Previewing Colorado + Saturday Basketball Open Thread

As you likely already know, Washington visits Washington State tonight at 5:00. Use this post as an open thread for that game and any other Saturday basketball action. At the bottom of this article is a listing of rooting interests around the nation for fans looking to maximize Cal's NCAA seed.

I had this preview all but written in my mind. Colorado fans foaming at the mouth on senior night, their players ready to put their all into a game that would place them in the thick of the title chase and complete a perfect home conference record. And then the Buffs got comprehensively taken apart by Stanford.

That defeat is generally good news for the Bears. It all but clinches a top 2 seed in the conference tournament and hopefully dampens much of the excitement that Colorado would carry into Sunday’s game. But I can’t help but feeling a little disappointed, because the stakes and story lines if the Buffs had beaten Stanford were so exciting. In the end, not much has changed for Cal – they still need to win to earn a conference title and to move as close to a lock as possible for the NCAA tournament.

The stats say that Colorado has been one of the luckier teams in the Pac-12, with an efficiency profile closer to

Oregon St.
or
Washington St.
than Arizona or Oregon. Four of Colorado’s conference losses have come by 14 points or more, and their best road win is over ArizonaState. But that ‘luck’ might just be home field advantage.

The Buffs have just two home defeats on the season, to Wyoming and Stanford. The common thread in both games were poor offensive nights from the home team. But Colorado’s worst offensive performances of the season actually came against Cal in Berkeley, when their only viable offensive strategy was drawing free throw attempts.

In fact, that game was an ugly, disjointed defensive struggled throughout and it’s probably smart to expect a similar low-scoring affair on Sunday. Colorado doesn’t have a guard that can consistently get past Cal’s perimeter defense and Andre Roberson isn’t quite to the point where he can be expected to go off against quality interior defenders like Harper Kamp. Only Austin Dufault represented a match-up problem, but it’s unlikely he’ll go off from three again. But Colorado did a great job of disrupting Cal’s passing game last time, pressuring passing lanes, staying disciplined and preventing penetration. Points may be in short supply again.

Colorado Rotation

(listed in order of usage percentage)
Carlon Brown, 6’5’’ senior guard
Askia Booker, 6’1’’ freshman guard
Andre Roberson, 6’7’’ sophomore forward
Austin Dufault, 6’9’’ senior forward
Spencer Dinwiddie, 6’5’’ freshman guard
Shane Harris-Tunks, 6’1’’ sophomore center
Jeremy Adams, 6’5’’ sophomore guard
Nate Tomlinson, 6’3’’ senior guard
Sabatino Chen, 6’3’’ junior guard

The offense runs through the high-low tandem of Brown and Roberson. Tomlinson is nominally the point guard, but his usage percentage is very low for a starter that plays nearly 30 minutes a night, and his main role in the offense seems to be sniping three point shots.

You’ll all remember Dufault as one of those annoying big men that likes to hang out further away from the basket so that he can take jump shots when his defender doesn’t want to leave the key to pick him up. I advise the Bears to pick him up this time.

Last time around Cal did a great job on Brown, Dinwiddie, Tomlinson and Booker. Colorado’s four main guards shot a combined 5-21 and had nearly as many turnovers (12) as points (15). It’s probably not realistic to expect that type of futility again but clearly Cobbs, Crabbe and Gutierrez were on the top of their game.

Harris-Tunks, Adams and Chen are all very turnover-prone, limited offensive players that are unlikely to get more than a few minutes here or there.

Tempo-Free Preview

Kenpom sez: Cal68, Colorado 63, 69% confidence

Category

Cal Rank

Col Rank

Advantage

Cal eFG% vs. Col Def eFG%

47

71

C

Cal Def eFG% vs. Col eFG%

47

167

CC

Cal TO% vs. Col Def TO%

38

269

CCC

Cal Def TO% vs. Col TO%

168

153

Co

Cal OReb% vs. Col DReb%

160

39

CoCo

Cal DReb% vs. Col OReb%

19

252

CCC

Cal FTR vs. Col Opp FTR

255

65

CoCo

Cal Opp FTR vs. Col FTR

14

16

-

Cal AdjO vs. Col AdjD

48

55

-

Cal AdjD vs. Col AdjO

16

156

CC

If you’re looking for a reason to be confident, look no further than the turnover numbers. Cal won the turnover battle in the first game, and that was in spite of a relatively poor outing Justin Cobbs, who has been playing some of his best, most confident basketball over the last few weeks. His growth might be the key difference from the first game, when Cal’s offense looked out of sync.

Colorado’s rebounding numbers are fascinating. They have Andre Roberson, one of the single best rebounders in the country . . . and nobody else. When Roberson isn’t on the court the Buffs are at a serious disadvantage. Cal has hardly been the type of team to target a player on offense to draw fouls, but if Roberson has to spend some time on the bench with foul trouble it would be huge. He’s not especially foul prone, so don’t get your hopes up.

But like every single other game, it’s all about Cal’s field goal defense. Colorado is just not a good shooting team. If Cal can take away open looks from three (especially for Dinwiddie and Dufault) without leaving Roberson alone then it’s really hard to see the Buffs scoring enough to win. Colorado’s one strength on offense is drawing fouls and taking free throws, but avoiding fouls is one of the things Cal has been pretty good at.

Throw out altitude, throw out home field advantage. The Pac-12 is on the line, and the Bears have the defense to bring it home.

Saturday Rooting Interests

If you're an obsessive like me, you glance at scores across the nation, hoping to see teams with similar at-large profiles to Cal lose games, thus allowing the Bears to potentially move up the NCAA pecking order. With that in mind, here are some games to track. FYI - I used the NCAA bracket project matrix, an amazing resource, to determine which teams are worth rooting against.

Teams to root against in the quest for not and 8/9 seed:

Washington (at Washington St.) - Duh. Above all else I want a Pac-12 title, preferably outright.
Vanderbilt (at #1 Kentucky)
Gonzaga (at San Diego)
Creighton (at Indiana St.)
#23 St. Mary's (at USF)
Kansas St. (vs. Iowa St.), Iowa St. (at Kansas St.). OK, both are in our seed range. At least somebody will lose.
Virginia (vs. #7 North Carolina)
St. Louis (at Rhode Island)
Southern Miss (vs. the Fightin' Ben Brauns)
Memphis (at Marshall)
Harvard (vs. Penn)
UConn (vs. #2 Syracuse)
Purdue (at #13 Michigan)

Looks good - lots of teams playing either on the road or against ranked teams or both.

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