The Washington State basketball team will look to once again salvage a Pac-12 weekend split after a humiliating Thursday night result when they travel to Boulder to face Colorado this afternoon at 1pm Pacific Time. The game will be nationally televised on FSN/ROOT Sports.
The Buffaloes enter this match-up off to a great start in their inaugural Pac-12 season. After destroying Utah by 40 points on the opening weekend, they were able to defeat the Washington Huskies with ease on Thursday. CU struggled with some poor teams right before conference play, but still does not have a terrible loss on its resume. Not the same can be said for many of their conference brethren.
Colorado joined Washington State in New York last season for the NIT Final Four. They fared better than the Cougars did, actually putting up a fight and losing in a nail-biter to Alabama in the semifinals. After that, like the Cougars, they lost their two best players. Sophomore Alec Burks was drafted one slot after Klay Thompson in last summer's NBA draft and senior Cory Higgins was signed as an undrafted free agent. There are some definite similarities between the two teams and both have taken an inevitable slide this season.
Offense/Defense previews after the jump.OFFENSE
The Buffaloes are a balanced offensive club. No player uses more than 24% of the possessions while they are on the floor (WSU has two that exceed that in Brock Motum and Faisal Aden). The top four scorers on the team are all efficient and the top six players in the rotation are all a threat to knock down threes.
Andre Roberson is the kind of athletic forward that can give Washington State's vampires problems. He weighs in at just below 200 pounds, but has the numbers of a much larger player. He is hitting on 52% of his twos and has a free throw rate of 64.9, 91st in the country among all qualified athletes. He is most dangerous on the offensive glass, where he grabs 17% of his team's misses all on his own. Austin Dufault is the other starting big man. He is a threat from the inside and outside.
Carlon Brown is the team leader in shot percentage (takes the highest percentage of the shots while he is on the floor) and also leads the team in effective field goal percentage. He is hitting on 59% of his twos and 40% of his threes. He likely won't be aggressive in attacking the basket, as he has a low free throw rate. Mostly jumpers out of him.
Freshman Spencer DinWiddie is having a solid first year with a 125.6 offensive rating (100 is average). He is an excellent three-point shooter, hitting 51% so far. He also has a tendency to draw fouls and get to the line often, where he is knocking down 84% of his free throws. The one glaring weakness in his game is his inability inside of the arc, as he is making just 39% of two-point attempts. A little bit of ball pressure should have him rattled.
Overall on offense the Buffaloes do two things well: They make threes and draw fouls. It is an odd combination but a difficult one to deal with. They seem to struggle with man pressure, as they have a slightly higher than normal turnover rate and have the ball stolen from them more than average. Considering all of this, it would seem that Ken Bone should employ mostly man defense, as a zone would play to Colorado's strengths.
Colorado has a statistical profile of a team that plays a lot of man defense and doesn't take a lot of risks. They are 283rd in the country in forcing turnovers and 282nd in getting steals. They are 90th in effective field goal percentage defense and 55th in opponent free throw rate. Their defense seems to be centered around exchanging those fast break opportunities generated by steals for allowing less easy baskets.
As a team, the Buffaloes are slightly above average in defensive rebounding. Roberson is almost solely responsible for that. He may be the best all-around rebounder in all of college basketball. He grabs 29% of available defensive rebounds, a number that would make Dennis Rodman jealous. He also is a good shot blocker. Roberson will definitely be a challenge for Motum.
Outside of forcing turnovers, Colorado isn't bad in any specific category defensively. Against the man defense, ball screens and back cuts will be important. One-on-one match-ups will also be interesting to watch, especially with Reggie Moore and Motum. If they are able to break down their defenders, that will open up a lot of shots for themselves and their teammates.
Kenpom.com predicts this to be a 71-67 Colorado win with 65% confidence. The Cougars are a bit of a wild card. They been good enough to rise to as high as 70 in the rankings this year, but also bad enough to fall as low as 118. It will be interesting to see what team comes out today. Will they be the unfocused group that we saw against Oregon and Utah? Or will we get the team that jumped out to a double-digit lead on Oregon State?