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This Week in Colorado Basketball: The Diamond Head Classic

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It's not so much a classic as it is a Maui Invitational knock-off, but it's nevertheless an excuse for the Buffs to spend Christmas in Hawai`i.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes tip-off in the Diamond Head Classic basketball tournament held in Honolulu this afternoon. Waiting for the Buffs will be the sevensome of DePaul, George Washington, Ohio, Wichita State, Hawai`i, Loyola Marymount and Nebraska. Colorado will take on DePaul today at 2:30, but beyond that it's all speculation and prediction. No matter the opponent, the Buffs will be guaranteed games on Tuesday and Thursday. You can see the full bracket here.

Colorado will "host" the DePaul Blue Demons of Chicago. The first thought about DePaul is that they are to the Big East what Colorado was to the Big XII for years, for DePaul has been the automatic victory of the conference for years upon years. With years of futility in the past, DePaul hasn't been much better this year, as they fly into Hawai`i with 6-4 record with three consecutive losses. DePaul's defense has been atrocious this year, allowing 73 points per game, good for 301st out of 351 D-I schools. The offense has been OK, thanks to a scoreboard-friendly, up-tempo attack that's grown rare in the Big East.

DePaul relies on the occasional brilliance of Illinois-transfer Myke Henry, a deft shooter whose more than capable of creating easy buckets at the rim. Henry has potential to off any given night; DePaul's best victory of the easy, a 15-point win against Stanford, was catalyzed by the wing's 29 points. I should mention that I have a personal bias against Henry from his time at Illinois: He ruined my 16th birthday.

Teamed with Henry, DePaul is only the third Colorado opponent physically capable of handling Josh Scott in the post (J.J. Avila of CSU and Larry Nance, Jr. of Wyoming are the other two) with 6'11" Tommy Hamilton, a wildly efficient post scorer with a soft touch at the tin. Hamilton is physically capable of guarding Josh Scott, but he's been captivatingly inconsistent defensively, as he, like an expression of the DePaul defense entirely, can lapse defensively at any time. Scott will be more than willing to do work on the galumphing sophomore.

Overall, it's safe to decide the DePaul Blue Demons are a not good team we have decided is decidedly not good.

There are six teams left to preview and Colorado can play any combination of them in the coming week, so it's time for a speed round preview.


Ohio Bobcats
Record: 3-4
KenPom Ranking: 184
Best Win: 66-55 over Alcorn State
Worst Loss: 62-79 against Florida Gulf Coast
Key Player(s): Maurice Ndour and Javarez Willis. Ndour is a bruising rebounding monster who could give Scott fits on the other end of the court. Willis is a sub-6' guard who launches threes more often than Askia Booker at a very un-Ski-like 40% clip. It should be noted, however, that Willis is a below average defender
Notable: The University of Ohio is located in Ohio.
Final Verdict: If Colorado plays Ohio, this should be a relatively easy victory, insofar as Willis doesn't destroy the three-point porous CU defense.


Hawai`i Rainbow Warriors
Record: 8-3
KenPom Ranking: 193
Best Win: 74-70 over Pittsburgh
Worst Loss: 73-88 against San Francisco
Key Player(s): Aaron Valdes is a 6'5" guard who can light it up from deep (41%), slash to the rim to get easy buckets (16.8 points per game) and is second on his team in rebounds (7.3 per game). He also happens to be arguably Hawai`i's best defender.
Notable: The Hawai`i football team was responsible for one of two Colorado football victories this year. My mom wasn't too happy when at Thanksgiving dinner I said I was thankful for Hawai`i and UMass somehow being worse than the Buffs.
Final Verdict: If Valdes is contained (he'd most likely be guarded by one of the Xaviers), the tournament hosts would have massive offensive problems because of the lack of a legitimate second banana. If Valdes is making shots, this game could become painful to watch.


George Washington Colonials
Record: 6-3
KenPom Ranking: 243
Best Win: 81-68 over DePaul
Worst Loss: 51-64 at Penn State
Key Player(s): Kevin Larsen is a guard-forward listed at 6'10", 260 pounds. For the sake of humanity, I hope the great website of Sports-Reference made a silly mistake in their position classification.
Notable: George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He presided over the convention that drafted the United States Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation and remains the supreme law of the land*.
Final Verdict: GWU, by the way, has no legitimate three-point shooters, which should delight the Buffs who struggle mightily guarding from that spot.


Loyola Marymount Lions
Record: 3-6
KenPom Ranking: 243
Best Win: 76-66 over Southeast Missouri State
Worst Loss: 61-77 at Southern California
Key Player(s): Evan Payne is a defensively-challenged, undersized 6'1" point guard averaging 1.3 assists. He's also averaging 21.6 points per game, 14th most in all of D-I basketball. He's a top-flight three pointer, an elite shot creator and superb at getting to the line.
Notable: Hank Gathers played basketball LMU. I knew literally nothing more about the school before researching all these teams. Literally.
Final Verdict: Payne is the prototypical mid-major guard who was overlooked by schools because of his shot selection diminutive stature and now plays with a chip on his shoulder and just generally pissed off at the world. No matter how awful the rest of LMU's team appears to be, Colorado does not seem to be capable of containing Payne.


Wichita State Shockers
Record: 8-1
KenPom Ranking: 11
Best Win: 71-56 over Memphis
Worst Loss: 68-69 (OT) at Utah
Key Player(s): Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker make up one of the most tantalizing backcourts in all of college basketball. VanVleet may be the best point guard in college right now, and he was arguably the Shockers best player on last year's 35-1 squad. VanVleet's defensive intensity and offensive efficiency will never cease to shine through all my natural misanthropic tendencies and make light of humanity. Baker, besides triggered a million Ron Weasley jokes (both are red-headed and named Ron!), is an absurd scorer and his shot is more lethal than Azog.
Notable: Wichita, Kansas is not a very nice place to visit. Boulder, on the other hand, is a very nice place to visit. Suck it, Shockers.
Final Verdict: I would say Colorado had a decent shot at winning this mini-tournament until I realized Wichita State is in this thing. If Colorado is fortunate enough to face the Shockers in what would likely be the "championship", don't even bother getting your hopes up.


Nebraska Cornhuskers
Record: 6-3
KenPom Ranking: 82
Best Win: 56-55 over Cincinnati
Worst Loss: 73-74 against Incarnate Word
Key Player(s): Terran Petteway is a demigod. The Dreadlocked charlatan would dunk on your toddler nephew if you let him. He's the kind of player every B1G fan wishes he could root for every week. The guy tirelessly goes balls out out defense and carries the offense with the explosiveness of a medium-sized nuke, all while going as hard on the boards as Kenneth Faried.
Notable: I honestly forgot Marcus Relphorde existed until I saw that he led CU to a 10-point victory over Nebraska the last time these two played.
Final Verdict: Terran Petteway is so much to deal with and I'm not confident Colorado has the resources to slow him down, even if the Buffs defense is one of the highest rated in the country. If Boyle is able to stop Petteway, which could possibly be in the tournament finale mind you, this matchup turns into a battle to control the paint, a fight Colorado holds the advantage in.