Know Your Mountain Standard Time Rival: Colorado

Said sugar make it slow/And we'll come together fine/All we need is just a little patience, yeeeeeeeeah.

Don't forget to post your trifecta picks!


Colorado: 11-11, 2-6

CU Opp
Points Per Minute
1.86 1.78
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.11 1.06
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.42 1.34
2-PT FG% 52.1% 50.7%
3-PT FG% 37.5% 33.2%
FT% 76.2% 70.1%
True Shooting % 59.0% 55.5%
CU Opp
Assists/Gm 14.2 12.4
Steals/Gm 8.4 5.9
Turnovers/Gm 12.5 15.6
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.82 1.17
CU Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.9 11.7
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 7.8 12.1
Difference -3.1 +0.4


Ken Pomeroy Stats

CU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks
CU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 35 14 MU
Effective FG% 34 36 Push
Turnover % 48 1 MU
Off. Reb. % 337 331 Push
FTA/FGA 29 222 CU Big
MU Offense vs CU Defense Ranks
MU Offense CU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 41 169 MU Big
Effective FG% 64 249 MU Big
Turnover % 40 78 MU
Off. Reb. % 129 329 MU Big
FTA/FGA 242 326 MU


Colorado actually plays a rather average pace instead of the super-slow pace I was expecting.  They are very patient on offense, but they don't necessarily milk the clock.  They are excellent movers of the ball, generating a ton of open shots (32nd in 2PT%, 81st in 3PT%), creating lanes to get to the line (29th in FTA/FGA), and making their free throws better than almost anybody in the country (they rank 7th in the nation).  They do not have the backcourt athleticism that Mizzou has, but if Mizzou gets impatient, CU will make them pay.

Defensively, however, they are weak.  Despite Mizzou's own offensive struggles, they still far outrank Colorado in the major categories listed above.  CU ranks 297th in 2PT% defense and don't block shots (293rd in Blocks %).  They are good ball thieves (50th in Steals %), but if Mizzou takes care of the ball, and, most importantly, stays patient, they will get good shots.  And you know the equation from there.  They make shots, then they press better, then they force more turnovers, then they get even easier shots, et cetera.  If Mizzou gets the game going at their pace, CU could very well fold -- they have a small bench and rank near the bottom of the country in terms of experience.  But if Mizzou grows impatient on offense, as they have been prone to do sometimes, they could very easily find themselves at 4-4 in conference by tomorrow night.

Where the Buffs are strongest

  1. They kill you with free throws. They get to the line a lot, and they make their free throws.  Dwight Thorne II (88.0%), Cory Higgins (83.8%), Nate Tomlinson (80.0%), Alec Burks (77.9%), Levi Knutson (75.0%), and Marcus Relphorde (71.2%) are all killers from the line, and of their major contributors, only Austin Dufault (61.2%) shoots below 69%.  This is a "FUNDAMENTALS, FUNDAMENTALS, FUNDAMENTALS" curmudgeon's dream team.

  2. They're playing their best ball of the season right now. For the first two months of the season, the only thing that kept Colorado from looking like one of the worst Big 12 teams ever was a tight, neutral-court loss to Gonzaga.  When conference play started, they officially had one win over a Top 200 team (a 2-point home win over #137 Miami-OH), they had bad losses to Colorado State and Oregon State, and they had gotten romped by a solid Tulsa team.  But even though they've only gone 2-6 in conference play, they have been consistently competitive, much moreso than I would have expected.  They beat Baylor (granted, it was before the Bears got hot, but still) and Nebraska, and four of their six losses have been by single digits, including tight ones to Kansas (in OT) and Kansas State.  They also hung tight with Texas for a while before fading.  Plus, they only lost by four to ATM in College State and 12 to OSU in Stillwater.

    It appears that Jeff Bzedelik is starting to figure out the pieces that he has, and even though they do still lack in talent or experience, he's pushing the right buttons, and everybody is playing their role well.  They are a tough out this year, and even though they are still a bottom-half-of-the-North team, they're at the top of the bottom half right now, I'd say.

Where they are weakest

  1. They do not crash the boards. Despite being one of the taller teams in the country (they have seven players 6'7 or taller), CU is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country.  A lot of this has to do with the fact that their bigs actually don't play a lot of minutes -- they'll play a 4-guard lineup if they can get away with it, and they are better on offense when they do so.  Regardless, obviously one of Mizzou's biggest weaknesses this year has been rebounding, and it's hard to imagine teams beating Missouri without at least breaking even on the glass.  If Mizzou is forcing 20+ turnovers and winning the battle on the boards, they might have to shoot 30% or worse to lose ... that certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility, but still.

    Of course, ATM wasn't ranking great on the glass either before Wednesday night.  Mizzou HAS to focus on the boards, but I'm actually optimistic that they will do just that tomorrow.  Safford and ramsey both got reamed pretty good for their pathetic rebounding performances against ATM, and I think the team will at least see a temporary upswing in their rebounding intensity.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.

  2. They foul a lot. Here's what I get from the fact that they get a lot of steals, foul a lot, and give up a high field goal percentage: they know they probably don't have the athleticism/ability/experience of a lot of Big 12 teams, and they're taking their chances.  If they're getting to the ball, you're in serious trouble, but if they're not quite getting there, you're ending up with easy points.  In the end, value the ball and ... that's right ... be patient.  Colorado throws a bunch of defenses at you to keep you off-balance, but patience and smarts can get the job done.

