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A KenPom Preview: Colorado #1

Here we go again with the KenPom previews. Basically, all it is is a semi-regurgitation of each team's KenPom page (Colorado page). If you don't want to read all of these words, just check out the page and glance over the numbers for yourself.

Opening Thoughts

This one shouldn't be a close one. I understand that it is dangerous to ever proclaim such a thing about a road conference game, but this one's different. Were you to look under godawful in the dictionary, there would be a picture of a buffalo with a basketball. Because, in power conference college basketball, Colorado is as bad as they get. Last season, Oregon State went 0-18 in the Pac 10. And, despite statistics that more-heavily weight contests against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Prarie View A&M, Louisiana-Monroe and Coppin State, their stats aren't too much hotter. So, yeah, basically this year's Colorado is last year's Oregon State. Of course, this year's Big 12 is significantly worse than last year's Pac 10, and I bet that the Buffs figure out a way to win a game-or-two this conference season. But those wins will, almost assuredly, be more because of the other team having a poor night than simply the Buffs outplaying an opponent.

So, yeah, if we lose. I'll be pissed. Although, pissed is probably way too much of an understatement.

Continues after the jump...

The Background

This Colorado Buffaloes team has beat, let's team in the Top 200 of KenPom's rankings. Colorado State, generally considered to be the second worst team in the Mountain West, would be the Buffaloes' feather-in-the-cap. Their next-most-impressive victory would, probably, be against Harvard. At home. Yowza. Last season, the Buffs were merely a severely sub-par Big 12 team, but had some legitimate Big 12-level talent in Richard Roby and Marcus Hall. This year, with those two leaving, they've been left with a hodgepodge of mid-level players. And I'm talking mid-level of the MWC, not the Big 12. However, I do believe that Jeff Bzdilek has the program going in the right direction, it's just going to take awhile to completely U-turn away from the garbage heap-of-a-mess that Ricardo Patton left in Boulder. Yowza times two.

The Offense

OK, I feel better already. Our biggest weakness on the defensive side of the ball all year long, without question, has been our inability to box people out and pick up defensive boards. We've been giving up offensive rebounds and free second-chance points left-and-right all year long. Thankfully, though, the Buffs aren't a good offensive rebounding team. Scratch that. They aren't a bad offensive rebounding team. They are an absolutely dreadful offensive rebounding team. They rank 342nd in the country at picking up offensive boards. However, beyond that, they actually aren't a bad offensive team. Even with their sixth-grade-level offensive rebounding, they rank in about the middle of the pack in the NCAAs offensively. How? Easy. They make their shots. They rank 27th in all of Division 1 in making the shots they are presented with, 21st in the country on all two-pointers. So, yeah, they pretty much shoot themselves into kinda-sorta being in games. This utter dependence on making shots leaves you quite, well, screwed when you aren't making the shots; and that is precisely what happened Wednesday night against Mizzou. It happens again Saturday, it could get even ugler than Missouri's 45-point victory. Assuming it doesn't, though, as long as we box out we should be good. It's weakness versus weakness, although I'll take our defensive rebounding over their offensive rebounding. Every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

The Defense

While Colorado's offense is quite subpar, with its shooting ability keeping it afloat, the Buffs' D has little to keep it above water. It isn't significantly worse, overall, than the O, it's just that they really don't do anything well. They'll let you take plenty of good shots, and make them, they don't turn you over all that often, they don't do a great job of preventing offensive rebounds and they aren't completely immune from fouling. Worst of all, in terms of their sucktitude, is their complete lack of an interior presence. They are one of the country's worst teams in the country at blocking shots, which, combined with the fairly poor rebounding, makes perfect sense. They essentially have no size down low, making it hard for them to perform too well around the glass.

This doesn't fit into the defense category, per se, but it is important to mention tempo. Last season, when we paid a visit to Boulder, Colorado coach Bzdilek utilized just about every second of the shot clock, trying to slog it down and drone out possessions. After all, when there is such a talent disparity, the less possesions, the better for the underdog. So far this season, Colorado is in the bottom third of the country in tempo, choosing to suck the life out of the clock. And while we aren't the same, superstar-infused team we were last year, I fully expect the Buffs to try and drone out possessions.

