The #4 Oregon Ducks (11-2) are visiting with the hopes of beating the Colorado Buffaloes (11-2) in Boulder for the first time ever. This is easily the best Oregon team this decade (lol) so the Buffs will challenged to say the least. Here are a quick three things to know about tonight’s game.
1. This is Dana Altman’s finest job (thus far)
Every year, Dana Altman takes on a new project of misfits and turns them into a Pac-12 contender. Last year he had a collection of veteran wings and one-and-done freshmen, survived all sorts of injuries and made the Sweet Sixteen. Since just about everyone left, save for senior guard Payton Pritchard, he’s taken on a squad of freshmen and transfers.
Somehow everything clicked immediately and Oregon has been unkillable this season. They’re currently #4 in the AP Poll, have neutral site wins over Memphis (with James Wiseman) and Seton Hall, a road win over then-No. 5 Michigan, and their two losses have come against Gonzaga, the current No. 1, and North Carolina, when Cole Anthony was healthy. This Oregon team is road-tested against the best teams in the country. Even scarier, they’re now figuring out how to best play with each other.
2. Oregon is deep, balanced and relentless
Part of why Oregon has been so good is that they have absurd depth. N’Faly Dante is a potential lottery pick and he’s the fourth player off the bench. C.J. Walker is a five-star freshman with ridiculous athleticism on the wing, but he’s scrounging for minutes. They have defense-first role players like Shakur Juiston and Francis Okoro, 3-and-D wings in Anthony Mathis and Chris Duarte, and shot creators in Payton Pritchard and Will Richardson. They come at you in waves and don’t relent, even if they’re cold and down by 20 points. If you play them close enough down the stretch, their defense switches on and Pritchard will get them clutch buckets.
3. Colorado has untapped potential
Despite being 11-2 with a slew of impressive wins, the Buffs are still figuring things out. Part of that is intentional, as Tad Boyle made the schedule to test his guys to prepare them for March. What we have seen isn’t the best the Buffs will be. We don’t even know how good CU can be at home with an energized crowd.
The win over Dayton was a glimpse of what Colorado can be: McKinley Wright has to take control of the offense, D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey have to be aggressive, Tyler Bey has to lead a smart defense, and the role players have to ace the little things. Dayton is ranked 9th in KenPom and 6th in offensive efficiency; Oregon is 10th and 4th, respectively. They’re similar-ish teams with elite length and shot=making ability. Oregon probably won’t be as vulnerable on the interior as Dayton, but they’re probably not going to shoot as well. CU also won that game while shooting under 40% from the field, which can be partially credited to playing in a new arena.
This game tonight is about as 50-50 as can be. Oregon has never won in Boulder, but they’ve never had a team as battle-tested this early in the season. CU has evidence that Tad Ball can beat high-octane offenses and they’re probably going to shoot the ball better. The game could depend on who wins the boards between Bey and Juiston, or it could be the battle between Wright and Pritchard, or even how well each team’s role players shoot. It’s anyone’s game.
Colorado 71, Oregon 68