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Roll On: Scouting The Snubbed Colorado Buffaloes


Way back in the summer of 2010, news suddenly came out that the Pac-10 was trying to expand into the Pac-16, and just as suddenly it turned into the Pac-12. Everybody started talking about how Larry Scott would split the divisions, and what Colorado and Utah would bring to the gridiron. Would it impact our ability to get to the Rose Bowl?

But one lonely soul wondered ‘Gee, what does this mean for basketball?’ You know, that sport that gets a third of the attention from Cal fans despite excellent coaches and players? So I took a look at what the Colorado Buffaloes would bring to the Pac-12. And what I saw was a team that looked poised to be pretty solid in 2011 – they had a talented group of returning seniors to complement the NBA ready talent of Alec Burks, who would surely bolt to the league considering his first round draft projections. They would be like the 2010 Bears, losing their four leading scorers. Excellent – Cal should initially be the better team when Colorado is a conference mate. I don’t need to worry.

So of course the committee shockingly snubs the Buffs and Cal ends up having to travel to Boulder in the NIT with Markhuri out for the season and our two other bigs nursing various ailments. Great.

The good news (in a relative sense) is that Colorado is a guard oriented team that doesn’t really have any huge, bruising post players to take advantage of our extreme lack of depth and experience on the block. The bad news is that Colorado’s guards and wings are all big for their position, and are capable shooters and scorers, something that should terrify us after watching team after team abuse our zone from behind the arc.

You obviously have to start with Alec Burks, who is doing everything for the Buffs. 20.3 points a game, almost 3 assists, and he knows how to draw fouls. The dude has attempted more free throws than Jorge! At 6’6’’ he’s taller than every guard in our regular rotation and he uses that height effectively on the glass by averaging 2 or 3 offensive boards a game. The only weakness in his game that I see is that he’s not the greatest 3 point shooter. Hopefully the zone will lull him into taking more 3s than he should (and that he, you know, misses them).

After Burks Colorado has a trio of capable seniors in Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde. Higgins is good enough that calling him Burks' sidekick is selling him short. He gets to the line almost as much as Burks and plays more minutes than any other Buffalo. Knutson looks like your classic spot up three point man – more than half his shots are from behind the arc, and he hits almost half of them. Relphorde is nominally a forward but has taken the 2nd most three pointers on the team, which means that if Cal plays any man-to-man one of Cal’s big men will have to D him up well outside of the key.

If Colorado has a weakness it’s that they don’t have a big inside presence, and that’s likely where Cal will really miss Markhuri Sanders-Frison. There isn’t anybody on Colorado that could have pounded with the big guy down low. No Markhuri probably means that Cal doesn’t really carry any matchup advantages into the game.

Kenpom Sez:

Colorado 82, Cal 75, 28% confidence

So we were already predicted to lose 72% of the time, and the numbers don't even know we're missing Markhuri. Crud.

Note: The following chart concept has been blatantly stolen from mgoblog.

Category Cal Rank Buff Rank Advantage
Cal eFG% v. Buff Def eFG 84
Cal Def eFG% v. Buff eFG% 233 33
Cal TO% v. Buff Def TO% 128 213
Cal Def TO% v. Buff TO% 267 23
Cal OReb% v. Buff DReb% 248 191
Cal DReb% v. Buff OReb% 25
Cal FTR v. Buff Opp FTR 16
Cal Opp FTR v. Buff FTR 86 110
Cal AdjO v. Buff AdjD 58 167
Cal AdjD v. Buff AdjO 97 10

Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.

Yeah, this game could turn in to a bit of a shoot-out. Two offenses that shoot the ball pretty well against two defenses that are absolutely horrible at preventing good shots. Two offenses that take pretty good care of the ball against two defenses that are horrible at forcing turnovers. Two offenses that are good at drawing fouls as well. The key to the game is almost certainly going to be rebounding. Colorado is pretty good on the offensive glass. With Markhuri playing I wouldn't be too worried about that. Without him? Nervous time.

Frankly, I'm pretty pessimistic. Cal's zone only tends to be effective against teams that passively stand around and pass the ball aimlessly. Colorado isn't likely to do that between the ability of Burks to penetrate and the ability of Knutson and Relphorde to nail threes. We all have to hope and pray that Harper has had his chicken soup and that Jorge brings his jumper, because we're going to need points by the bundle. But boy does another home game sound nice . . .