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Cal MBB Hosts the Colorado Buffaloes

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to hate on the Buffs. As fellow weed-happy hippies, they’re almost kindred spirits. And somewhat ironically, the current Colorado team is an almost eerie copy of our own. They’re a plodding group with an inconsistent offense that relies on positional defense as their calling card. Coach Boyle generally does a good job of building a competitive squad. Since his arrival, the Buffaloes have gone to the post-season six out of seven years after just one trip in the previous forty-seven.

As with all Tad Boyle teams, they put very little emphasis on steals in favor of moving their feet and beating guys to the spot...which may sound familiar. Unlike our own sturdy Golden Bears, this year’s iteration of the Buffaloes(13-10, 3-7) simply haven’t been very good at executing Boyle-ball with much success. They’re 9th in the conference in overall defensive efficiency via kenpom’s metrics. Offensively, they’re not a great shooting team, but they do lead the league in crashing the offensive glass. I’d say something snarky about how they have a lot of experience missing shots, but it’s not like our guys have been shooting the lights out either. Here the numbers are a bit misleading. They have three dangerous shooters, but their overall percentage is dragged down by their bench. Again, it’s a somewhat familiar facepalm.

After starting conference play 0-7, the Buffaloes pulled off the most inexplicable upset of the season by upending the high-flying Oregon Ducks. Our computer overlords apparently are chalking this up to the thin Colorado air because they still project a home-cooked victory for the Bears at 72%. Moving beyond the numbers, the Buffaloes might be gelling at the the turn as they’ve stampeded their way to a three game win streak.

Projected Lineup:

G Derrick White(Sr), 6.5, 200 lbs, 16.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg - Former transfer has exploded into their best and most important all-around player. Has a good stroke from the perimeter, also leads them in free throw attempts. Dangerous.

G Dominque Collier(Jr), 6’2, 190 lbs, 5.8 ppg - Was supposed to take the next step this year. Hasn’t. Unless you count traveling.

F George King(Jr), 6’6, 225 lbs, 11.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg - Ultra efficient shooter last year. Percentages are down with more usage, but still leads the team in 3-pt attempts.

F Xavier Johnson(Sr), 6’7, 225 lbs, 15 ppg, 6.1 rpg - Their best deep threat (46% 3FG) has seemingly played for them forever. In fact, I think he already graduated in an alternate timeline. If his eyes look unfocused while he’s staring at the crowd, he’s probably willing them to add a DM.

C Wesley Gordon(Sr), 6’9, 245 lbs, 7.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg - The presumptive heir apparent to the departed Josh Scott. Solid, but hasn’t shown the ability to dominate a game inside.

Bench:

F Josh Fortune(Sr), 6’5, 212 lbs, 6.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg - Poor shooting back-up wing

F Tory Miller(Jr), 6’9, 242 lbs, 5.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg - Capable banger can play 4 or 5

G Bryce Peters(Fr), 6’4, 195 lbs, 3.6 ppg - Turnover prone frosh.

G Thomas Akyazili(So), 6’2, 191lbs, 2.3 ppg - Even more turnover prone, but also can’t shoot.

Keys to the Game:

  1. Box and board: The Buffaloes rely a lot on their athleticism to extend possessions with extra chances. Fortunately, we’re also one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. Besides our bigs, our wings and guards need to be aware that they’ll try to take advantage of their backcourt size on the glass.
  2. Moore vs. White: This is a tough match-up for our precocious frosh. With the size disadvantage, look for us to cross-cover and try to hide Moore on the less dangerous Collier. Even so, Mullins and Singer will have their hands full trying to deny dribble penetration. With King being more of a catch n’ shoot guy, we might even switch Jabari over at times to check White.
  3. Rabb vs. Johnson: Can Ivan use his length and quickness to disrupt Johnson’s perimeter game without getting into foul trouble? As the season has progressed, Rabb is clearly improving his overall floor game and greatly reduced his fouls. In the one game where he struggled noticeably, it was against the Duck’s athletic forwards. On the other end, there’s simply no way that Johnson should be able to check Rabb. Expect a steady diet of double teams. Fortunately, the Buffs defense has been slower with their rotations than most Boyle-coached teams.
  4. Embrace Cuonzo-gravity: We are who we are. We don’t score well enough to blow anyone out, so we have to be consistent with our effort and establish a grinder’s mentality. Toughness is one of Coach Martin’s favorite talking points; improvement in this area may very well determine our season’s ceiling.
  5. Life is so much easier when we make shots.

Go Bears!

Tip: Sunday, February 5th, 1:30pm, PST

TV: ESPNU