Colorado Basketball Notes

Inside, notes following Colorado's annual basketball media day.

No Slow Down Offense Here There's great curiosity surrounding the Buffs' new offensive system. There are two reasons for that. First, the offense CU fans have gotten used to was undistinguished. People are anxious to see what a disciplined offense that utilizes basic basketball skills like cutting, screening and moving without the ball will look like at Coors.

Second, Jeff Bzdelik ran a similar offense at Air Force, a team that beat the Buffs by more than 30 points last season.

When people ask about it, they're thinking about the half-court offense. There'll be another aspect to CU scoring points this season, though. Bzdelik says the team will run when they have the opportunity.

His past teams have done the same. The Nuggets were second in the league in fast break points his first year with the team. Last season, Air Force led the country in wins by 30 or more points (they beat 11 teams by at least 30).

"When you win by 30 points, you're not holding the ball," Bzdelik said. "We'll run, but we'll be smart. We won't run and jack. We're not going to be a jack attack."

But they'll push the tempo when possible.

Rotation and Impact Frosh CU has two exhibition games scheduled before its season opener at home vs. New Mexico on Nov. 9. Bzdelik will tinker with starting lineups and rotations during the exhibitions, and probably longer.

If CU's first game were today, Bzdelik would probably rely on a rotation of eight or nine players. Included in that group are two freshmen, Cory Higgins and Levi Knutson.

Of Higgins, Bzdelik said: "He's great defensively and has an excellent mix offensively. He is able to shoot the three as well as drive. Being a six foot five guard, he really reminds me of (former Air Force guard) Antoine Hood—that's a real positive for us because Hood was a great player."

Of Knutson, Bzdelik said: "Levi Knutson can really shoot the ball. He's really working hard to expand his game. He's learning to gain separation of the dribble and improve his defense."

Long Bomber Because the Buffs won't be afraid to take 3-point shots this season, they've been using a drill that teams like West Virginia and Air Force have used in recent years. Using one rebounder and one basketball, a player moves to different spots around the perimeter of the 3-point line and makes as many 3-pointers as he can in five minutes. Former WVU player Kevin Pittsnogle reportedly holds the record with 78. Knutson made 71 out of roughly 80 3-pointers during the drill recently.

Asked the biggest eye-opener so far for Knutson, he said getting used to the speed of the game and the athleticism of other players.

Veteran Leader Among the veterans, fifth-year senior guard Marcus Hall has shown great leadership. "His energy is contagious to our team in a very good way," Bzdelik said. Hall is very hungry to play after he missed all of last season with academic issues. He spent the year taking care of business in the classroom, and now holds a degree in sociology, and is working on a second in ethnic studies.

Early Sked Not Ideal Bzdelik doesn't sound enthusiastic about the team's non-conference schedule because it's out of balance. But it's one he inherited. The Buffs play four front range teams — Denver, Wyoming, Air Force and Colorado State — which is great, but they're all road games.

And the thing is, each of those games will be huge for those respective teams. It will be their chance to get a victory over a Big 12 team on their home turf. Not ideal scheduling.

Payback Game? Meanwhile, the New Mexico game has been circled for months — figuratively, if not literally. Players have been reminded since Bzdelik took the job they open with a team that returns four starters which beat them by 41 points a year ago.

Bzdelik says he's bothered about that loss personally, even though he wasn't part of it.

Talent on the Pine, For Now: Jeremy Williams is hitting the books hard this semester and getting lots of support from the staff and academic people in order to get academically eligible for the spring (which would happen after grades are turned in mid-December). Bzdelik really likes Williams' talent. If he's available, it should be a big boost to the team.

Williams is practicing on a limited basis, using some practice time each week to study.

Quotable Crawford Another player unavailable but practicing is Casey Crawford, who transferred to CU from Wake Forest. He's sitting out a mandatory year, but not doing much sitting around. He's been seeing action in practice and should be a big part of the team in 2008-09.

Crawford's Wake Forest got thumped at Air Force last season. About the game, he said: "We came out there to Colorado Springs. We're Wake Forest, typically a national power. We see a bunch of 5-6 white guys, we think this is going to be easy. But they're cutting back door, hitting threes. All of a sudden we look up and we're down by 30."

Waiting On New Digs CU will play several games without the use of its locker room because it's being renovated. Bzdelik said that's OK with him because "the light at the end of that tunnel is a bright one."

The Big Question How long will it take for the Buffs to become proficient at what they're learning on offense? Depends on who you talk to. One thing's consistent though, according to the head coach, the players are willing learners. And Richard Roby says everyone's bought in to what Bzdelik is selling.

"You have to believe in someone who has experience coaching on some of the best staffs in the NBA," Roby said. "Once you start to see results you believe in his system more."

Snub No Big Deal Colorado was picked to finish last in the Big 12 by a vote of conference coaches. That's fine with the CU players, said Hall.

"That (pick by the coaches) has nothing to do with this team, with this coach, with this style of play and the new atmosphere," Hall said.

More on Hall Hall had minor thumb surgery recently to repair a ligament on his shooting hand. He's been practicing with a cast, which means he hasn't been able to shoot the ball. But he's been doing defensive drills and working conditioning drills. He gets the cast off early next week. He will likely miss the first exhibition game, then be back in action for the second one.


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