Rebounding has been a backbone and basic tenant of the largely successful basketball program coach Tad Boyle has built at the University of Colorado.
However, as the Buffaloes turn the page from their nonconference schedule to the challenge of the Pac-12 Conference slate, CU is sorting through rebounding woes witnessed infrequently during the Boyle era.
The Buffs managed a 38-36 rebounding advantage in a win against Eastern Washington in the nonconference finale on Thursday, yet the visiting Eagles still owned an 11-9 edge in offensive rebounds. This also was on the heels of the Buffs getting outrebounded in three of the previous four games.
"It's a big concern," Boyle said. "Defensive rebounding is not one person's job. Everyone looks at your bigs. It's our guards' job. Long shots equal long rebounds. (Eastern Washington) took 23 threes. Your guards have to get their fair share of the long rebounds because it's five guys."
It has been difficult to pinpoint the primary source of the Buffs' drop in rebounding efficiency. The addition of Derrick White and injury comeback from Xavier Johnson has more than made up for the absence of graduated forward Josh Scott. And while Wesley Gordon and George King have been a touch inconsistent on the glass, they both nonetheless are averaging career-highs.
Team-wise, the numbers tell a different story. The Buffs were outrebounded only once in nonconference play last year but it happened four times in 13 nonconference games this year. CU's average nonconference rebounding margin last year was plus-11.5. This season it was only plus-4.
"We don't run before we rebound. And right now, we're not a good rebounding team," Boyle said. "Which concerns me as we go into Pac-12 play. It's concerned me for the last two weeks. We've talked about it after games, before games, in practice, in scouting reports. Pre-game talks, halftime talks. Until these guys figure it out, it's going to cost us some games at some point."
King's scoring downturn
Another one of the difficult-to-explain nuances of the Buffs during nonconference play has been the inconsistent scoring of King.
The reigning winner of the Pac-12 Conference Most Improved Player award after averaging 13.6 points one year after a redshirt season, King averaged 10.8 points during the Buffs' 13 nonconference games and is suffering through a slump from his signature 3-point shot.
King erupted on the scene a year ago, topping the 15-point mark five times in 13 nonconference games while reaching 20 twice. In the same number of nonconference games this year the junior guard has scored more than 15 just twice without a 20-point game. The Pac-12 leader in 3-point percentage last year, King went a solid 9-for-20 from beyond the arc in the first six games this year but has gone 5-for-27 in the seven games since.
Bound over in Boulder
While the Buffs were released to go home for a few days of holiday relaxation with their families, Belgian guard Thomas Akyazili and Brazilian freshman Lucas Siewert will remain on campus.
Last year the Buffs played a pre-Christmas tournament in Las Vegas. Akyazili's father traveled for CU's two games there and the pair remained on vacation together in Vegas for a few days afterward.
"It's me and Lucas. We can't go home, so we're going to go eat at coach's house," Akyazili said. "There's no school and no one here, so we'll just be working out. It's like the moment you realize you're far away from home. You really miss your parents and your family and your friends, but in the end it's worth it."