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Crackers Front Range League Opener Tonight

November 25, 2015

By now you have to know that I grew up in Philly with Big 5 basketball.  And how I wish there was an actual formal balanced round robin of games among the Front Range teamas rather than relying on the scheduling desires and vagaries of coaches.

On the positive, CU has expressed a desire to add more local games.  On the negative, CSU and DU will not meet this year for the first time in I dont know how long (and I’m too lazy to look up).

Air Force visits Colorado tonight to kickoff the battle for the much coveted CFRL trophy, which is a photo of Salma Heyek, a Cusano cigar, and a cheeseball. (graphics courtesy of Brian Bell).  Wyoming won last season, compiling a 5-1 record and finishing 1/2 game ahead of CSU.   


Pre-season All CFRL Team

C- Josh Scott – Colorado

F – Hayden Graham – Air Force

F – George King – Colorado

G – Josh Adams – Wyoming

G – Gian Clavell – Colorado State

Player of the Year – Josh Adams

Projected Order of Finish

1. Denver (3-0) – The Pio’s have a decent squad and have the benefit of a weak CFRL schedule, playing Wyoming and Air Force at home and UNC on the road.  They shoot the 3-ball really well.

2. Colorado State (5-1) – No DU on the schedule means that the Rams will have to play exceptionally well to finish ahead of the Pio’s.  There’s one loss out there for them.  Possibly at home against CU, probably at Wyoming.

3. Colorado (2-1) – I’m thinking the CSU game at Moby will decide the Buffs’ fate this year. Their loss at home to CSU last season cost them a title.

4. Wyoming (2-3) – A rebuilding year for the Pokes who have a one-man dervish in Adams and not much else.

5. Air Force (1-5) – A nice trio of players in Graham, Trevor Lyons, and Joey Kocur but a lot of inexperience otherwise. Another long year for the Falcons

6. Northern Colorado (0-3) – The Bears will get an opportunity for a CFRL upset when the Rams head to Butler-Hancock in December. They’ve fallen off since the Boyle days in greeley.

Colorado State 108 – Abilene Christian University 100 (2OT)

November 25, 2015

In a pulsating, riveting, …


Worst double overtime game I have ever witnessed.

Worst effort I have ever seen on the defensive end of the floor.  No desire to stop the ball. No desire to pressure the ball. No desire to change the opponent’s offensive tempo.  No attitude.

It was only made exciting by the defensive incompetence of the home team against a game and scrappy group of visitors.  Visitors who ran their offense like they would in practice and made shots and who were able to disrupt the flow of CSU’s half-court motion offense by overplaying the perimeter passes.

Lots of players in double figures. Kind of like a rec league game.  Where even the guy with the short shorts and tube socks gets 12 and narrowly misses  a double-double.

It was a win for the Rams.  It was a huge step backwards.

ONE FINAL THOUGHT … Tiel Daniels had a huge game for the Rams. 20 points and 10 rebounds. More importantly, he made 4-5 free throws which meant he could see the floor in the final minutes of regulation and Overtime.  The Rams are not good defensively but they are way worse when Tiel is on the bench.  He brought the team back with a pair of and-1’s in regulation and provided the only morsels of defense when it mattered.

Colorado State 95 – Oakland (MI) 89

November 23, 2015

Somebody pinch me!

I thought it was 2015 and college basketball games were supposed to be played in the 50’s and 60’s.  I showed up in Moby today and was treated to an old-fashioned barnburner where both teams wanted to play fast and were fearless on the offensive end.

It was awesome!
I had looked over some stuff pre-game on Oakland and it was obvious they were going to be a challenge for the Rams.  A stud point guard in Kahlil Felder, a 5’9″ ball of fire who can score anywhere on the floor and get other guys easy shots.  Felder averaged 18 points and 8 assists last year nd in his first game this year scored 27 and dished out 12 assists.   A 6’9″, 270 lb. center named Percy Gibson who transferred from Iowa State; Gibson had scored 25 and added 10 assists in the Golden Grizzlies first game.  Another Iowa State transfer, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, who had 19 and 10 in his first game.

And then I watched Oakland in warmups.  Not your typical lower level conference bodies.  These were mature athletes that looked far more Big 10 than they did Horizon League.

So it wasnt a surprise as both teams went toe-to-toe from the opening whistle.  12-11 at the first media timeout as CSU spread their scoring among all 5 starters.  Back and forth the game went and the Rams ultimately opened up a 6-point lead near the 5:00 mark of the half.

And then it happened.

An 11th person inserted himself into the game.  A guy wearing stripes. A guy I have never seen officiate a game in Moby rena.  I recognized Bob Staffen; he’s OK.  I recognized Jon Stigliano; he’s mediocre.  But the other guy I’ve never seen.  But his whistle had lots of game as he whistled 3 quick fouls on CSU’s Emmanual Omogbo, two of which were phantom, sending Omogbo to the bench.  
Oakland used that to make a run and moved into a 2-point lead at the half when Felder hit backup big Femi Olujobi with a beautiful pass and Olujobi adroitly finished at the rim just inside the buzzer.

