Know Your Opponent: Colorado

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Home, sweet home.  The last time Missouri played at Mizzou Arena, they destroyed Iowa State and found themselves with an opportunity to take on Texas with a Big 12 title in mind.  Two weeks later, they need to knock off Colorado just to get back to .500 in conference.  The goals have changed, but hopefully Mizzou's home-court advantage has not.  Colorado is vulnerable, having lost four in a row before destroying a reeling Iowa State squad on Tuesday night.  Their offense appears to be clicking along as well as ever, but their defense is substandard.  Of course, this was the case when Mizzou went to Boulder a month ago.  Can we expect a better Missouri offense this time around?

Colorado (15-8, 4-4) Since Last Time


CU
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
67.8
Points Per Minute
1.89
1.81
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.11
1.07
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.29
1.29
2-PT FG% 45.6%
52.5%
3-PT FG% 41.2%
35.1%
FT% 79.8%
73.6%
True Shooting % 55.6%
56.5%




CU Opp.
Assists/Gm 12.5
14.4
Steals/Gm 6.9
5.8
Turnovers/Gm 12.9
13.5
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.50
1.49




CU Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 12.4
11.3
Offensive Reb./Gm
12.1
9.1
Difference -0.3
-2.2

Through their first eight conference games, Colorado has continued the trends they set in November and December -- steady offense with a risk-taking defense full of holes.  They win the turnovers and rebounding battles, and they shoot pretty well, but you can pass on them, you can drive on them, and you can find open shots if you work hard enough.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

CU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

CU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 13
39
CU
Effective FG% 34
94
CU
Turnover % 11
20
Push
Off. Reb. % 85
247
CU Big
FTA/FGA 106
248
CU Big
MU Offense vs CU Defense Ranks

MU Offense CU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 31
150
MU Big
Effective FG% 49
229
MU Big
Turnover % 18
138
MU Big
Off. Reb. % 134
116
Push
FTA/FGA 285
137
CU Big

Both offenses hold the advantage in this matchup.  Since the scars of the Oklahoma State game have probably not fully healed, I should point out that Colorado holds the advantage in the fouls department on both sides of the court.  Knowing how home cooking typically works, hopefully Mizzou can either keep Colorado off the line or get to the line as much as the Buffs do, but in terms of physicality, Colorado holds the advantage.  Mizzou, meanwhile, holds a rather significant advantage in terms of ball-handling on both sides, and their FG% advantage on offense is bigger than Colorado's.

Bottom line: like Oklahoma State, Colorado fouls guards a lot (305th in Def. FT%), allows open 3's (246th in Def. 3PT%) and doesn't block shots (260th in Def. Block%).  A ticked off, attacking Missouri offense can find success by being aggressive and taking the fight to Colorado the way Colorado took the fight to them in Boulder.  CU should be able to keep up for quite a while because of their offense (it should be noted that while they did lose four in a row recently, none of the losses were by more than 12 points), but over 40 minutes, Missouri should experience enough offensive success to allow the pressure of the Fastest 40 Minutes to take its toll.  If Mizzou experiences more offensive droughts, however, Colorado's ball control should be decent enough to take the game to the wire.

Last Time

It's been a while since Mizzou took home an 89-76 defeat in Boulder, but the loss was eerily reminiscent to other recent Mizzou losses.  A slow start led to Mizzou playing from behind throughout, and though they put things together rather well in the second half, Alec Burks was devastating, and the Buffs held off a prolonged comeback.

In the end, Colorado won the battle in all four of the Four Factors categories, but most devastating was their work on the glass and their ability to avoid turnovers.

Colorado 89, Mizzou 76


Mizzou
CU
Pace (No. of Possessions)
72.8
Points Per Minute
1.90 2.23
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.04 1.22
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.10 1.29
2-PT FG% 45.3% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 25.0% 36.4%
FT% 88.9% 82.6%
True Shooting % 49.4% 56.2%




Mizzou CU
Assists 13 14
Steals 8 6
Turnovers 9 10
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.33 2.00




Mizzou CU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 15 14
Offensive Rebounds 11 16
Difference -4 +2

Colorado is a solid rebounding team, but the +6 advantage in terms of Expected Rebounds was ridiculous.  The Buffs are not as good on the glass as other teams Mizzou has fought to a draw in this category, and when combined with the fact that Mizzou only forced 10 turnovers in 73 possessions, it's easy to say that Colorado simply outworked the Tigers.  They are not a deep team, nor are they tremendously athletic (Alec Burks aside), but Tad Boyle has them playing hard enough to beat you if you are not up for the battle.  Hopefully at Mizzou Arena this won't be a problem.

Colorado Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at No. 46 Kansas State, 74-66
    No. 75 Iowa State, 95-69
    No. 77 Oklahoma State, 75-71
  • Losses
    No. 3 Kansas, 78-82
    at No. 44 Nebraska, 67-79
    at No. 57 Baylor, 66-70
    at No. 121 Oklahoma, 60-67

Following their win over Mizzou, Colorado rode a mini hot streak to an upset win in Manhattan.  Since then, they've basically been a "good at home, iffy on the road" team (Mizzou can relate, I'm sure).  They took out Iowa State (by a lot) and Oklahoma State (by a little) at home and almost knocked off Kansas as well.  Meanwhile, they put up only a marginal fight against Nebraska and Oklahoma on the road, and they blew a big lead in Waco.  Pomeroy gives them a 21% chance of winning in Columbia.

