Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Fresno State Basketball Teaser

Road woes have been the topic du jour for BasketBuffs this week, especially in light of last weekend's disastrous trip to Lawrence.  Of course, road struggles have long been a concern for almost all CU athletic programs, and the men's basketball team has been no different.

Even in the Coach Boyle era, CU has struggled away from the friendly confines of the Coors Events Center.  The non-conference road win list from the past two seasons looks like this: Cal St Bakersfield, and Air Force.  That's it, one per year.  Even then, that win over Air Force looked more like outright robbery than an actual victory, and the win over CSU-B was far from easy.  While conference play has been kinder - with wins over K-State, Texas Tech, USC, ASU, and Utah populating the record book - the point remains: the Buffs just aren't good in road games.

Which brings me to this evening.  On paper, a trip to play the Fresno St Bulldogs shouldn't be much of a problem for the Champions of Charleston.  However, with the Buffs' recent and extended road history, all bets are off.

Tip-off from the Save Mart Center (*sigh* that's an awful name) in Fresno, CA is set for 8pm MT, with radio coverage on AM760.  Unfortunately, there's no TV coverage, and your only remaining video option requires buying a $10 subscription to the FSU website.  (No, I haven't decided if it's worth it, yet.)


Hard-core followers of the Buffs from back in the Big XII days should recognize head coach of the Bulldogs: longtime Texas assistant Rodney Terry.  Known primarily at UT for his recruiting prowess (he helped bring stars like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, T.J. Ford, and Tristan Thompson to the Lone Star capital), he's tasked with the monumental challenge of bringing an underwhelming FSU program into the Mountain West, one of the country's best basketball conferences.
Terry brought Big XII cred to Fresno.
His first season in the Valley didn't go so well, with the Bulldogs struggling in their final season as a member of the WAC.  They went 3-11 in conference play, barely avoiding last place thanks to a truly horrific San Jose St squad. 

In response, Coach Terry ramped up recruiting efforts, landing a whale of a prospect in the form of top-50 player Robert Upshaw.  The 7-0, 250lb behemoth has yet to make a huge impact on the court, but his presence on the Bulldog roster is an eye-opener from multiple perspectives.

While Upshaw gets used to the collegiate game, the Bulldogs rely on a trio of 6-2 juniors to run the team:
 Kevin Olekaibe, Tyler Johnson, and Allen Huddelston. Olekaibe and Johnson combined for 37 points last year against the Buffs, helping the Bulldogs recover from a 15-point halftime deficit to make a close game out of what could have been a laugher.  Huddelston, a first-year transfer from Pacific, has been the Bulldog's leading scorer from the point this season, contributing 12 points per game.
Olekaibe gave CU fits last season. From: the BDC
All three would probably prefer to play off the ball, but size and simple roster math dictate one has to take the point.   That task has fallen to Huddelston, but that unnatural switch to running the offense has hurt the Bulldogs.  As a result, they only hand out 8.8 assists per game, good for 339th nationally.  That poor supply has especially stunted the once high-scoring Olekaibe.  After averaging nearly 18 points per game in '11-'12, he's only scored in double-figures twice this season.

The dysfunction in the backcourt was particularly evident in last month's 39-30 win over UC Riverside.  Using 56 possessions, that translates to a shockingly awful .66 ppp.  My head hurts just thinking about that.  The lesson, as always, is that point guard play is important.

Outside of the three guards, the Bulldog starting five is in near-permanent flux.  One player who should see extended minutes, while not necessarily a starter, is 6-8 sophomore forward Kevin Foster.  When on the court, the Florida native sees a ton of the ball, getting used on close to 27% of possessions.  He's a strong rebounder, with better percentages than 'Dre does this season (27.7% of defensive opportunities/13.5% of offensive), but his offensive touches are a drag on the team (84.1 ORtg).  He makes less than 30% of his two-point shots, which is downright criminal coming from a forward.
Foster's best attributes are not found on the offensive end.
Overall, Fresno St comes off as a pretty lousy shooting team (eFG under 44%), which relies on strong perimeter defense to keep themselves in games.  They've been holding opponents to under 27% shooting from beyond the arc, with a scant 18.4% of opponents points coming from outside makes (the national average is around 27%)  The Buffs will have to get interior penetration, and get foul calls to win this game.


It was pointed out to me by friend of the blog Matthew Robbins that I've been quick to pick against CU this season.  I'll show you Bups; I am nothing if not rebellious, so, K-BOOSH, pickin' the Buffs!

CU should matchup well with the guard-heavy Bulldog rotation.  If the Buffs can get anywhere near the trips to the free throw line they received last year (32, making 27), they should be just fine.  Additionally, I expect Josh Scott and Andre Roberson will have a nice game against the FSU front-court.

So, I'll go out on a limb, and take the Buffs to get their annual non-conference road win this evening.  What's more, I'll say our hoops heroes hold the Bulldogs to fewer points than their football-playing compatriots managed to do this past September.

CU 67 - FSU 62


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