CU stands alone at the top of the topsy-turvey Pac-12 conference, and have an excellent chance tonight to improve to 3-0 in the early goings of conference play. Washington St was selected to finish in a 10th-place tie with CU before the season started, and the Buffs will have ample opportunity to prove separation Saturday afternoon.
Hey Buff Nation! The basketball team needs your help one more time. Get your butt up to the CEC to see the best team the Pac-12 currently has to offer (such as it is). The Broncos aren't on til Sunday, so you have no excuse. Your university needs you; answer the damn call!
Tip off is set for 2 in the afternoon, and you can see the action on FSN national (Reggie Theus is providing the analysis!). It's on KOA if you can't find a FSN station to your liking.
Click below for the preview...
Opponents season so far -
It was always going to be a tough season for the Cougars. Losing one of the better players in program history, Klay Thompson, to the NBA means talent scramble mode for a program historically situated in the basement of the Pac-10 conference. Compounding the loss of Thompson to the Golden State Warriors was the earlier-than-anticipated loss of forward DeAngelo Castro to the Turkish professional leagues.
|Klay Thompson aint walking through that door...|
They've handled small schools, like Eastern Washington well enough, with the odd collapse against UC Riverside, but struggled to keep up with athletic squads like New Mexico, Oregon and Oklahoma. An upset of the over-achieving Oregon St Beavers gave Cougar nation some hope of a climb out of a predicted 10th place in the Pac-12... that was until the game from Thursday night against Utah.
|That win over the Beavers would've been big for the team without the stumble in Utah|
"As one might have expected in a Utah win, the Utes played better than normal. The ran a crisp offense in the first half and only committed three turnovers while racking up 29 points in 27 possessions. It also helped that the normally sloppy Utes encountered a zone during the entire half. This allowed Utah to take better care of the ball and also take the air out of it. The game ended with just 60 possessions in 45 minutes which undoubtedly boosted Utah’s chances as well. Furthermore, Washington State made just 10 of their 22 free throw attempts. The Utes played better than usual, and the Cougars (except for Brock Motum) played worse than usual, and that’s how these things happen."That Ute win lays the groundwork for a basement finish in the conference for the stunned Cougars, and puts the damper on a season that had just seen its high point (the win over Oregon St). Such is life in the Pac-12.
OK, I'll be honest, I have no idea who the hell Ken Bone is. Couldn't pick him out of a crowd if you paid me.
|No offense, dude, but I have no idea who you are. The warm-up and mic are my only hopes at an ID|
His career record in Pullman sits at a mildly respectable 47-34, and, depending on his ability to recruit in life after Klay, seems to have the WSU program headed in a semi-positive direction.
Star Players -
In the power vacuum left by the departures of Thompson and Castro, the team's leading returning scorer is shot-happy guard Faisal Aden. Even for a high usage player, he takes and misses a large number of shots without the added benefit of getting to the line. In 12 games this season, he's taken only 19 free throws despite taking the vast majority of his team's shots when he's on the court.
The 6-4 senior has seen his minutes drop and the loss of his starting spot as a result of his reckless shot taking, and hardcore Cougar fans were almost glad to see him sit out three games earlier in the season with concussion issues. Since returning he hasn't fared much better from the field, and is shooting a paltry 32% over the past five games.
|Aden has lost plenty of support in Pullman this season.|
The current leading scorer, junior Brock Motum, is one of the few players with any size that the Cougars can rely on a nightly basis. Motum scores near 16 points and grabs over 6 boards per game. The 6-10 Aussie forward is not much of a defensive force, but he's deadly in the paint with the ball in his hands. He boasts and eFG of 62%, and can even step out and take a 3 when offered.
|Yes, I did select this photo 'cause the one kid is wearing a Sox hat. What of it?|
|Moore can still drop some points if he gets hot.|
As noted in the passage from almighty Kenpom, WSU likes to pack into a zone, even to its detriment. Knowing CU's struggles with the zone this season, I worry that this will not be the walk-in-the-park that some would expect after Thursday's results (CU's win over UW/WSU's loss to Utah). If CU lays an egg with shooting, and revert to form from the free throw line, it could get hairy.
However, the CU offense looked much more... lifelike Thursday night. Coach Boyle had said that he'd been saving some looks for conference play, and those looks paid off big time to the tune of the most points scored against a D-I opponent on the season. The Buffs probably won't have nearly as perfect an offensive night as they did against Washington, but that performance gives me hope that they were just holding back in the early goings of the season. As to free throw shooting: CU has shot better than 75% from the line in five of the past seven contests. If not solved, the early season FT woes are seriously diminished.
There's always the thought that CU might struggle against a zone with tired legs less than two days after a hard fought victory, but CU didn't play two stretches of two games in three nights earlier this year for nothing. I bet the Buffs play well, and score more than enough to keep the Cougars at bay.
Kenpom says a 5 point win; I'll go a few more than that.
CU 76 - WSU 67
GO BUFFS! BEAT THE COUGARS!