CU's Season to Date

  • Wins vs KenPom's Top 200
    #14 Baylor (78-71)
    #92 Nebraska (72-60)
    #144 Miami-OH (67-65)
  • Losses
    #1 Kansas (66-72, OT)
    #7 Texas (86-103)
    #9 Kansas State (81-87)
    at #41 Texas A&M (63-67)
    at #55 Oklahoma State (78-90)
    vs #60 Gonzaga (72-76)
    at #66 Tulsa (59-84)
    vs #70 Arizona (87-91)
    at #89 Iowa State (63-64)
    at #132 Colorado State (62-77)
    at #172 Oregon State (69-74)

Despite the fact that they have raised their game in recent weeks, they are still just 3-11 versus the Top 200.  If Mizzou plays well, they will win this game.  It's up to them.  However, as with Texas A&M, CU is used to playing in tight games, as nine of the above 14 games were decided by single digits.  So it would behoove Mizzou to play well in the first half and build a cushion.

CU Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Cory Higgins (6'5, 190, Jr.) 17.9 0.54 33.1 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.2 TOPG
Alec Burks (6'6, 185, Fr.) 17.4 0.60 29.0 MPG, 16.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.7 TOPG
Dwight Thorne II (6'3, 185, Sr.) 8.6 0.40 21.3 MPG, 8.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.8 APG
Marcus Relphorde (6'7, 220, Jr.) 8.5 0.32 26.4 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.0 TOPG
Nate Tomlinson (6'3, 185, So.) 7.8 0.29 27.1 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.0 TOPG
Austin Dufault (6'9, 230, So.) 7.0 0.29 23.8 MPG, 6.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG
Levi Knutson (6'4, 200, Jr.) 3.9 0.32 12.4 MPG, 3.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG
Casey Crawford (6'9, 245, Jr.) 3.3 0.25 12.9 MPG, 4.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG
Keegan Hornbuckle (6'7, 205, Fr.) 2.8 0.24 11.9 MPG, 2.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG
Shane Harris-Tunks (6'11, 225, Fr.) 0.8 0.07 11.8 MPG, 2.0 PPG, 1.7 RPG
Trey Eckloff (6'10, 235, So.) -0.3 -0.06 5.3 MPG, 1.0 PPG
Trent Beckley (6'10, 250, Jr.) -1.0 -0.50 4 minutes
Javon Coney (6'3, 210, Jr.) -0.1 -0.03 9 minutes

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Typically, this is a two-man team with a bunch of role players.  Cory Higgins and Alec Burks have been The Man #1 and #1a for the Buffs this year, but Burks sat out the Kansas game with a sprained knee.  He is still questionable for MU-CU.  In Burks' absence, Levi Knutson stepped up against KU with 13 points and dead-eye shooting (3-for-4 from 3-point range).
  • In Missouri's losses this year, unsung players have played key roles.  John Jenkins for Vanderbilt, Cade Davis for Oklahoma, Brady Morningstar for Kansas, Khris Middleton for ATM.  Middleton averages less than 6 points per game, but his free throws and two dagger 3's were an absolute necessity for ATM to end Mizzou's home win streak.  If CU wins, chances are either Knutson or Dwight Thorne went off, scoring well above their average and likely making a killer 3-ball or two.
  • Relphorde? Harris-Tunks? Hornbuckle?  I guess when your coach's last name is Bzedelik, you're likely to have some great names, but holy crap.  Suddenly Taylor, English, Ramsey, Stone, Underwood, etc., just aren't getting it done in the names department.

Keys to the Game

  1. R-E-B-O-U-N-D. I've said it many times this season.  If Mizzou is forcing 20+ turnovers and winning the rebounding battle, they are damn near impossible to beat.  Well if they're ever going to win the rebounding battle again, it will likely be against Colorado, easily the worst rebounding team in the conference.  Not saying they WILL win if they out-rebound Colorado (or break even), but if they don't, then things might be a lot worse than we might have expected.

  2. Free throws. CU may be one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country, but they also foul their opponents quite a bit.  If the Mizzou team that sank clutch free throws against Illinois shows up, they could be in pretty good shape.  But if the other Mizzou team shows up at the line, and they leave free points on the table while Colorado shoots 85% from the line or something, Mizzou's in trouble.

  3. Patience. You didn't see this one coming, did you?  It is the single most important factor in this game.  If Mizzou is patient on offense, they will get open shots. If they are patient on defense, then the fact that Colorado doesn't really have any true playmakers beyond Higgins will give Mizzou a significant advantage.  But if they're yanking up quick shots on offense and getting caught out of position on defense, they will lose.

Prediction

As we've discussed this week, Mizzou basically needs five more conference wins to make the NCAA tourney.  Home wins over Colorado and Iowa State are likely, and they can avoid some nervousness down the line by taking care of business this weekend.  If they don't, it's not the end of the world, but it would be very nice to get one win closer.

If CU wins ... I think we'll see a pretty low-scoring first half, with the leading team ending up between about 28 and 34.  But Mizzou can't make its move, and with between about 10 and 15 minutes left in the game (not unlike the ATM game), CU gets hot and suddenly finds themselves up about 12-14.  Mizzou makes a final charge, of course, but CU's free throws (and Mizzou's poor shooting) makes the difference in a 79-71 win.

If Mizzou wins ... Kim English and/or Marcus Denmon get hot, Justin Safford and Keith Ramsey rebound like men possessed a few days after getting humiliated against Texas A&M, Mizzou starts zipping the ball around confidently, and a young Colorado team that has not handled Mike Anderson's Tigers very well just can't keep up.  Things are close for 25-30 minutes, but Mizzou finally creates the space they need, and they close out a relatively easy 81-68 win.  The closer, the better for Colorado.

I probably shouldn't, but I feel pretty confident with this one.  It won't even remotely surprise me if Mizzou loses this game, but I think they bounce back at least momentarily after the ATM loss and get the job done.  Mizzou 81, Colorado 68.

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