Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2014-15 CU vs San Francisco Basketball Teaser: A Turn Inside

With a difficult stretch on the horizon, the Buffs are back in the CEC this evening for a tough game against the San Francisco Dons.  No pushover by any measure, San Francisco appears, at least to me, to be the strongest opponent to visit Boulder, so far, this fall.  Colorado would be wise to take this matchup seriously.
An intense Rex Walters brings his Dons to the CEC tonight.
Leading the Dons is Head Coach Rex Walters.  Once a national power, scandals forced the San Francisco program to shutter in the early-80s, and it's only been recently that they've begun to make some noise in the always difficult WCC.  A 21-win season last winter signaled a rebirth of relevant hoops on the hill, a testament to the job Walters has been doing; his peers agreed, and named him WCC Coach of the Year. That prize came with some warts, however. As good of a campaign as the Dons enjoyed, Walters came under fire for some overly intense tactics that have driven 21 players to transfer away from his program during his tenure, including recent starters Cody Doolin and Avry Holmes.  It's hard to continue to build a program when you keep driving talent away...

Of those still there, the best are forwards Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefsen.  The junior Tollefsen is a dynamic threat, capable of playing almost every position on the court with his 6-9 frame.  He's long, athletic, and a good shooter.  Pinkins, a 6-7 senior, will be more attached to the paint than Tollefsen, but can also stretch out to the perimeter.  Combined, they average 32/13 each night.  Big 6-10, 242 lb transfer center Darrell Robertson will also feature up front.
Tollefsen is a high flyer.
The backcourt is centered on another pair of veterans, junior Tim Derksen and senior Matt Glover.  Derksen is the better scorer.  Both rebound very well for their size and position. Past them, the Dons have a deep bench, with 11 players having appeared in all six of their games this season. Expect a heavy rotation from the southern end of the CEC, especially with the altitude factor in play.

After weeks of playing games against teams with a perimeter focus, tonight's against San Francisco will be a different story.  The Dons possess a strong front line, and are more than willing to lean on them throughout 40 minutes of action.  To-date, they're only allowing 40% shooting on all 2-point attempts, and take over 55% of their shots at the rim (best in the country, at the moment). They're also a good rebounding team, easily the best that has come to the CEC this season. San Fran has been particularly strong on the defensive glass, where they've been cleaning up over 75% of all missed-shots.  Sure, a factor of who they've played compared to their size, but that's not an outlier, compared to recent years.  Generally, they're a tough team inside the paint, a reality that will push the Buffs this evening.
Good forwards, like Pinkins, will make life in the paint difficult for the Buffs.
Another thing that pops off their stats page is that, with all those forwards getting touches, they really struggle from the line. Through six games, they're shooting under 56% on their free throws, good for 343rd nationally. That's small sample size, certainly, as Tollefsen, Derksen, and Glover, while not great from the stripe, are not nearly as bad as they've shown.  Still, as they're top-50 in FTA/FGA ratio, I expect foul shots to have a say tonight; the longer San Francisco continues to brick freebies, the better for CU.

I think the Buffs will struggle with this one.  This is a forward-focused roster, meaning Colorado's best players will be in focus, both offensively and defensively, tonight (assuming the guards can get them the ball...). If the Dons can come in, and prove to be effective up front (checking that front-line strength), it could make for a nervous evening.  I think the game hinges on Wes Gordon, who practically sleep-walked through portions of the Lipscomb game. His effort on the offensive glass and defending San Francisco's versatile forwards will be vital. The Buffs should still win, but Gordon will go a long way to defining the timbre.

Tip-off from the CEC is set for 8pm this evening.  Coverage can be found on Pac-12 Networks, for those without tickets.  The radio call, with no football to compete against, is back on 850 KOA.


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