Whistles has taken much of the flow away from the game and it forced both coaches to be creative in how they would play the second half.

And the second half continued on much the same trajectory as the first.  The teams went back and forth until a 3rd foul by Tiel Daniles got him a seat on the bench.  Oakland used the lack of size in the paint to attack and pushed to their largest lead of 7 at 69-62 with just over 10  minutes to play.  CSU clawed back and when Joe De Ciman flushed one off the break and followed with a 3-ball, the Rams had recaptured the lead at 79-76.

Oakland wasnt going to go away and Gibson scored inside to tie the game at 83 on a beautiful shirt jumper.  It was anybody’s game with just under 3 minutes remaining.

But CSU’s sixth man Antwan Scott drained a three-ball ealy in the clock and when CSU got a stop on the defensive end they calmly came down the floor.  John Gillon fed a wide open De Ciman in the corner who rose and fired a three-ball that looked good from the very moment it left his hand.  It was.  

CSU had their largest lead of the game at 89-83 and the Rams were able to finish the game off effectively. Best of all was a miss by Scott that came from 15′ beyond the arc after the Rams had fumbled the bll at the end of the shot clock.  Scott’s desperation heave drew iron (a minor miracle) and it was rebounded by Gian Clavell.  Game, set, match.

Clavell led the way with 23 points and a career high 12 rebounds. De Ciman delivered 18 in his quiet way.  Gillon, Scott, and Omogbo joined their teammates in double figures with 17, 16, and 10 respectively.  For Oakland, Felder led the way with 23 and 10, Gibson had 18 and 9, and Dorsey-Walker had 16 with 13 rebounds.

The buzzer sounded and there were a lot of smiles. Both teams had played hard.  Yes it was a game that could have gone either way and the Rams had somehow managed to stick their nose in front with some key stops and makes from the perimeter.

And the crowd was buzzing with happiness.  Not just because the Rams had won but because the game was just flat out entertaining.  Something like 22 lead changes.  184 points.  And tons of effort from two quality college basketball teams.

Final thoughts…  

Plenty of solid play off the bench for the Rams.  Antwan Scott is scoring like a starter and really is more than a 6th man.  Guards JD Paige and Prentiss Nixon both delivered quality minutes guarding Felder, forcing him into tough pull-up jumpers and drawing a charge.  

Oakland will be a sleeper team much like Georgia State was last year.  The Rams hosted Georgia State and beat them last season but it was obvious they were a quality squad headed to the NCAA Tournament.  From what I saw, Oakland was even better and will be a team to watch over the 2015-16 season.  They play in the same Horizon League with Valparaiso, another quality team.    Not sure they’ll take two Horizon League teams but its not outside the realm of possibility.   Kahlil Felder is a force and Percy Gibson is better than any post player the Rams played against last year in the MWC.

CSU’s defense needs a lot of work.  They’re not horrible on the ball but they’re not very good right now in terms of help defense in the post and rotating to help when an opponent drives.   The sooner they can figure some of that stuff out, the better they will be.  The offensive skill is there, the team play on the offensive end is creating a lot of balanced scoring from all parts of the floor.  This team might end up being pretty darn good.

Colorado State 61 – Brigham Young University 55 (Women)

November 22, 2015

After a long week of work, I entered Moby tired but hopeful.  Hopeful that the Rams could continue a fine week of athletic performances.  A nationally ranked volleyball team had clinched their 7th consecutive MWC Championship and celebrated earlier in the day.  A mens basketball team had opened the season 2-0 including a great win at Northern Iowa.  

And now the 2-time defending MWC champion womens basketball team would be taking the floor against a traditional conference rival in hopes of avenging a loss in Provo, Utah last season where the Cougars has pretty much turned the Rams into rag dolls.

And the Rams did not disappoint as they fought their way to a pulsating victory that began like a beaufiful pony ride but morphed into a roller coaster experience full of ups and downs.  

The Rams won the opening tip and began the game making layups, and short jumpers.  Defensively they were giving the Cougars fits with their length and athleticism.  And before you knew it, they had rolled their way to an early 13-2 lead after a Hannah Tvrdy 3-ball.  

BYU got a little going offensively but the game continued on much the same trajectory as an Amanda Kantzy 3-ball pushed the Rams’ lead to 13 before  a pair of BYU three-balls got the game back to a 33-24 margin at the half. The Rams had shot 41% but it was their defense that was getting it done as the held the Cougars to 30% shooting including only 3-21 inside.

As the second half began, the Rams came out with the same level of focus and built the lead back to 12 and looked to be on their way.

