After an 8-1 start to the season and no unexpected losses, Colorado did what it was supposed to. Now, the rough part of the non-conference slate begins. The Buffaloes will take on two Big 12 elite teams in the next two weeks and first up is Kansas. Although the Jayhawks garnered a great deal of deserved hype before the season, they haven't been too impressive thus far. Kansas' most notable win was over Duke, but they followed that up with an underwhelming performance in the Battle 4 Atlantis. They beat Wake Forest, fell to Villanova and barely snuck by UTEP. An upset is not out of the question for the Buffaloes, but they must play their best game of the season to pull it off.
Colorado will need to contain Kansas' size:
Kansas, as usual, is more athletic, has more depth and more size than Colorado. Although he doesn't start, Joel Embiid has been a problem for opposing teams this season. Embiid broke out against Iona with 16 points and 13 rebounds and has continued his strong play since. The 7-footer is only averaging 17.7 minutes, yet is scoring 9.1 points and picking up 7 rebounds per game. The Jayhawks also boast freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins and improved sophomore Perry Ellis. Both stand at 6-foot-8 and can stretch the floor. Wiggins' best attribute is his athleticism, which tends to make up for his passive offensive game. He went a combined 5-of-17 against Villanova and UTEP, yet remains the second leading scorer on the team at 14.3 points per game. When he gets out in transition, he's nearly impossible to stop, but in the half court he can be contained. Ellis has been the go-to-guy for Kansas, has the highest offensive rating on the team and leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game.
As of now, Tad Boyle is unsure if Wesley Gordon will play, which would make it difficult for the Buffaloes to contain the Jayhawks' size. But if Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott, and Wesley Gordon all start, the Buffaloes have a chance of containing that frontline.
Kansas has weaknesses that Colorado can exploit:
It's no secret Colorado hasn't been good guarding the three this year. They've improved since their dismal start, but are still allowing opponents to shoot 34.9 percent from beyond the arc according to KenPom. Fortunately, Kansas only shoots 30.9 percent from three. More importantly, is the fact that opponents have been able to get to the free throw line against Kansas. The Jayhawks are 237th in the nation in free throws attempted to field goals attempted and one of the main reasons that Villanova beat Kansas was their 29 trips to the charity stripe. In the Jayhawks' last three games, opponents have attempted 82 free throws. That bodes well for Colorado and Spencer Dinwiddie, who has the 21st highest free throw rate in the country.
How Can Colorado win:
The Buffaloes are going to have a raucous crowd behind them and need to feed off of that to get out to an early lead. Defensively, they must be disciplined. They can't be late rotating or give up second chances and layups like they did against Colorado St. The bench could be even thinner if Wesley Gordon doesn't play and foul trouble could become a major issue, especially for Xavier Johnson. Kansas is not going to let Spencer Dinwiddie beat them and although Josh Scott has been phenomenal this year and without question the second best player on the team, he could have trouble with Embiid's 7-foot-5 wingspan. That leaves the supporting cast. Dustin Thomas, Jaron Hopkins and Xavier Talton have played the most minutes off of the bench this year and will need to step up. Askia Booker has to outplay Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason. Mason has been a surprise for Bill Self while Selden Jr. has yet to meet high expectations and has the third lowest offensive rating on the team. Booker has had better shot selection this year, but this would be a great game for him to improve on that horrific 10-of-42 from three start to the season.
I don't think the Buffs have enough talent to take down the Jayhawks even at the Coors Event Center. Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid are too much down the stretch and Kansas ends up with a 70-67 victory over Colorado. Tad Boyle remains winless against his alma mater.