The other difference between the BU and KU games and what we'll watch tomorrow is setting. Against Baylor, the young Buffs had yet to find their sea legs, and were fighting a tough team on, essentially, their home turf. Of course, the setting for the Kansas game, taking place at the roiling cauldron that is the Coors Events Center, was the definition of home court advantage. In (Las) Vegas, we'll see the team on a true neutral court against a very difficult opponent under the national spotlight. If you have any remaining questions about this team, they'll be answered at the MGM Grand.
It certainly won't be easy. Oklahoma State is rightly considered a top-10 team, possessing some of the best talent in the country, with a solid chance of making a Final Four this season. That's not to say CU is completely out-classed, however. In fact, we in BuffNation need to get used to the fact that the program belongs on this stage. These are the kinds of games great programs play in, and expect to win. It's not a fluke or mistake that CU is in the marquee game of a nationally televised weekend showcase, after all; the Buffs belong here. It's time for Colorado to take advantage, and enjoy the spotlight.
Tip off the MGM Grand Garden Arena is set for 9:30pm MT tomorrow evening. So, if you, like me, will be in the Eastern Time Zone at tip-off, it's going down at 11:30 at night. Woof. I'mma need some coffee... Anyways, coverage can be found on ESPN2, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
You have to go all the way back to January 2011, and Tad's first season for the last time these two teams met. Overcoming abysmal shooting (37% from the field), CU claimed a 75-71 victory in front of the first sellout crowd of the season by leveraging a favorable home whistle. The Buffs relentlessly attacked the rim, getting to the line 39 times, converting on 35 of those attempts to claw their way into the win column.
|CU survived thanks to an abundance of contact. From: the BDC|
Regardless, this win spoke to a grit and will in the face of adversity that would serve the Buffs well in later games against KSU and Texas. After shooting under 30% in the first half, and falling down by as many as 12 in the second frame, they found top gear when they needed it most, going on a 20-6 run to turn the tables on OSU, and take a lead with just under six minutes to go.
|Another solid win for Cory and the fantastic 2010-11 team. From: the Post|
Star Players -
It would be criminal to start a review of OSU's roster anywhere other than with Marcus Smart. There are teams in the NBA right now tanking for an opportunity to draft a player of his caliber, as the 6-4 sophomore point guard from Texas figures to be a top-5 pick this summer. He is the classic combination of speed, athleticism, and size that the Association loves, and he boasts production to match. A legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award, he's probably the best individual talent that CU will face all season.
|Smart is one of the best in the country. From: ESPN|
To date, he's backed up his choice, dropping 18/5/4 on a nightly basis for one of the best teams around. It's interesting that, with his talent, he gets less than 80% of available minutes (less than he did last season), but he makes up for a slight drop in court time by carrying the team on his back. With a top-7 steal ratio (he grabs three per game), and a usage rate over 30%, he can dominate both sides of the game. The matchup between OSU's Marcus Smart and CU's Spencer Dinwiddie is the stuff television promos are made of, and should be a treat for all true basketball fans, regardless of allegiance.
Beyond Smart, the Cowboys rely on the versatile duo of Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash. Brown, the only senior who gets regular minutes, is second in the team in scoring (15.7/game), and an explosive athlete who would star on most other teams. The team looks to him to draw some attention off of Smart, and the interplay between the two is what makes the efficient Cowboy engine hum. Nash, a junior forward, has been forced into a more post-centric style that I think he would like. He has cut his long jumpers out almost completely, boosting his percentage of shots at the rim by nearly 30 points this season.
|You can tell Nash would like to be shooting, but his more efficient play is helping the Cowboys. From: ESPN|
The Cowboys in 2013-14 -
OSU has been a top-10 squad since the very first preseason polls. To date, they've backed that faith up with a 10-1 record, and offensive and defensive efficiencies in the national top-10. Their Kenpom profile ($) is a swath of green, attesting to their balance and strength.
|The Cowboys have been nearly perfect in the early going.|
Accordingly, the best way to beat them is... slowing down the pace of play, and owning transition. Case-in-point: their two game series with Memphis. On November 19th in Stillwater, the Cowboys took the Tigers to the woodshed, flying to a 101-80 victory that grabbed headlines. Two weeks later, the two teams met again in the Old Spice Classic, and Memphis turned the tables, earning a 73-68 victory.
|Memphis returned the favor in the rematch.|
Yep, Travis Ford is still kicking down in Oklahoma. Now in his sixth year as head Cowboy, Ford may finally have his program headed in the right direction. His 24-9 campaign of a year ago showed vast signs of improvement, as the squad posted the best in-conference mark of the Ford era (13 Big XII wins, good for third). Now, with a top-10 target on their back, they head towards conference play, at least in my eyes, as as a slight favorite to win the league, even over talented squads like Baylor and Kansas.
|Yep, Ford still runs the show at OSU. From: the AP|
|Keeping Smart in house was a lucky break for Coach Ford. From: ESPN|
(My record on the season: 0-2. Against the spread: 0-2. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU +5 pts/gm)
Lines as of 12:45 on Friday: OSU -6
I've been struggling with my basketball picks this year. I will admit I was betting with my heart, not my head, against Baylor, but I'm kind of frustrated with my read on the KU game. I knew the Buffs would make it close, a smart bet would've been on the home crowd against a team of freshmen. Oh well, back to the action.
CU caught a big break with the news that both Askia Booker and Wes Gordon will be in uniform tomorrow, giving CU as good a shot as any of knocking off the Cowboys. With them back in the fold, I actually like how the Buffs matchup. Unlike KU, OSU doesn't have a physically imposing front line, and, while the Cowboys do just fine in the paint, the Buffs don't have to look up to their forwards, which is a start in the right direction. Their guard-oriented, fast-paced style also plays into Tad's hand. I'm probably overselling it, but Colorado should do just fine tomorrow.
Give me the Buffs to cover, but not win. It comes down to the finish, but Smart gets the calls when needed.
OSU 71 - CU 68
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE COWBOYS!