Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 Elon Basketball Teaser

I've been worried about this game for a while.  Sure, #21 CU vs tiny Elon, with the Buffs fresh off of a win over Kansas, doesn't look like much of a challenge.  An upset looks even more far-fetched when you check out Elon's 2013-14 results, and notice losses to Canisius and DII power Metro State (woof).  But, I think there's a real danger here.

CU played in two highlight games last week, taking on the Rams up in a hostile Moby Arena before stunning KU at the buzzer in an electric Coors Events Center.  Even if the CEC is packed tomorrow, the atmosphere will be nowhere near what the team played in last week, and there's obvious letdown potential.  Keep in mind that the Buffs struggled with emotional see-saws last season, taking bad losses after emotional highs @CSU, @'Zona, vs the San Fran squads, vs Arizona, @Stanford, and vs Oregon.  CU will have to find a way to keep the blood pumping tomorrow night, or risk a humiliating performance.
From the emotional high against Kansas to a mid-December game against Elon is a steep drop.
More than that, however, the veteran Elon Phoenix do some things that will frustrate the Buffs.  They give up the offensive glass (349th in offensive rebounding rate), in part to cut down on transition buckets (not always successfully), they don't allow assisted baskets (1st in the nation in defensive A/FGM ratio), and they have a trio of shooter who can rain down threes if the defense is soft on the perimeter.  Doing those three things well - slowing transition, limiting assists, and pouring it in from beyond the arc - is the roux at the heart of any underdog's recipe for beating Colorado.

In that vein, BuffNation, let me introduce you to Tanner Samson.  The 6-4 sophomore guard out of Littleton is one of the nation's most efficient shooters, boasting an offensive rating above 150 on an eFG of 80%. Guarding him inside of 20-ft is superfluous (he has only taken six two pointers all season), but, OH MY, can he knock down a shot.  With confidence, too.  Said Samson, “If they leave me open and I can get my shot off, I’m ready to shoot. The gun’s loaded.” He's shooting 56% on his 54 threes taken this season, and has major pain-in-the-ass potential.  The Buffs need to find a way to buck the trend, and deny him the ball, since, with 90% of those threes coming on assisted plays, he's not going to create his own shot.
CU may want to guard him. From: the Burlington Times-News
Other than Samson, the Phoenix starting five features two other strong shooters that need to be watched. Swing Forward Sebastian Koch combines a 6-8 frame with 41% shooting from deep, and point guard Austin Hamilton has shown very efficient rates (72% eFG) in limited attempts (only 49 shots on the year). Both share the ball well, to boot, and create chances on the perimeter to leverage their strong shooting.

Still, even with those outside shooting dynamos, the Phoenix run things through their frontline of Lucas Troutman (first team All-SoCon) and Ryley Beaumont.  Both have shot rates in the high 20s, and the pair combine for 28/10 each night.  Overall, the Phoenix return their top-eight players from a year ago, and, even with a tough start to the season, are a good bet to grab an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. These guys are no push-over, even if you've never heard of them.

Tomorrow is Friday the 13th, so expect some weirdness.  Still, there's no reason that CU can't, at least, pull out an ugly one against the Phoenix.  All I'm asking for is a 'W,' the details are less important than the top-line result.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6:30pm tomorrow evening.  This is your last chance to catch the team in Boulder prior to Christmas, so make sure you're in attendance to give the team a send-off to Las Vegas.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 KOA.


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