)

  • 2 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament
  • NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Appearance

It might not be a stretch to say that UCLA lost more talent than ANYONE in college basketball from last season, pretty incredible given Kansas boasts the #1 and #3 overall picks.  Get this though, they lost three first round picks (Zach Lavine, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson) and the Wear twins, Travis is playing on the Knicks, and David is in the D-League.  That’s an entire starting five playing on an NBA/D-League roster!

Luckily, they remain UCLA, and thus, there is talent in the wings.  Norman Powell is one of my favorite players in the Pac-12, a do-it-all physical bulldog of a guard who should make a name for himself this season.  Tony Parker has the talent and size to be an elite NCAA big man, but he’s been less than consistent and will need to get into better shape this season.  Bryce Alford will be asked to run the offense full-time this year, will he step up, or prove he looked elite passing to elite players last season?  Transfer Isaac Hamilton is now eligible, but it remains to be seen just how productive he can be despite his immense talents.

The freshmen class brings a lot of big names, most notably Kevon Looney.  Many have pegged him as the best freshmen in the league, even above Stanley Johnson, but in my eyes, its always a risky proposition to put so much pressure on freshmen to contribute at that level.  Their depth is undoubtedly suspect, any significant injury or an underwhelming start could put them in a bit of trouble, but its also reasonable to project them to have another big season.  They probably represent the biggest unknown in the conference right now.

USC Trojans:  11-21 (2-16)

  • 12 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament

Returning:  Julian Jacobs, Nikola Jovanovic

Departures:  Omar Oraby, PeShon Howard, JT Terrell, DJ Haley, Byron Wesley

Arrivals:  Jordan McLaughlin, Elijah Stewart, Malik Martin, Katin Reinhardt

Dunk City hasn’t flown out to the West Coast quite yet for head coach Andy Enfield, but the recruiting has certainly picked up, so the Trojans are definitely trending upwards.  Unfortunately, they’ve got a long ways to go before they find relevancy.  Byron Wesley transferring to Gonzaga really hurt the Trojans this off-season, effectively ending their chances of making a huge leap in the conference this year.  Returning are Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, who both had very productive freshman seasons and will have bright futures in LA.  Joining them is Katin Reinhardt, a local kid who transferred back home after playing for UNLV two seasons ago.  Reinhardt is extremely talented offensively, capable of creating his own shot at any time, but he struggles to guard.

This team is extremely young, with freshmen Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart expected to play big roles next to their trio of sophomores, and that lack of veteran leadership will likely show at the end of games this year.  The experience gained, though, will be vital for future seasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see USC find themselves in the top half of the league in a few years time.

Utah Utes:  21-12 (9-9)

  • 8 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • 4 seed in the NIT Tournament

Returning:  Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor, Dillon Bachynski

Departures:  Princeton Onwas, Renan Lenz

Arrivals:  Brekkot Chapman, Kyle Kuzma

Many thought last year’s Utah squad was good enough to play in the NCAA Tournament, but their embarrassing non-conference slate failed to impress the committee and their inability to win close games down the stretch sealed their fate. The out of conference schedule won’t be an issue this season, with match-ups vs. San Diego St, Wichita St, BYU, Kansas, and UNLV looming.  Last year, they were able to fly under the radar and surprise teams throughout, but this year, the national spotlight will be upon them, as they enter the year ranked #25.  Will they wilt under the pressure, or prove the pundits right?

Delon Wright is the best player in the conference, lethal defensively with his length, and nearly impossible to guard on the other end.  If Wright can become a reliable outside shooter, you might as well just turn out the lights on trying to game plan him.  Jordan Loveridge is making the transition to small forward after playing inside, and his versatile skill set should allow him to thrive on the wing.  Incoming freshman Brekkot Chapman is the highest ranked recruit Utah has landed in awhile, and his presence inside next to Dillon Bachynski will really be the key to their success this season.  Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker are quality rotation pieces that will be reliable throughout the season.

Washington Huskies:  17-15 (9-9)

  • 9 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament

Returning:  Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews, Jernard Jarreau, Mike Anderson, Darin Johnson, Shawn Kemp Jr.

Departures:  CJ Wilcox, Perris Blackwell, Desmond Simmons

Arrivals:  Robert Upshaw, Donaven Dorsey

This group probably represents the league’s biggest chance for a dark-horse NCAA Tournament participant.  Last year, they were just middling in all aspects, but Nigel Williams-Goss was fantastic last year as a freshman and will likely be among the league’s All-Conference teams come March.  Andrew Andrews is a little-recognized guard who could have a huge impact this season if he can improve his FG%, and Jernard Jarreau has the potential to be a big time player if he can stay healthy.  They will obviously miss CJ Wilcox’s perimeter talent and Perris Blackwell’s veteran toughness, but there are pieces here.

Robert Upshaw will ultimately be the X-factor on this team’s success, however. The big man was one of the nation’s best big man prospects a few years ago, struggled at Fresno St, but has looked phenomenal this off-season and will be a big-impact rim protector for the Huskies this season.

Washington State Cougars:  10-21 (3-15)

  • 11 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament

Returning:  DaVonte Lacy, Dexter Kernich-Drew, Junior Longrus, Que Johnson

Departures:  DJ Shelton, Royce Woolridge

Arrivals:  Jackie Davis

The good news?  DaVonte Lacy returns this season.

The bad news?  Most of the rest of the roster from Washington State returns this season.

But in all seriousness, the Cougars should be much improved this season, but that may not mean all that much.  DaVonte Lacy is a lethal scorer capable of blowing up on any given night.  Que Johnson is a quality complementary piece, as is Dexter Kernich-Drew, who can shoot the lights out.  Junior Longrus could blossom into a quality Pac-12 performer as well, his length and potential seems limitless.

Unfortunately, their big man in the middle, DJ Shelton, has graduated, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of their defense.  Royce Woolridge also transferred out, and without a freshmen of any notoriety, the Cougars will remain a few years away from competing in the Pac-12.

Be on the lookout for the final piece of this preseason breakdown, where TheAirUpHere breaks down all of the info you’ve seen over the previous four segments, and predicts how the Pac-12 season will play out, along with specific team predictions related to your Colorado Buffaloes.