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Cal Men's Basketball At Colorado Preview

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When last we met, our sturdy Golden Bears soundly routed the Buffaloes from whistle to whistle.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

But this round-up ain't in our house. Or our arena. Like everyone in the Pac-12, Colorado is a completely different team at home. They're much, much more relaxed. And their student managers are constantly stocking the locker room with Doritos.

Since dropping the Pac-12 opener to an inspired Cal team, the Buffaloes managed to turn things around 420 degrees. They stole a road win from the Furds with a last-second score, then dropped one at home to the Utes the same way. It was a stampede over the visiting Beavers and Ducks followed by a road split against UW and WSU. One might say they're just a wacky team.

As is typical for a Tad Boyle team, Colorado is defined by their tough defense. They play for position without gambling, rarely give up second shots, and can rely on solid shot-blocking to protect the rim. Anyone trying to cut through the lane just gets rolled up and smothered.

It's a different story on offense. Even with stud forward Josh Scott, the Buffaloes are constantly in the weeds as one of the worst two-point shooting teams in the conference. There are unconfirmed rumors that Riddell is sponsoring an inside-the-arc exhibition game between Colorado and the decidedly below average SDSU Aztecs. All fans within ten rows of the court receive complimentary helmets. The rest get free admission with a signed medical waiver.

Strangely enough, Colorado might clank layups, but they can absolutely light it up beyond the arc. They just smoked the Furds by going 13 of 19 from three.

With such inconsistent jumpshots, what type of blue dream allows the Buffs to stay solidly in the Pac-12 hunt? To put it bluntly, they're very good at running into people. They're fantastic on the offensive glass, and as the best free-throw shooting team in the league, a foul means take two points and pass it to the ref. Although the freedom of movement rule was supposed to add spice to the game, it is instead having the unexpected side-effect of killing any semblance of esthetic basketball.

Relying on solid defense and great foul shooting might result in some ugly wins, but Colorado has a puncher's chance in any close contest.

Kenpom predicts a Cal loss with 62% certainty. Is it too much to hope that the Buffs cashed out from deep on Wednesday?


Projected Starters:

F Josh Scott(Sr), 6'10, 245 lbs, 17.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg - Has carried the Buffs all year. He snacks on every rebound he can snag and is a relentless low-post scorer. Give him 2nd shots int the paint and he be jamming'. A likely All-Pac-12 1st teamer.
F Wesley Gordon(Jr), 6'9, 220 lbs, 6.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.2 big - Inconsistent scorer, but he's their best shot-blocker. Gets a lot of clean-up rebounds on the offensive glass when teams key on Scott.
G George King(So), 6'6, 220 lbs, 14.4 ppg, 45.7 3FG% - Rising star. Has really come on as their best perimeter player and a strong complementary scorer. Not just a jump-shooter, he's 2nd on the team in free throw attempts.
G Josh Fortune(Jr), 6'5, 200 lbs, 10.3 ppg, 40.7 3FG% - Will either hit a 3 or turn it over. It's like he's always...rolling the dice.
G Dominique Collier(So), 6'2, 190 lbs, 8.5 ppg, 3.3 apt, 48.3 3FG% - Floor general who can penetrate and deal, but finishes poorly.(40% FG) Very dangerous from the line (79%) and beyond the arc.

Bench:

G Xavier Talton(Sr), 6'2, 185 lbs, 4.0 ppg - The team's elderly statesman...because nothing he does is quite as fast or as strong as the youngsters
G/F Tre'Shaun Fletcher(Jr), 6'7, 205 lbs, 7.2 ppg, 29 3FG% - 3rd on the team in 3FG attempts, and embodies CGB's Proprietary Advanced Statistics-Based Metric: Anyone named "Tre-anything" is doomed to be a cross-eyed brick spewer.
G Thomas Akyazili(Fr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 3.8 ppg - Could not stop raving over Mrs. Boyle's special brownies after his official visit.
F Tory Miller(So), 6'9 246 lbs, 5.2 ppg - Solid reserve big. Please don protective eyewear when he shoots free throws. (56%)

