I miss Spencer Dinwiddie. I know you do too. I want the insanely efficient offense from before his ACL decided to devastate the mustachioed masquerader. I want to be assured of March basketball. But we can't have that. Dinwiddie made the right decision and he's been very successful in his rehabilitation and in his production off the bench for the Detroit Pistons, but boy, do I wish he would chosen another year of college.
As we have seen now for 25 games without Dinwiddie is that the offense has relied on the guards holding onto the ball just long enough to feed Josh Scott in the post. As much as you and I want Dinwiddie back, his absence was never the problem; Dinwiddie masked the problem with his savvy drives to the rim and ideally-timed tempo pushes. The main problem is offensive creativity, or lack thereof. There hasn't been any penetration to the rim and every non-Scott player has been settling for threes and long twos. By all means, many teams have been very successful and made deep runs into the Big Dance by surrounding a great post player with trigger-happy shooters, but Colorado employs this system with shaky shooters who struggle with turnovers. When long shots aren't falling and Scott is unable to save the day, the offense stagnates. We saw this during tournament collapses against UNLV and Baylor in 2012, against Kansas and Illinois in 2013, against Arizona in the 2014 Pac-12 Tournament and Pittsburgh in the tourney last year, and against Wyoming a couple weeks back: a good team adjusts their game plan to take away production at the rim -- which opponents mainly do with a zone defense -- and the Buffs cannot adjust accordingly, essentially keeling over in the process. Nauseating Colorado State (lol your football coach left you) and Northern Colorado will challenge the offense to create points in new ways, so we'll preview how this may come about.
The disgusting Rams from up in Laramie County happen to be undefeated in this matchup, albeit against a lackluster schedule that has seen CSU's toughest matchups come at home at UTEP and Mercer. The style of play Larry Eustachy's squad will be implementing is a moderately-paced attack that relies on an in-and-out game coming from a punishing low-post scorer, a do-it-all guard and a plethora of athletic gunners along the wings.
Colorado State's gameplan will consist of a seven-deep rotation anchored by two Mountain West stars in J.J. Avila and Daniel Bejarano. Avila is one of those typical 6'8" forwards I always seem to preview as he's troublesome on the block, a respectable shooter and a determined rebounder. Bejarano is a rather unique player being quite good at everything, but not really great at any one skill. The preseason All-Mountain West shooting guard is a Nicolas Batum, Delon Wright-type player in that he always seems to rack up a fair share of assists (3.8 per game), a ton of rebounds (6.8 per game) and a decent amount of points (12.1 points per game this year and 16.3 last year), all while stretching the defense with the threat of draining three-pointers (he's shooting nearly 40% from deep). Besides the Brady Heslips and Bryce Alfords of the world, Bejarano seems like the perfect player to defeat the Buffs. CSU has more players than just Bejarano and Avila, however, as they will use two transfers in Gian Clevell (from JUCO Northwest Technical College) and Stanton Kidd (North Carolina Central). The former is an athletic slasher and spry defender with a deft shot; the latter is a cookie-cutter 6'8" forward who gets efficient buckets while being a mound of man on the defensive side. If you combine the two names, you get Gian Stanton, which should intimidate the shit out of you if you know baseball.
Looking at how the Rams match up with Colorado's skill player should make you a little reassured in humanity because CSU has no real answer for Josh Scott, and we all know how great he has been. Moreover, CSU will likely need to play defensively gifted backup guard John Gillon more than the typical time they usually play him in order to keep Askia Booker contained, unless Booker shoots himself out of rhythm. And, if everything goes exactly in favor of the Buffs, Xavier Johnson or Xavier Talton (depending on matchups elsewhere) will possess the defensive tenacity -- and any defensive intensity would be a great sign at this point -- to hold Bejarano to a rough outing. In a total compilation of yays and nays, and with this being a home game and all, a Colorado victory should be in store for Wednesday. But let's cross our fingers to be sure.
The matchup against Northern Colorado will be Tad Boyle's first game against his former school and the matchup figures to be a walkover game for the Buffs. UNC is 4-3 on the season with two of the four victories coming against D-II schools Black Hills State and Colorado Christian, respectively. The other two victories were over Stetson and Florida A&M, respectively, who are ranked, according to Kenpom.com, 328th and 350th, respectively, out of 351 D-I schools, respectively. In those four victories, the Bears have scored nearly 90 points per game. In comparison, UNC has scored 68 points per game in their losses to Wyoming, New Mexico State and Colorado State. That brings me to point out that their loss at Wyoming -- UNC's only shared opponent to date -- was by only eight points. Originally impressive, this close contest is far less noteworthy when you notice that they only stayed in the game by busting Wyoming's pestering zone with nineteen (19) three-pointers at a 56% clip (!) when the team has shot barely over 30% from deep in their their other six games.
Northern Colorado's roster is a bit puzzling in that they seemingly give decent minutes to everybody on their roster, almost as if they were coached by Brian Shaw. UNC has a whopping ten players averaging more than fourteen minutes per game and only one player (Tevin Svihovec) averaging more than 25. This ten-man rotation relies considerably on the offensive success of Svihovec, an Askia Booker-sized guard who doesn't really any one skill that stands out other than consistency. UNC's next best players are 6'5" Cameron Michael and 5'7" Jordan Wilson, two players who are decent scorers and lousy defenders.
I'm getting giddy thinking about the Bears guarding Booker, Xavier Talton, the immortal Dominique Collier and Xavier Johnson with a three-guard starting lineup. I'm getting stupidly giddy thinking about how UNC has no player remotely capable of guarding Josh Scott, but let's be honest, there are only a handful of players in all of college basketball able to guard Scott one-on-one (his Player Efficiency Rating of 37.5 is third best in the NCAA). Because of the drastic size discrepancies between the two teams, don't be surprised to see the Bears use an attacking, pressing zone against a team who's struggled mightily with turnovers this season. Even if the Bears cause havoc with a press, trust the leadership of Tad Boyle and the domination of Josh Scott to come out with an easy win.