The Past Week:
Colorado played Arkansas State, Santa Barbara and Harvard and won all three of their games. The victory over Arkansas State was a 93-70 blowout, but the defensive lapses were apparent in the second half when the Red Wolves narrowed the deficit to 60-52 with 12 minutes to go. Although Colorado went on to win, the victory made the close 76-68 win over Santa Barbara, who was without their best player and leading scorer Alan Williams, unsurprising. The Buffs refused to close out hard on shooters against the Gauchos and bench player Taran Brown shot 7-of-10 from three. Spencer Dinwiddie's excellence outweighed the poor defense as he scored a season-high 24 points.
Then came Harvard. A loss was certain at halftime as the Buffs trailed 42-30. But the defense finally awoke and shut down the Crimson paving the way to a 70-62 win. After a 15-0 run in the second half which was keyed by two consecutive threes from Xavier Johnson and a third three from Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs put the game out of reach. Colorado found the defense and rebounding they had been looking for all season in the second half and those 20 minutes could prove to be a turning point for the Buffs going forward.
The Week Ahead:
The Buffaloes will travel to see their in-state rivals Air Force and Colorado St. on Saturday and Tuesday respectively. The Falcons no longer have Michael Lyons and also have lost to Jackson St. this year, who the Buffs beat 94-70. Colorado St. isn't much better either and has lost all their starters from last year. Colorado has an entire week of practice before these games, but it'll be hard for the Buffs to take these games seriously instead of looking ahead to the most anticipated game at the Coors Event Center in years. On Saturday, Dec. 7, the Buffs will take on the second ranked Jayhawks.
All the talk and hype surrounds freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins, who leads Kansas in scoring at 16.8 points per game. Wiggins is an athletic specimen, potential first overall NBA Draft pick and will certainly cause problems for Colorado. But as always, it's not just one player on Bill Self's team. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Tarik Black and Naadir Tharpe complement Wiggins in the starting lineup. Ellis is arguably the Jayhawks' second best player and the sophomore has improved greatly since last year. According to KenPom, Ellis has the highest offensive rating on the team at 144.0 and 44th best in the nation. Black, who transferred from Memphis, is only averaging 12.8 minutes a game and although he and Tharpe are the most experienced players for Bill Self, the freshmen have made more of an impact thus far.
One of those freshman aside from Wiggins is the 6-foot-5 230 pound athletic guard Wayne Selden Jr. Selden Jr.'s most notable performance in the early season came against Duke when he had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Bill Self has another top 50 recruit off the bench at his disposal with Joel Embiid. Embiid could make things difficult for Colorado because of his his 7-foot frame and 7-foot-5-inch wingspan. He's not quite there yet offensively, but has the 10th highest defensive rebounding rate in the nation and 20th best offensive rebounding rate.
We'll have a more in-depth preview as the game gets closer, but for Colorado to have success against Kansas, they'll have to get off to an early lead and never relent defensively.They showed against Harvard that they can play 20 minutes of their best basketball, but will obviously need to put together 40 minutes of that type of play against Kansas.
Early Stats and Notes:
115.7- That is Spencer Dinwiddie's free throw rate according to KenPom, which puts him at 15th best in the nation. Dinwiddie has showed recently that he doesn't need to get to the free throw line to have a high scoring performance, but it sure helps that he can get there at will when his shot isn't falling. Colorado's four most difficult opponents this year have been Baylor, Wyoming, Santa Barbara and Harvard. Against Baylor and Wyoming, Dinwiddie was 4-of-21 from the field, yet managed to shoot 15-of-20 from the free throw line. Against Santa Barbara and Harvard, Dinwiddie was 9-of-18 from the field and 17-of-19 from the free throw line. It's small sample size, but so far Dinwiddie has proved that when he struggles or excels shooting from the field, he's still going to get to the free throw line. And he's on pace to be just as good or better than last year at getting to the free throw line, which is great news for Colorado.
Askia Booker has taken 13 free throws this year in 7 games. He is shooting 24 percent from three, 46 percent from two and has taken a team high 29.7 percent of Colorado's shots this year.
Booker's shot selection and percentage of shots taken has been talked about tirelessly and the Harvard game was a summation of Booker's season thus far. He had some great drives to the hoop and ended those drives with made layups. Throughout the game, however, he started to resort back to his jumper, which he tended to miss. It's always going to be up and down with Ski and he is going to keep shooting, but if he can get to the hoop and make more layups in traffic this year than he has in the past, that will be a good sign for Colorado.
37.1- The three-point percentage of Colorado's opponents this year. This has been the biggest trouble for Tad Boyle this year. The Buffs just haven't defended the perimeter aside from the second half against Harvard. Currently, the Buffs rank 264th in the country defending the three. Although it's the non-conference season, compared to other teams in the Pac-12, only Stanford, Oregon St. and Washington St. have faired worse defending the three.