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Colorado Preview

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NCAA Basketball: Sacramento State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Your 2019 Maui Champions return home to take on a surprising Colorado team in a welcome home game that has gone from little more than a formality to one that deserves KU’s full attention.

Although the Buffaloes haven’t had the strongest schedule to open the season (they have not played a KenPom top 50 opponent yet), they’re still undefeated which is something to be proud of at this stage regardless of schedule. Unfortunately for them, their first top 50 opponent and first true road game coincide in this one, and it’s at Allen Fieldhouse to boot.

Although Colorado has some talent, they’re stylistically a dream matchup for Kansas. For starters, even though they shoot threes well (roughly 37 percent), they don’t attempt many of them. In fact, just a third of their shots come from behind the arc, much like the Jayhawks. However, unlike the Jayhawks, they don’t take advantage of the twos they shoot, shooting just 43.8 percent inside the arc. Why they don’t shoot more threes is beyond me but I guess I am not a millionaire coach for a reason.

One thing the Buffs do excel at is getting to the line, although that type of offense is much easier to come by at home and when you’re bigger and stronger than your opponent, neither of which will be the case here. I suspect Colorado will hit their season high in 3-point attempts against Kansas, but there isn’t the sample size available to know whether that will pay off or not.

Defensively, Colorado has been one of the best teams in the entire nation. Schedule be damned, they rank 11th in adjusted defense and have allowed over 1 point per possession exactly zero times. Colorado does basically everything you want from a defense: limiting threes (35th nationally), turning teams over (19th), rebounding (6th), and stifling opponents inside the arc (8th).

Colorado even has a couple big guys to throw at Udoka Azubuike in 6-10 Lucas Siewert and 7-0 Dallas Walton. Walton plays sparingly however, with his season high in minutes being just 13, and neither is much of a shot blocker. This looks like the type of game where Kansas could play a lot of two bigs, especially if it leads to Colorado star Tyler Bey playing a lot of post defense (more on that later).

Players to watch

Tyler Bey, 6-7 junior forward

And it’s later. Much like Dayton’s Obi Toppin, Bey is the sun around which the Buffaloes revolve. He has a usage rate north of 27 percent, is the nation’s best defensive rebounder, is 9th in the country at getting to the free throw line, and is shooting 47 percent on twos and 45 percent on threes. He reminds me a lot of former Stanford and Kentucky star Reid Travis, only he’s a much better defender. He’s passed the ball well this season, but he’s nowhere near the passer Toppin is, so I expect Kansas to blitz him a lot when he gets the ball and try to force some errant passes, and expect them to try to get him to foul trouble on the other end as much as possible.

Unlike Dayton, Colorado has other big men with whom to guard Azubuike, so Bill Self will have to get creative with forcing switches, or get the ball to Marcus Garrett and/or David McCormack a lot.

McKinley Wright, 6-0 junior point guard

Wright has been one of the better passers in college basketball since he arrived in Boulder, and this year is no different. His shooting, however, hasn’t caught up yet as he’s making just 45 percent of his twos and 25 percent of his threes. He is a career 33 percent shooter from outside the arc, so Kansas might want to force him to try to beat them from the outside as much as possible.

D’Shawn Schwartz, 6-7 junior forward

May the Schwartz be with you, indeed. After shooting just 31 percent from three last year, Schwartz is 14-27 from deep so far this season, and will no doubt cause a strain on the Kansas defense if the Jayhawks elect to play two bigs.

The Pick

I am apparently doomed to be able to predict exactly how every game will go style wise, but not be able to get a score right to save my life. I’ll take another crack at it here. Although Colorado is better than I expected, I don’t think they play the right style to seriously mount a challenge to the Jayhawks. I think Kansas will wear them down inside, and Marcus Garrett should fare better against Bey than Kansas did against Toppin. I’ll take Kansas 71-61.

Record ATS: 1-5