Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015-16 CU vs BYU Basketball Teaser

This is a big one for Colorado.  With a win this evening over BYU, they're almost assured of sweeping the home portion of their non-conference slate.  What's more, they'll also be in excellent position to finish the first two months of the season with, at most, two losses.  That's the kind of resume they need, with the schedule they're playing, to head into Pac-12 play with NCAA Tournament hopes intact. The Cougars also figure to be a top-100 RPI prize, and a team who, themselves, are competing for post-season play.  It's an important scalp to have, looking forwards, and one the Buffs should be loathe to let slip through their fingers on home hardwood.  It's not a 'must-win' game, coming off the impressive performance up north, but one that could be the difference between a Dance ticket and a NIT invite, come Selection Sunday.

The trick then, is finding a way to stymie a pretty solid BYU Cougars squad. The Cougars have proven to be a fantastically resilient program the last few years, consistently finding themselves in the top-50 of the RPI for the better part of a decade, and entrants in the NCAA Tournament eight of the last nine seasons.  Head coach Dave Rose has built up a perennial regional power over his 10+ seasons at the helm, and, even with the semi-recent drop from the mid-major Mountain West to the small conference WCC, they don't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Dave Rose has built a hell of a mid-major power in the desert. From:
For Rose, however, much of that past success was built on the shoulders of those who are no longer in Provo. First, it was the legendary Jimmer Fredette, who tickled the twine over four magical seasons of some of the best shooting in college basketball history.  More recently, it was Tyler Haws, the wing who lead the nation in scoring for 2014-15, and who took 33% of shots with him out the door.  BYU simply does not have a special talent the likes of those two luminaries this season, which limits their ceiling a tad.  It's not a knock, per se - how many raw scoring talents like that are really running around on a year-over-year basis, anyways? - but it's a glaring hole in their resume as compared to previous years.

What they still have, though, is plenty.  The roster is lead by 6-6 senior point guard Kyle Collinsworth; a natural facilitator currently sitting with a 40.7 assist rate and 57 dimes on the young season. One of the more unique talents in the country, his ability to score, dish out some love, and haul in some rebounds (17.2 DR%, currently) allowed him to post six triple-doubles last winter, an NCAA single-season record.  He's damn near close to averaging one this go around, posting nightly 15/8/7 numbers.  Maybe not an outside shooting threat (only 10 attempts to-date in 2015-16) he's still a capable scorer and creator -- whatever the Cougars get offensively tonight will probably come off of something the Provo product initiated, making him problem #1 for CU's iffy perimeter defense. Think back to last Sunday in Fort Collins; the Buffs really only struggled when Ram point guard John Gillon was attacking off the dribble and creating opportunities for him teammates.  A different style from Collinsworth, to be sure, but a word of warning, nonetheless.
Collinsworth is one of the more unique talents in the country.  From: USA Today
What really differentiates BYU from the CSU team Colorado just finished waxing, however, is their post presence. More to the point, the Cougars actually have one, giving them a balanced attack that could really stretch the Buffs at times.  Forwards Corbin Kaufusi (a true sophomore, also from Provo) and Kyle Davis (a junior transfer from Utah State) are a powerful tandem in the paint, one that excels at both ends of the court. Kaufusi is especially potent defending the rim, and comes in with a top-75 block rate, while Davis spends more of his time cleaning the boards (11.3 rebounds per game, with a top-50 defensive rate).  Offensively, the two combine for about 21 points per, and are more than enough of a threat to make you think twice about fronting the post and switching on screens.

Elsewhere, look for shooting threats Chase Fischer and Nick Emery.  The pair are the leading scorers on the team, and have, together, hit 40 threes on the season.  Unlike the Rams' shooters, they're not volume threats; true shooters, then, they're very capable of getting red hot from deep.  Fischer, formerly of Jeff Bzdelik's Wake Forest program, works well off of the offensive creativity of Collinsworth, and has posted a true shooting rate near 60%. You'll probably recognize Emery's name from his recent one-game suspension for a cheap shot on Utah's Brandon Taylor, but the freshman is actually more dangerous as a pure scoring threat pouring in daggers from above.  Either are nasty, competitive shooting talents, and will be a handle beyond the arc for Colorado.  This is where rebounding margin comes into play -- you don't want to routinely give these guys second bites at the three-point apple.  Clearing Collinsworth and Davis off the glass, then, is key.
You have to defend Fischer on the perimeter. From:
After those five, however... the roster starts to get a little light.  Nate Austin and Jake Toolson are interesting pieces off the bench, but there's next to nothing after them that can hurt Colorado. There's a reason, after all, that the Cougars are 0-2 in true road games this season. In their losses to Long Beach State and Utah, BYU struggled to find good fifth, sixth, and seventh options to step up when needed (remember, rare is the night when all five of your starters are on their game). This is where the Buffs can help themselves by staying out of foul trouble, and keeping their depth a viable threat.

All told, this is a BYU team that loves to play fast; get in, find their shot, and get out.  So far, they've been getting about 75 possessions per night, firing off their shots after an average of only 14.3 seconds into the shot clock (8th fastest, nationally).  We here in BuffNation typically love when teams try to come into the CEC and run with CU, but this may be a different case.  The Cougars can just flat out score, especially when Fischer and Emery are stroking it.  With a dynamic threat like Collinsworth fueling things, I just figure that they're going to get theirs, even if the Buffs are on their defensive game.  That means that, once again, we're looking at another boat race.

Eventually, I think this game will turn in the paint. The Cougars are strong along the front line, but I think Colorado's pair of Scott and Gordon are simply better.  If the Colorado Springs pair hits their numbers, and the scoring wings knock down their typical share of three-pointers, I have no doubt that CU, at home, will be able to outscore the Cougars.  At some point the Buffs will have to defend, to be sure, but I just see this one as another instance of 'first to 80 wins.'  And, once again, I'm going to say it's Colorado.  83 - 75.


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