Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wyoming Teaser

I'm flat scared of the trip to Laramie. Hell, I'm scared to death about every game on the schedule over the next two weeks (@Wyo, CSU, @KU, @Fresno St), but there's something particularly nervy about the start of the dangerous two-week stretch in the Equality State.  It's not just that Wyoming is undefeated - albeit against seven opponents of varying degrees of suspect pedigree - it's that they've historically had their way with our heroes from Boulder.  Despite playing them 17 times since 1986, the Buffs have only managed to beat Wyo four times in the last 26 years, and not once since December of 1996.

If that historical hip-check of an opener doesn't chill your blood, just think back to last season's matchup with the Pokes.  CU hosted them in early December as a seemingly innocuous continuation of the 27-game non-conference home winning streak.  Stunted by a 17-2 Cowboy run to open the second frame, the Buffs watched dumbfounded as Wyoming pushed them around through the game's final 20 minutes.  The 65-54 final ushered the vaunted streak to it's death, and had me cursing Coach Boyle for both his inactivity during the fateful run, and the generally poor offensive showing.
Let's just say last season didn't go well.  From: the BDC
That weekend sucked. It didn't help that My Bears shit the bed against the Tebow-lead Broncos that weekend.  I was feeling feisty.  But life goes on, and the sports calendar offers the Buffs an opportunity for a second taste of sweet, sweet revenge this season.  Things went well the first time against Baylor, so maybe "Revenge Tour '12" will continue to serve the Buffs well.

CU will look to beat back the steamroller of history, taking their 19th ranked show on a true road trip for the first time this season.  Tip off tomorrow evening is set for 8pm, with television coverage on ROOT Sports, and the radio broadcast tabbed for 850 KOA.

Head coach Layy Shyatt worked a strong start to his second coaching stint in Laramie, guiding the Pokes to their first 20-win campaign since '02-'03.  Once again he has tasked his team with a seriously weak early schedule.  While the Buffs were fighting with heavies in Charleston, Wyoming was taking on minnows like North Carolina Central, South Dakota, and Cal St Bakersfield.  Accordingly, Kenpom ranks their non-conference schedule somewhere in the mid 320s nationally.  This game will be, by far, the Cowboy's toughest challenge to date, but that didn't mean much last season when they stormed into Boulder after breezing through a similarly weak early slate.

A pair of seniors power the Poke attack: Leonard Washington and Luke Martinez.  Washington, a bullish 6-7 power forward transfer from USC, has been scoring over 14/game this season.  However, it's his solid rebounding (27.3%) and block (9.9%) rates that will cause the most headaches.  The 6-4 Martinez, labeled as the best player from North Dakota by all-mighty KenPom, knifed the Buffs last season with a 14-point night.  Almost all of his scoring is done from the perimeter, as just under 80% of his career field goal attempts come from behind the arc.  The inside-outside combo can quickly break down opposing defenses, as CU saw last year when they combined for 30 points on 10-19 shooting.
Martinez does his best work from beyond the arc.
Complimenting that duo is 5-10 senior guard Derrious Gilmore, who is a reliable free throw shooter (over 90%).

Die-hard Boulderites may recognize the other Wyoming starting guard.  Yep, that's Riley Grabau, he of the "carry Boulder High to the state title game" Grabau's.  After a freshman campaign that saw him on the court for only seven minutes per game, the sophomore has seen plenty of court in 2012 (27.4 min/game), while expertly running the Cowboy offense (23 assists, against only 4 turnovers).  He is suffering from a knee issue, which forced him out of Wyo's last game against UCSB after only three minutes of action.  Unfortunately, I don't know if he'll be playing tomorrow.

Stat guru "jgisland" already did a great job breaking down some statistical keys to the game over at AllBuffs.  Seriously, go check it out, he's got some great knowledge to bomb you with.  In the wake of his brilliance, I'd only like to emphasize the importance of breaking through the Cowboy zone.  Last year the Buffs could only muster .85 points per possession against Wyo. They seemed at a loss to figure out how to attack on offense, only dishing out five assists, and shooting under 40% from the field.  CU doesn't see all that much zone, and has struggled with it in recent years.  The Wyoming game was only one example.  It'll be interesting to see if Coach Boyle has figured out how to break through the fog.

Overall, while certainly a winnable game, tomorrow's matchup with Wyoming has the whiff of upset loss.  History, matchups, style... they all set up to take the Buffs out of rhythm.  I think Martinez gets hot from the outside, the zone frustrates, and CU drops a close one.  This prediction is not an indication that I think the Buffs are broken after the hiccup against Texas Southern, or that they'll get out-hustled like they did last season.  It's just not a confidence building scenario.

WYO 67 - CU 65


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