And then a simple defensive switch by the Cougars turned the game on its ear.  BYU changed to a zone defense that featured pressure on the ball at the top of the key and the Rams felt obliged to turn the ball over carelessly, leading to a pair of easy Cougar runouts and all of a sudden the lead was back to 8.  

BYU’s Lexi Rydalch got more comfortable attacking the paint and the lead was down to 5 before a Jamie Patrick 3-ball pushed the lead after three quarters back to 8.

As the 4th quarter began, there were hopes that CSU would get that zone figured out but it wasnt to be.  The turnovers continued and then the foul count grew on the defensive end as Rydalch continued to be more than a handful. Next thing you knew, the lead was down to 3 with just under 3 minutes to play.  

A Keyorra Wharry jumper regained some of the momentum but then the Cougars got it back to 3.  Another Tvrdy three-ball pushed the lead back to 6 inside a minute but Kresl and company stayed after it A miss inside of 20 seconds looked to have the Rams home free but then Elie Gustavsson carelessly threw the ball away in the backcourt and a Rydalch 3-ball had the lead down to three. A Patrick free throw pushed the lead to 4 and when Rydalch was called for an offensive foul, it was pretty much game.set.match as Tvrdy calmly converted a final pair of free throws.

The Rams had survived an incredible final 15 minutes where they turned the ball over 17 times.  Let that sink in.

17 turnovers in the final 15 minutes!

But they made key shots when they needed to, got defensive stops and rebounds when they needed to, and generally scratched and clawed their way home.  Keyorra Wharry led the way with 14 and ELie Gustavsson had 12.  Rydalch had channeled her inner Jimmer until fouling out late, scoring 29 points on 5-7 shooting from beyond the arc and a ton of free throws earned by attacking the paint.

In the end, score one for the Rams’ defense as they held the Cougars to 33% shooting.

Final thoughts… 

It was nice to see Jamie Patrick warm up a little from the perimeter,.  The sharpshooter from Hutchinson, KS has been struggling but she nailed a pair of three-balls in the second half that allowed the Rams to maintain some impetus.  After the game, she said even her misses felt good which is a good sign for things to come.

Keyorra Wharry played possibly her best game in a Ram uniform as she fought her way into the paint to score a bunch of interior jumpers, the best of which was a baselinlener late in the shot clock when the Rams really needed a bucket.

The BYU zone exposed some issues the Rams are known to have at the guard positionright now.  It should be somewhat expected, given they lost a pair of stars in Gritt Ryder and AJ Newton.    But they’ll need to get it figured out.  

Colorado State 83 – Loyola Marymount 75

November 20, 2015

It wasn’t a Moby classic.  But it was a win as the Rams roared back from a first half deficit to record their second win of the young season.

And I emphasize young season.

Because this is the time of year when teams experience some ups and downs and what appears to be improvement in one game turns into what looks like a step backward in the following game.  And thats kind of how this game felt after a solid road win at Northern Iowa.

Once again, the Rams fell in love with the perimeter on the offensive end.  The path to the hoop was wide and the visiting Lions were fouling a lot but somehow the Rams decided to shoot pull-ups and long range bombs rather than going to the rack.  Combine that with a less that stellar defense that allowed Loyola Marymount and their point guard Brandon Brown to dictate the pace and all of a sudden CSU trailed by 9 just a little past midway through the opening stanza.

Freshman Prentiss Nixon came off the bench to give the Rams a bit of a spark and they went into the locker room at intermission only trailing by 3.

A slow start on the scoreboard caused by a couple of careless turnovers resulting in easy baskets for the Lions and the Rams’ deficit was back to 5.  

And then the Rams did what they do best.  They attacked the rim on the offensive end and voraciously gobbled up every rebound on the defensive end.   Their speed and strength was too much for the visitors who had no choice but to commit fouls.  The Rams made something like 8 straight field goals and threw a bunch of free throws in there as well and next thing you know they were up 11 and seemingly in charge.

Not so fast my friend!

A couple of selfish shots by guards Gian Clavell and John Gillon early in the clock and a pair of makes from the perimeter by the Lions and the next thing you know, the Rams lead was back to 3.  They managed to close the game out offensively from the free throw line and by getting stops on the defensive end, mostly because Loyola Marymount’s main scorers had fouled out.

Gian Clavell led the way with 21 and Emmanuel Omogbo had 19.  Antwan Scott came off the bench to score 17 and Joe De Ciman , the steadiest of the Rams, finished with 15.  Yes they shot 9-18 from behind the arc but this was a game where they could have had their way getting to the rim on nearly every possession. 

As a fan, I was actually pleased with what transpired. Not because CSU played great because they certainly  did not.  But because they had some extended periods when they played well on both ends of the floor, got the ball to the basket, and made their free throws with regularity (32-42 for the game).  The defense was good at times and soft at others.  