When California
has the ball

Category California
Offense
Colorado
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 105.5 7 101.9 2 103.2
Avg. Poss Length 17.0 7 16.7 4 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 52.5 4 47.3 2 49.7
Turnover %: 19.0 11 15.1 8 18.5
Off. Reb. %: 29.1 9 27.2 3 30.0
FTA/FGA: 38.5 7 38.2 6 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 36.6 7 34.6 6 34.6
2P%: 51.4 4 45.5 3 48.5
FT%: 68.3 8 71.5 6 69.5
Block%: 10.3 6 12.0 4 9.2
Steal%: 8.5 10 6.1 11 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 32.7 4 29.1 5 35.2
A/FGM: 50.0 8 43.4 2 52.8
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 27.4 6 24.7 8 29.3
2-Pointers: 52.6 7 52.9 6 50.3
Free Throws: 20.0 9 22.4 4 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 31.0% 234 35.6% 109 33.0%
Experience: 1.53 yrs 237 1.77 yrs 152 1.70
Effective Height: +3.5 19 +2.5 40 0.0
Average Height: 78.8" 6 78.1" 29 76.8"

When Colorado
has the ball

Category Colorado
Offense
California
Defense
D-I Avg
Efficiency 104.6 8 103.7 4 103.2
Avg. Poss Length 17.7 8 17.9 11 17.2
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 47.3 10 45.3 1 49.7
Turnover %: 19.2 12 15.1 7 18.5
Off. Reb. %: 36.6 1 30.5 6 30.0
FTA/FGA: 39.1 4 45.0 10 36.7
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 40.1 2 32.4 3 34.6
2P%: 42.0 12 44.3 1 48.5
FT%: 76.6 1 74.0 10 69.5
Block%: 12.9 10 11.2 6 9.2
Steal%: 10.1 12 6.3 9 8.7
Style Components
3PA/FGA: 29.1 8 23.2 1 35.2
A/FGM: 54.4 2 47.3 5 52.8
Defensive
Fingerprint:
Mostly
Man
Point Distribution (% of total points)
3-Pointers: 28.2 3 18.2 12 29.3
2-Pointers: 47.8 12 54.9 3 50.3
Free Throws: 24.1 2 26.9 1 20.4
Personnel
Bench Minutes: 35.6% 109 31.0% 234 33.0%
Experience: 1.77 yrs 152 1.53 yrs 237 1.70
Effective Height: +2.5 40 +3.5 19 0.0
Average Height: 78.1" 29 78.8" 6 76.8"


Key Matchups:

1) Nicodemus Christopher vs. The High Altitude
Besides rockin' the cool dreads, Coach Christopher has been quietly impressive as the program's Strength & Conditioning coach. It's no coincidence that Bird is moving better on defense and is an improved rebounder. Or that Singer seems quicker and is stronger with the ball. He's not just a "no pain, no gain" yeller; he stresses proper muscle activation and pays a lot of attention to recovery. Playing on the road in Colorado after battling Utah will test our guys' legs and mental toughness. We certainly need to come out with more energy and urgency than we showed against the Utes.

2) Can we slow Josh Scott with K2?
Coach Martin made the nice adjustment in our first meeting to keep Rabb on Gordon while rotating King and Rooks on Scott. Our center tandem did a really nice job of using their length to bother Scott into a poor shooting first half. He eventually got his numbers, but that was after the game was well out of reach. Fortunately, Tad Boyle isn't known for schematic wizardry on offense. If he tries entering high to Scott, our guys did just fine countering that approach in the Zona game with help and hands in the passing lanes. However, he might try to take a page from Coach Krystkowiak's book and put Scott in motion. Our 7'ers are much less effective when they have to move their feet than when they can get set and hold their ground in the low block.  Let's hope Coach Martin has learned from being Poetlized and has an adjustment ready.

3) Get Rabb back on track.
After doing an admirable job dealing with double teams against Arizona, Ivan Rabb looked frustrated and completely out of sorts against the Utes. For the first time all season, he started pressing and forced up some ill-advised shots. We've been inconsistent finding Rabb with quick hitters, but Coach Martin needs to expect that teams will continue to double off of King/Rooks until they can either provide consistent scoring, or we build in a counter.

4) Win the intangibles.
In some ways, we're similar to Colorado in that we rely on strong defense to offset inconsistent offense. We can't forget that our best wins have come from being grittier than teams who were arguably playing better ball. This starts on the boards and needs to extend towards winning the 50-50 plays.

5) Make some shots. Sometimes, a road win comes down to someone getting hot. Let it be one of our guys.


Go Bears!

Tip-off: Sunday, 1/31/16, 2pm PST

TV: FS1