Can Cal Men's Basketball Hunt Down the Buffaloes?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Boulder, Colorado is where Golden Bear dreams have gone to die the last couple of years. Besides having a formidable home court advantage, the Buffaloes seem to have a knack for shutting down Monty's favorite half court sets. If there's two things you can count on with a Tad Boyle team, he'll have them playing tough defense and he's not afraid to play his younger players. Colorado was pesky at the beginning of last season. By the end of the year, their freshmen had grown up and helped them win the Pac-12 title. Although the Buffaloes lost three senior stalwarts to graduation, they reloaded with one of the best recruiting classes in school history.

Picked by some as a dark horse to contend for the Pac-12 title, Colorado(13-6, 3-4) has had a disappointing start to conference play. When what should have been a buzzer-beating three-pointer was waived off by the officials, the Buffaloes ultimately fell on the road to Arizona in overtime. Since then, they've lost to ASU, UCLA, and UW while taking care of WSU, USC, and Stanford.

As a team that relies heavily on underclassmen, Colorado has one of the least efficient offenses in the league. Thanks to a cold spell against UW, they recently passed us for the dubious honor of being the worst three-point shooting team in the Pac-12. Naturally, it's going to be raining buckets from everywhere on Sunday.

Their calling card is a tough man to man defense that relies on positioning, rotations, and help rather than shot-blocking. The Buffaloes are especially adept at cutting guys off when they try to free themselves with screens. Because they're quick, long, and athletic, they can play fundamentally sound without gambling and are still one of the league leaders in steals.

It always seems like it's an ugly game when Cal plays Colorado. Even when we had Jorge and Harper running our offense, we struggled to get quality shots. I wouldn't expect anything different for this one. Defense, rebounding, and effort will have to be the equalizers if we're going to steal this one.

Starters:

F Andre Roberson(Jr), 6'7, 210 lbs, 10.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg
F Josh Scott(Fr), 6'10, 215 lbs, 13 ppg, 5.7 rpg
F Xavier Johnson(Fr), 6'6, 220 lbs, 7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg
G Askia Booker(So), 6'1, 170 lbs, 14.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg
G Spencer Dinwiddie(So), 6'5, 190 lbs, 14.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg

Bench:
G Sabatino Chen(Sr), 6'4, 190 lbs
G Jeremy Adams(Jr), 6'5, 220 lbs
C Shane Harris-Tunks(Jr), 6'11, 250 lbs
G Xavier Talton(Fr), 6'1, 180 lbs

Andre Roberson is pound for pound one of the best rebounders in the country. He's a game-changer the way he operates as an absolute black hole on the glass. His offensive game is still a bit raw and relies more on hustle than a variety of moves. Josh Scott actually averages more offensive boards per game than Roberson. He was a top-100 recruit who is their best low-post scorer. Xavier Johnson is another top-100 signee who oozes hops and ridiculous athleticism. Askia Booker read the press clippings declaring him to be the Buffs best shooter...and took that as a green light to put it up whenever and wherever he pleases.(38% FG) Last year, he was more circumspect with his shot selection and hit 42% from deep. Spencer Dinwiddie will take the open 3. But he's much more dangerous when he puts the ball on the floor and gets into the paint. He leads Colorado in free throw attempts. Sabatino Chen is the classic over-achiever and glue-guy. Lest you sleep on him, he's the one that provided the spark against Zona and should have been the buzzer-beating hero.


Keys to the Game:

1) Nothing easy.

Protect the ball on offense. Protect the glass on defense. The Buffaloes aren't great offensively, but they will turn you over and get out in transition. They also have a trio of athletes that can jump out of the gym.

2) Show mental toughness and patience on offense.

Colorado is going to make you work for shots. Just coming off a down screen or running a curl at the high post won't be enough. We'll need to be ready to make the extra pass without forcing it into trouble. Easier said than done. Failing that, it's quite acceptable for Cobbs/Crabbe/Wallace to get ridiculously hot from the outside.

3) Don't back down.

Tad Boyle's team is young, but they play with toughness and determination. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to match their intensity. Mistakes will be made, sure, but let's make them sins of commission, not omission.

Go Bears!

Game Time: Sunday, January 27th, 12:30(PST)
TV: FSN
Radio: 910AM

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