Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Arkansas St Wrap and UC-Santa Barbara Teaser

Last night, CU's 93-70 win over Arkansas State did a lot to confirm what we already knew: CU can walk past small-conference fodder.  In three games against UT-Martin, Jackson St and Arkansas State - all blowout wins - the Buffs have averaged nearly 93 points, totaled about 19 assists per contest, and held the opponent at or near 40% shooting from the field.  Against more competent foes like Baylor and Wyoming, however, things have been much more difficult.  Combined in those two, CU is only averaging a little over 60 points per game on 36% shooting, and only sharing the ball to the tune of about seven assists per.
Josh Scott and the Buffs have been rolling, but they need to get pushed a little more.  From: the BDC
From a development standpoint, these games have been great.  They've served as an opportunity to get the bench involved (~34 points per), and allowed the team to work on things like ball movement and efficiency that will serve them well as the season progresses.  It also doesn't hurt that they've allowed stars like Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker to shake off the rust without the risk of a loss.

However, while Colorado is certainly improving each time out on the court, there's a clear tipping point against under-talented opponents.  I don't know how much more anyone can learn watching many more matchups like these.  The Buffs need a higher degree of difficulty if we're to determine just how good they are.

Happily, the schedule obliges, as the difficulty dial is about to slowly get cranked up to 11.  Starting Thursday night with UC-Santa Barbara, and culminating on December 7th with Kansas, the schedule will only get tougher as each game approaches.  The climb up the collegiate ranks will provide a nightly litmus test.
The scrappy Gauchos are a step above teams like Arkansas St.
First up: the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos.  A program comfortable with winning (only two losing seasons since 2000), they fell on hard times last season, stumbling to a 11-20 finish.  Don't let that fool you, however, as they are already 2-1 on the year with a sexy win on the road against a down UNLV squad.  The Gauchos are probably the best non-Baylor team the Buffs will have played to-date, and an opponent to be wary of.

UCSB is lead by beefy (6-7, 275 *ahem*) center Alan Williams.  The junior was a pre-season selection to the All-Big West team, and has backed it up when on the court this year, averaging 24/13 in two starts.  In the month of small sample size, he leads the nation in both usage categories, as is top-50 in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate.  This guy is a load.
Williams is a legitimately good post player.
Unfortunately, the big man has been battling some back spasms, and was a late scratch before the Gauchos' last game against Utah State.  You shouldn't be surprised to learn that Santa Barbara was unable to beat the Aggies without their best scorer and rebounder.  He's questionable for the trip to Boulder, and it would be a big blow to UCSB's hopes if he were unable to play for the second-straight game.

Other than Williams, look out for sharpshooting senior guard Kyle Boswell.  The 6-2 shooting guard is 10-20 from deep on the year, and can cause headaches if the Buffs aren't paying attention.  Additionally, I like wing Michael Bryson.  The 6-4 sophomore is a developing scorer who has over 12 points per game this season.
Deny the shooter, Boswell.
For those long-term followers of Colorado Basketball wondering, Keegan Hornbuckle, a former Buff, is no longer with the Gauchos, having left the team over the summer.  His length would've been a boon for UCSB, but injuries derailed a promising career.

If Willimas doesn't make the trip, the Buffs should roll to another easy win, but, for the sake of argument, I'll assume the big man suits up.  CU should still win in this scenario, but the outing would look much more like the Baylor/Wyoming games than the trio of blowouts.  Honestly, for competition's sake, I hope Williams is healthy; it'll make for a fun game.  Regardless, UCSB should be a mid-major force as the season develops, and a nice, low-key feather in the scheduling cap for the Buffs... assuming a win, of course.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6pm Thursday night.  Televised coverage on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on AM760.


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