The Puerto Rico Tip-Off will be the first of many tests for the Colorado Buffaloes this year. Colorado plays the Wichita State Shockers, last year's post-season NIT winner to start off at 5:30 on ESPNU. Some analysis on the teams Colorado will face in their bracket and prediction for CU in the tournament after the jump...
Wichita State Shockers: They are a very good team and seemingly are always in contention for the NCAA Tournament every year. The Shockers lost their most important player, J.T. Durley; but, they have a new impact recruit in Carl Hall. Hall is 6'8" can rebound the ball well and should be an impact player this year. Look for Roberson or Dufault to be on him for most of the game. Both teams are in similar states coming into the season losing key players.
Alabama Crimson Tide: The Crimson Tide should be very good this year. They return star players JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford. I don't see anyone in the current field being able to stop the Tide's physicality and scoring ability. If the Buffs can beat Wichita State, they would likely play Alabama, who I don't see them beating. Furthermore, Alabama has a lot to prove this year with high expectations. If they can win this tournament, look for them to have an impact on the SEC this year.
Maryland Terrapins: First year coach Mark Turgeon could have his hands full with this squad. They lost their most important offensive presence, Jordan Williams. Also, they lost frontcourt partner Dino Gregory. The backcourt is strong; but, that is about it. The Terrapins will definitely be better next year and probably never be as limited under Turgeon as they will this year. If the Buffs lose, they will most likely play the Terrapins, who they can beat.
Prediction: 65-58 Shockers. This should be a physical, intense game. Outside of Booker, Colorado's bench is weak as of now. When Adams and Cain return, they should have a solid 8-man rotation. Until then, a successful starting five will not cut it against superior teams. Additionally, the Shockers' strength is their backcourt and that is Colorado's weakness. The key to the game is if the Buffs can play solid help defense and be strong on the boards. Also, if Carlon Brown can facilitate the offense and Roberson has a phenomenal game on the glass, the Buffs can win. Without strong defense and rebounding and a good offensive game from Brown, look for the Shockers to prevail.