The Players

Here's who to watch out for, and why.

  • Cory Higgins - Soph. G --  The star of the team. One of the few players on the team who can legititemately claim that he is a Big 12-caliber basketball player. He's good, too. Should get the Brady assignment, so he will likely struggle. Love how that always works. Anyways, dude plays a shitload; has played 91% of Colorado's minutes this year. His big thing is to drive and get fouled, and once there make his free throws. He's already shot 100 free throws this season; making 84 of 'em. He is also likely their best shooter, and clearly the guy to watch out for.
  • Austun Dufault - Fresh. F -- Sadly, this is about as big as they get at Colorado; 6'8". Austin is a pretty solid player, though, and plays plenty. He, literally, isn't terribly good at anything, though. A subpar rebounder, an average shooter withot too much range, an OK defensive player. A ho-hum player, the type you'd love to have coming off the end of your bench if you're Colorado. Not, exactly, the type you want second on your team in minutes. Yowza.
  • Casey Crawford - Soph. F -- Another tall one, although Casey is just 6'8" as well. He's not any better of a rebounder than Dufault (actually, Higgins is, statistically, a better rebounder than both), and while he is an all right three-point shooter (40%), he has just shot 30 times all year from back there. So, who knows how much of that is true ability, and how much is simply a small sample size.
  • Dwight Thorne - Jr. G -- One of the veteran leaders of the bunch, he's only a junior. He is, probably, the second-best shooter on the team, and you could argue he is a better pure shooter than Higgins. He is their primary three-point shooter, albeit not by a huge amount, and a decent rebounder.
  • Nate Tomlinson - Fresh. G -- Tomlinson, based off of his assist rates, I would surmise is the point guard of the Buffs. As a true freshman, that is pretty interesting, although certainly not unexpected given the massive underhaul the program is going under. He's another good shooter, although not in the same league as Thorne or Higgins. 
  • Jermyl Jackson-Wilson - Sr. G/F -- The only senior who sees much of any playing time, Jermyl isn't a tremendous player by any stretch. Still, he serves his role, as he is probably the best rebounder on the team (despite being only 6'6") and being the primary shot-blocker on the Buffs. Yes, he is still only 6'6". He didn't grow. He, on the other hand, isn't the best shooter in the world, but he tends to stick close to the hoop, anyways.

The Keys

  1. Treat Them Like a Real Team - This is ridiculous. This shouldn't have to be a key in a conference road game, particularly for a team who has yet to win a road game, but hey, that's the deal. In all seriousness, we need to be focused on simply winning a road game. Not only because we can't afford to have a loss to Colorado, but because it'd be nice as hell to actually win a game away from Allen.
  2. Guard the Perimeter Shooters - Basically, Colorado's offense is the shooting game of Higgins, Thorne and Tomlinson, in descending order. They have some other contributors on the team, but those are the central three. If we can shut them down, we are in tremendous shape. 99.99% chance of winning kind of shape. I'd imagine that Brady will draw Higgins, TyTay will be assigned Thorne and Sherron on the freshman, Tomlinson. All three have to play lockdown D. If they get hot, and get enough confidence, we could lose. That's pretty much the only way I can think of that could end up in a Kansas L. So, yeah, let's not let that happen.
  3. Cole, Cole, Cole - I'm going to keep saying this until we bump it up the priority list. I understand that we shouldn't simply run every play through Cole, but he needs a bigger role in our offense. I promise.

Concluding Thoughts

Pretty much, the game comes down to the Buffs' trio of guards. They all get hot, or even just two of the three, and Colorado drowns out enough possessions, and this could be a game late. If not, and assuming we don't entirely implode, it's game over.

More concluding thoughts in tomorrow's Open Game Thread, which will occur again. I'll be there, and would love to see anyone come over and drop by.