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Colorado Buffaloes Basketball: Previewing the Stanford Cardinal

The Buffs host the Cardinal on Saturday (4:00 pm).

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes (18-5, 7-3) will take on the Stanford (16-6, 5-4) on Saturday afternoon. The Buffs moved into first place after beating California on Thursday, but they will have to play much better than that to beat a much better team. The Cardinal are deep, well-coached and play terrific team basketball, although the Buffs match up quite well in this upcoming tilt.

1. Tyrell Terry and Oscar Da Silva are the stars

The Stanford Cardinal play entirely through their two star players, point guard Tyrell Terry and forward Oscar Da Silva. Terry should be a problem because he’s a sweet-shooting jitterbug who knows how to get to his spots. He’s a dangerous pick-and-roll facilitator whose best skill in his pull-jumper, as he’s shooting over 40% on five three-pointers per game. Colorado struggles with quick-twitch guards of his caliber, so McKinley Wright will have his hands full, even if Wright did beat Terry in their Minnesota high school playing days.

Terry’s pick-and-roll partner will be Oscar Da Silva, the junior forward from Munich, Germany. He’s a very skilled and physical scorer who has turned into an All-Pac-12 player with his balanced game. Most of his buckets will be from mid-range or inside, where he’s great at carving out just enough space for a clean look at the basket. You don’t score 16.4 points per game on 60% shooting unless you can finish those looks. If you want visual evidence of his skill, just watch him embarrass Shakur Juiston in Stanford’s 70-60 win over Oregon, in which he put up 27 points and 15 boards.

2. Those stars are in a position to succeed

Stanford’s spread pick-and-roll (usually) works because of how much shooting they have around Terry and Da Silva. The best shooter on the team is Spencer Jones, the 6’7, 195-lbs. power forward who is hitting 43% on six threes per game. Then there’s Daejon Davis, the former starting point guard turned off-guard. He’s best used in a limited role focused on defense and ball movement, and he can still lead the offense if he’s on that night (he usually isn’t). Isaac White is a very capable shooter they have on the bench and he can get hot in a couple minutes, giving him Brady Heslip villainy potential.

Because everyone is skilled and unselfish, the offense is usually balanced around those high-usage stars. All these shooters on the floor means there’s a ton of space for Da Silva to work inside, for example. You can’t crash down on Terry driving to the rim because he will find whichever shooter you leave open. And if you focus on those two and leave, say, Jones open in the corner, he will make you regret it.

3. Matchups favor Colorado

All that said about their offense, Buffs fans shouldn’t be afraid of Stanford. They are balanced and efficiency, but they are too easily bogged down by competent defenses. The Cal Bears beat them by attacking the perimeter and running them off the three-point line. Utah just beat them Thursday in a gross, gritty game. If Colorado can stop Dayton’s offense on the road — the second best offense in college basketball, mind you — they can slow a similar but worse attack at home.

There’s also the physical matchups of Stanford playing as small as they do. Da Silva is their de facto center, Spencer Jones is their sub-200-lbs. power forward, and they have no real big men in the main rotation. They can be had on the offensive glass, as they were manhandled there by Washington, USC and Oregon. This is one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the country, so it’s hard to imagine them competing with Evan Battey and Tyler Bey on the boards in Boulder. And because Bey and Battey are such versatile defenders, it’s not like they’re going to get run off the floor by Stanford playing small-ball. Even if their best player is a forward, Colorado has a significant advantage here.

It’s also worth mentioning that Stanford has gone 16-6 against possibly the easiest schedule in the Pac-12. They have played three games outside the state of California, which is resulted in a win over Oklahoma in Kansas City, a loss to Butler in the same arena, and a loss to Utah on Thursday. Their true road games have been at San Jose State (shoutout to Jean Prioleau), UCLA, USC and California — that’s not exactly challenging. It’s hard to play on the road in college basketball, so it’s likely their shooting and team defense won’t translate just the same when they’re catching red-eye flights and sleeping in hotel beds.

Prediction

Colorado 74, Stanford 59