There are a lot of veterans on this team but they have not played a lot of games together.  They are a new team.  You can harp on practice all you want but ultimately the game is the teacher.

And there are plenty of lessons to learn for this team.

One final thought… 2-0 is a lot better than 1-1.    And as talented as this team might be, they have a way to go before I will ever assume that any game, and I mean any game, is going to be a laugher.  The Rams can play but they can’t play focused basketball for 40 minutes yet.

OT: ¬†Immigration Reform and Syrian Refugees

November 19, 2015

My blog is devoted to college basketball and mostly around the mens’ and womens’ programs at Colorado State University.

But I feel the need to comment on some of the goings on regarding general behavior and rhetoric toward immigration in general and the plight of those in Syria.

I don’t claim to know all the answers.

I do remember attending Rosemont Elementary School in Rosemont, PA in the early 60’s.  I loved those days and I loved my school.  I especially looked forward to assemblies on Friday mornings.  Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders would assemble in the school auditorium and sing songs together.  The same songs week after week.  Many of them were patriotic songs.

That auditorium was a special place.  Its where I saw the very first TV pictures of our space program.  We watched the Mercury launches together in awe.

I learned the words to “You’re a Grand Old Flag”.  I learned multiple verses to “America the Beautiful”.  I got chills from the words “Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.”

And I was exposed to another song I found to be extraordinary because of the words and the music.  Not that I could sing worth a darn, but I would try especially hard when it came time for the song with words from Emma Lazerus and music by Irving Berlin.  The words are inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor

Your huddled masses yearning to be free

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

I never felt better than when I tried to sing that song.  It wasnt just the beauty of it. It was the message.  The Promise of America!  Yes we have an amazing Constitution and liberty and justice for all.  

But its our heart that makes us special!

And this song is about our heart and our welcoming of those in dire need of help.  We are a nation composed primarily of immigrants and to deny those of the future the same opportunities as many of us and our forefathers had tears at the very heartstrings upon which this country has been built.

We need to figure out a way to welcome those in need, to sacrifice a little more so that others can join us on this grand path.  Its not about losing what we already have.  Its about keeping our heart healthy. 

For some reason, God saw it appropriate that I experienced those early days of NASA and those extraordinary assemblies in the same little auditorium in Rosemont.  The awe of watching a rocket launching at Cape Canaveral and singing of the inspirational words of Emma Lazerus joined as one.  

Limitless possibilities.

Colorado State 60 – Incarnate Word 37 (Women)

November 18, 2015

I suppose I should he happy.

After a long day at work, I got to see a solid victory by the Lady Rams.  I got to see Ellen Nystrom, the fabulous Swede, take over the game in the second quarter on her way to a 21-point game.  I got to see stifling team defense that held the visiting Cardinals scoreless for an 11-minute stretch over the course of the second and third quarters, breaking open a close game and making the final quarter a formality.

But there was something missing in this one.  I don’t know what is was but a pair of careless unforced turnovers by the Rams in the game’s first 30 seconds was a harbinger of uninspired, low energy effort on the offensive end of the floor. A pass to no one. A dribble to the other team.  And it finally culminated with a 10-second violation caused by a Ram guard walking the ball up the floor without any defensive pressure.

And when they weren’t turning the ball over, the Rams were taking poor shots and missing good ones at the rim.  The ball movement was inconsistent, the extra pass virtually non-existent. The starters were relegated to the bench early and the subs did no better. Only Emilie Hesseldal seemed interested as she garnered virtually every rebounding opportunity and avoided the turnover fest that plagued her teammates; Hesseldal finished the game with 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers.

Finally, Nystrom grabbed the game by the throat midway through the second quarter and when she opened the second half with a beautiful lefty lay-up and followed it with a three-ball, they had run 16 straight to push their lead to 34-14.  The Rams weren’t going to lose but instead of settling down offensively, they threw some horrible passes and badly missed shots from the perimeter and at the free throw line.

On the positive side, this team doesnt let crummy offense affect their desire to play effective defense.  They held Incarnate Word to 30% shooting and forced 20 turnovers.  Many of the field goals the visitors made were highly contested.

On the negative side, they play sloppy and impassionately on the offensive end.  They rarely seem to get out of 2nd or 3rd gear.  Its a far cry from the offensive teams of the past two seasons.  Yes they are missing two talented all-conference guards.  But this team has a bunch of veterans and far greater depth and firepower than the teams before them.  They can be a lot better if they choose to be. 

One final thought…  Long-time rival Brigham Young University visits Moby on Saturday night.  The Lady Cougars are always a solid team.  They will be big, strong, and will make open shots.  Its a rematch of a game played in Provo last season when the Rams got absolutely smoked.  An offensive display like they put on against Incarnate Word will not get it done versus a far more talented BYU team.


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