This is perhaps the biggest game remaining on Cal's regular season schedule (considering there is only 1 game after this, that is not that big of a statement). But, despite some pre-season predictions, Colorado, who stymied Cal in the NIT Tournament last year, is having a pretty good season! Which is why it makes PERFECT SENSE that Stanford rolled into town and roughed up the Buffs 74-50. What the WHAT?!?!? A middle of the Pac Stanford team taking down a pretty decent Buffs team? It just means they will be THAT much angrier heading into the Cal game.
To find out just how angry Buffs fans are, we talked with Jon Woods over at Ralphie Report. They are the Colorado gurus with all the knowledge you need to know about the basketball team. They were so kind as to answer some questions for us. Their answers to our questions after the jump. Many thanks to Jon Woods and all the great readers over at Ralphie Report. GO BEARS!1. How has Colorado done it? Were pre season expectations that off and the talent wasn't recognized or have guys really improved and you're playing way above expectations?
It's a little bit of both, but expectations were certainly way off. When the preseason media poll was released with the Buffs in 10th place back in October I wrote the following, "This isn't really a surprising development with the relative obscurity of the Buffaloes basketball program (for now) and the loss of Alec Burks and Cory Higgins. However, even in a rebuilding year, this team's ceiling is much, much higher than a finish near the bottom of the conference." Most Buffs fans didn't expect Boyle's crew to be quite this competitive, quite this fast, but we knew that they would be middle of the pack at the least. The big surprise has been the play of the freshmen guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker. Neither of them has hit the proverbial "freshman wall" and they aren't afraid to take a shot in crunch time.
2. CU played well defensively when these teams met last month. What can we expect to see from CU defensively this time around? Same plan or any other wrinkles you anticipate?
I doubt that you will see too many changes in what the Buffs did on defense the first time. They were able to significantly slow both Gutierrez and Crabbe and I think that they will attempt to the same on Sunday. I'm sure there will be discussions and adjustments made to try and negate the effectiveness of Kamp as well, but that can not come at the expense of the other two. Owning the rebounding battle will be important early because it sometimes takes teams a while to find their shot in Boulder.
3. Why is your mascot called a buffalo when Ralphie is really a bison?
(My 6-year old son is asking this question. True story.)
A Bison is a Buffalo, but not all Buffalo are Bison. (I found this answer on the internet so I can not confirm it's validity.)
4. As I'm writing this question, Colorado is 7-0 at home in conference play. How frightened should Cal fans be about playing the Buffs way up in the air?
There's certainly a reason that the Buffs are 7-0 so far, the CEC can be a very tough place to play. The effect of the altitude on opposing teams has always been there, what it needed was the energy that came from a full crowd and a big game. While it started to return last year, it's really hit a fever pitch this year. Sunday's game is already sold out. At the time of this writing, the game against Stanford is about 100 seats short of a sell out. The student's have really stepped up in a big way this season and are doing a great job keeping the noise levels high during conference play. It hurts the Buffs slightly that there is an extra day of rest after the Utah game, but let's face it, playing the Utes is basically a day off anyways.
Update post-Stanford: I suppose you can worry a bit less after the Buffs looked extremely lethargic for the second game in a row, but for some reason Stanford (much like UCLA) matches up really, really well with Colorado. How the Buffaloes respond from Thursday night's let down will be very interesting to see. Kamp should be drooling going into this game...
5. Last time around, Cal's defense did a good job on Carlon Brown and that seemed to stymie Colorado's offense. Is that still a good strategy, or have other players been stepping up that Cal should focus on more?
Ever since the first game in January, Brown's production has been slowing and inconsistent. Over the last four games his minutes have decreased from 32 to 30 to 28 to 25. He still has the ability to thrive and be the number one scorer for this team, but Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker have both stepped up over the last couple of weeks. It's a combination of Brown going through a slight slump and the ball and minutes being spread around a bit more. Because of his seniority, Brown still probably qualifies as the Buffaloes biggest scoring threat, but the margin over some other players is shrinking.