Colorado Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Alec Burks (6'6, 195, So.) 18.7 0.57 32.9 MPG, 21.1 PPG (43.7% 2PT, 36.4% 3PT, 87.3% FT), 8.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 4.0 TOPG
Cory Higgins (6'5, 180, Sr.) 14.4 0.43 33.1 MPG, 15.5 PPG (46.4% 2PT, 47.4% 3PT, 91.7% FT), 4.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.8 TOPG
Levi Knutson (6'4, 220, Sr.) 11.2 0.43 26.3 MPG, 11.9 PPG (52.0% 2PT, 50.0% 3PT, 100.0% FT), 2.5 RPG
Andre Roberson (6'7, 195, Fr.) 10.0 0.45 22.0 MPG, 6.6 PPG (55.6% 2PT, 42.9% 3PT, 60.9% FT), 7.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 1.3 TOPG
Marcus Relphorde (6'7, 220, Sr.) 8.9 0.29 30.6 MPG, 10.4 PPG (36.2% 2PT, 45.0% 3PT, 73.7% FT), 3.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.1 TOPG
Austin Dufault (6'9, 225, Jr.) 5.5 0.24 22.9 MPG, 6.0 PPG (55.0% 2PT, 50.0% FT)
Nate Tomlinson (6'3, 190, Jr.) 2.6 0.14 19.3 MPG, 2.8 PPG (44.4% 2PT, 33.3% 3PT), 1.9 APG, 1.3 RPG
Shannon Sharpe (6'1, 200, RSFr.) 1.9 0.17 11.3 MPG, 1.0 PPG (50.0% 2PT, 66.7% FT), 1.5 RPG

* 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.

  • In conference play, CU has turned into, basically, an eight-man squad.  They are amazingly Burks-centric on offense, but you knew that already.
  • Highest Usage%: Burks (35%), Higgins (24%), Relphorde (21%).
  • Highest Floor%: Knutson (44%), Dufault (44%), Higgins (41%).
  • Highest %Pass: Sharpe (75%), Tomlinson (73%), Relphorde (52%).
  • Highest %Shoot: Knutson (62%), Dufault (39%), Roberson (39%), Burks (38%).
  • Highest %Fouled: Roberson (24%), Burks (18%), Higgins (13%).
  • Highest %TO: Roberson (11%), Burks (10%), Higgins (9%).
  • Really, Burks isn't an incredibly efficient player -- he's just persistent.  He is physical and durable enough to take on the role of "lead scorer" at all times, he gets to the line a lot, and he always makes his free throws.  He is not always the shooter he was when Mizzou played in Boulder, but ... clearly he's a very strong player, capable of carrying the offensive load for long stretches at a time.
  • Levi Knutson had a very good game against Missouri last time around.  He is mostly a spot-up shooter (%Fouled: 5%), but with Missouri overpursuing him on the perimeter, he showed that he is not terrible at driving when he has to.
  • As I believe I have mentioned many times before, Higgins is in many ways the same player as Burks.  He passes a bit more, shoots and gets fouled a bit less, and basically defers to Burks when things are going well.  But he is a lovely complementary scorer, something we wish Kim English could be right about now.
  • Andre Roberson has stepped up his game in conference play.  Or, more specifically, whereas other players have seen their stats fade once the Buffs stepped up a notch in competition (which is natural), Roberson has continued to plug along with his Seagram's special (7 & 7).  Obviously he needs to bulk up a bit, but as a freshman he is giving Colorado what we would love to see from Otto Porter next year.  (Sign with Mizzou, Otto! Please!)

Keys to the Game

  1. The Glass.  Mizzou's offensive rebounding rate at home: 35%; on the road: 31%.  Mizzou's defensive rebounding rate at home: 73%; on the road: 60%.  Mizzou's offensive and defensive rebounding rates during their trip to Boulder: 26% and 58%.  Pull down the home rebounds, and you'll probably win unless Alec Burks is even more ridiculous than he was the first time around.

  2. Punch/Counterpunch.  Colorado beat Missouri last year by successfully playing the "Back Atcha" game that Missouri likes to play.  Mizzou loves to counterpunch after a team makes a big bucket or scores on a fast break, but CU was consistently able to counter the counter.  They played a reasonably high-tempo game with the Tigers and lived to tell about it.  That was due, primarily, to Alec Burks.  They'll need to do so again, only without a home crowd egging them on.

  3. Kim English.  In yesterday's "Mizzou Versus the Road" post, I said that Kim English is Jimmy McKinney at home, Johnnie Parker on the road.  The intent with that statement is obvious -- he's better at home than away.  Fine.  But ... Jimmy McKinney?  Nothing against the original J-Mac, but ... that's the preseason Naismith candidate's upside this year?  Despite better supplementary stats (rebounds, assists, turnovers, etc.), English's overall contribution to the squad has decreased rather significantly this season.  While we can say that his point total has dropped because he's been ceding the "lead scorer" role to Marcus Denmon ... it's February, and Denmon needs help.  Mizzou tends to get a better overall team game at home, but I am becoming more and more convinced that Mizzou's season will end up being defined by Kimmeh's February and March contributions.  His personality and previous postseason contributions have made him the face of this team, even while Denmon scores more points.  As more and more people trend toward using the word "disappointing" to describe Missouri, it will be up to English, as much as anybody, to make sure that adjective doesn't stick.

Prediction

Colorado is a salty team, but this game is at Mizzou Arena.  Now more than ever, we know how much of a difference that makes.  In the "styles make fights" department, this should be a fun one, with both offenses rolling for a while and Mizzou eventually pulling away.  We'll say Mizzou 86, Colorado 77.  Mizzou moves back to .500 in conference then girds up for the trip to Lawrence.

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