Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oregon Preview #2

Remember back, all the way back, to March of 2010.  The Buffs beat Texas Tech on the final day of the regular season in a game that meant nothing.  The two were destined to play in the upcoming Big XII Tournament, and the game really only decided who would be the designated "home team" the following Wednesday.
Ah, memories.  From: the BDC
Tonight's game against Oregon is slightly reminiscent.  Barring an extensive set of circumstances, CU and Oregon will be in line to face off in the quarter-finals of next week's Pac-12 Tournament.  All the loser would have to do is beat crippled USC in the opening round to secure a 3rd meeting.  While tonight's game will probably determine who enjoys a first round bye next week, leading to a discussion of big picture/title-run implications, the immediate effect is minimal.

Regardless of tonight's result, the Buffs and Ducks should see each other again one week from today.

Of course, the hardiest of Buff Nation can easily recall the result of the Texas Tech duel from two years ago.  While the Buffs scored that nice win over Tech in Boulder, the rematch in Kansas City was completely different.  The Raiders regrouped, and clocked CU by 15.  NIT hopes were dashed, and the Red Raiders, who had lost seven straight prior to that game in KC, moved on to face KU.  I'm sure the loser tonight hopes that history repeats next week in Los Angeles.

While that Tech game was essentially meaningless, tonight's game does hold plenty of importance.  The winner does get that vital first-round bye to rest their late season legs.  Additionally, Coach Boyle is going for his 100th career win as a head coach, and the Buffs are still in search of their second-consecutive 20-win season.

There's plenty on the table to play for.

Tip-off from the eye-achingly ugly floor of the MATT is set for 8:30.  The action can be seen on ROOT/FSN.  If the crazy floor design scares you away, you can listen to Mark Johnson and the radio call on 760AM.

My preview of the first game can be seen here.

Click below for my preview of the rematch...

When last we met - 

Back on February 4th, the Buffs and Ducks played through a nerve-wracking affair.  Down at half, the Buffs utilized 57% second-half shooting to climb back into the game. The finish was still in doubt as both teams found the line with under 10 seconds left on the clock.  Oregon missed their free throws (Ashaolu), while CU made theirs (Tomlinson). Game: Blouses.

Buff Nation was allowed to exhale, and CU walked away with the 72-71 victory.  It was the result of two quality teams trading body blows over the course of two hours.   The Buffs may not have "looked" the better of the two teams, but a win is, as always, a win.
They all look the same in the win column, no matter how ugly they looked in person.  From: the BDC
It was on the backs of freshmen heroes Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker that the Buffs survived.  The pair combined for 33 points, including Dinwiddie's 3-4 3-point shooting in the second half.  Senior Nate Tomlinson, besides hitting the game winning free throw, controlled the offense through a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and played strong perimeter defense.  Old dependable Andre Roberson provided 7/11 for the home team.

The Ducks were powered by Olu Ashaolu's 17/9.  CU really had no answer for him inside, and he was the difference maker for most of the game.  Had he not shot 1-6 from the charity stripe, Oregon wins the ballgame.
Ashaolu really hurt the Buffs inside.  Can the Buffs find a counter in the rematch?  From: the BDC
Of course, the biggest story from the game was the Oregon reaction to the game winning foul attempts by Nate Tomlinson.  The butt-hurt flowed like wine (or whine), and Duck Coach Dana Altman could be seen screaming at the refs all the way to the locker-room.
Calm down, Coach.  From: the BDC
I again state for the record that it was a foul.  I don't care how much time is on the clock, Nate got fouled.  You don't hear me complaining about the equally "suspect" call given to Ashaolu seconds earlier.  If the Ducks have anyone to blame, it's defender E.J. Singler, who bumped the Aussie on the drive.  Next time, try defending without causing contact.
Here you can see Nate being fouled by E.J. Singler.  From: the BDC
Regardless, you have to know that the Ducks are seething for revenge on a game they felt was cheated from them.

What's changed? - 

Oregon has continued to look scary good.  Going 4-1 since the loss in Boulder, the Ducks lone defeat in the past few weeks came at Cal, where they still nearly managed to steal the result.  Highlighted by a 25-point schellacking of current conference front runner Washington, their last three weeks paint the picture of a team who could easily win their way into the Dance.

Honestly, the Ducks scare me more than any team in the conference, save Stanford.  They have three highly efficient players (Singler, Sim, and Joseph), and their interior strength, centered around Ashaolu, makes for one of the best offenses in the conference.
The talented quartet makes for some serious matchup problems.
Foremost, the play of Devoe Joseph keeps me up at nights.  He's scored in double-figures in each of his last 14 games, dropping 18/night over that span, including three performances over 25 points.  Also during that span, he's shooting over 46% from deep and 83% from the line.  It's no wonder that he's garnering serious conference player of the year consideration.

For the Buffs, an unheralded undercurrent of the past few weeks has been the play of Nate Tomlinson.  While fellow senior Carlon Brown has faded down the stretch, the Aussie point guard seems to have saved his best play for last.
Nate has been awesome recently.  From: the BDC
Over the past six contests, Nate has seen his turnover rate plummet (1/game), while assists have stayed stable (3.3/game) and scoring has gone up (over 7/game).  This is kind of solid leadership you expect from a senior point guard.

Prediction -  

Damn, the Buffs could really use a solid road victory headed into the conference tournament.  Unfortunately, I fully expect the Ducks to win tonight.  I'd bet it'll even be by more than 10.

Ashaolu is too much for CU to handle inside, and the perimeter trio of Joseph, Sim, and Singler should put more than enough points on the board to keep the Buffs at bay.  Add to it a Buffs offense still struggling through the diminishing returns of their leading scorer Carlon Brown, and I expect CU to get rolled tonight.

However, as I alluded to at the top, this isn't the game that matters.  Next week, in Los Angeles, the Buffs will get another shot in the rubber match.  Hopefully, it'll be a different result in the neutral confines of the tournament.  Laugh while you can, Duckies.

Oregon 78 - CU 64


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