|The Buffs toed a fine line on Wednesday, but none-the-less got the victory against Ft Lewis. From: USA Today|
But, this post is not really about what Colorado did this week against a D-II school, as feisty as they may be. This is about looking ahead to Sunday's war in FoCo, the biennial trip north to face the most openly hostile crowd left on the schedule. It still chaps my ass that CU lost last year, coming up short at home despite a combined 38 points from Ski Booker and Xavier Johnson. You never want to lose to the Rams, but to lose at home, with everyone else in a CU uniform playing soft and timid, was... well, embarrassing, to be honest. The Rams came into Boulder and pushed the Buffs around in their own gym. They were the big brother that night, something I never want to see happen again.
So, tomorrow afternoon, Colorado is looking for revenge. For all the good momentum they've engendered over the last few weeks, all the good basketball they've been putting on film, they need a win up north. They need to prove that last year is not how this series operates. With a new found offensive energy and a dominating set of forwards, the Buffs need to command the floor, quiet the crowd, and strangle the life out of the Rams in Moby.
|Eustachy and the Rams have done a great job in recent years of negating Josh Scott. From: ABC 7|
2014 - 2 pts, 0-7 from the floor, Ortg 63, 8 rebounds, 0 blocks, 1 steal, 2 assists, 2 fouls - 35 minutes
2013 - 6 pts, 2-4 from the floor, Ortg 102, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 0 assists, 4 fouls - 32 minutes
2012 - 4 pts, 2-8 from the floor, Ortg 63, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, 0 assists, 4 fouls - 27 minutes
*Averages over three games - 4 points, 6 rebounds, 21% from the floor, 1.3 blocks, 4.3 fouls/40 min
Woof. That's not All-Pac-12 caliber. That's barely even registering a pulse. If Josh is 'not a fan' of the Rammies, as he proclaimed this week, he needs to show it by putting little brother in the corner. This is a brutal, physical rivalry. The attention, offensively, for both sides may be on the perimeter this year, but the final result will still be earned in the trenches. For CU, that has to start with Scott playing to his capabilities, and having a positive, practical impact on the game from a statistical perspective.
|Back-to-back losses have CSU desperate for a win. From: their stupid website.|
For the Rams, it all starts on the perimeter. 43% of their shots taken are from outside the arc, and they rarely even try to get anything from two-point range on in (337th nationally in two-point jumpers). They're a good three-point shooting team (37%, four players over 40%), but nothing special -- more a collection of volume shooters than anything. Wings Gian Clavell, John Gillon, and Antwan Scott do most of the damage here, accounting for 126 of their 194 total attempts for the year. If that trio starts drawing iron from deep, the Rams have no other viable options to turn to offensively. Just look at that UTEP box score, a game they lost in double-overtime. CSU was up by 17 at halftime, bouncing along behind 9-23 shooting from deep. After the break, however, they went cold, only hitting 3-18 over the final 30 minutes (second half plus two overtimes). All the Miners (how ya doin, Dominic Artis?) had to do was chip away, which they did.
|I'm surprised Larry has allowed his team to become so perimeter-focused. From: BSNDenver|
Ultimately, I think CU could live with their average volume at the arc, so long as the shots are contested. And, if those shots don't fall, and the Rams have to venture outside of their comfort zone, they will do so into the waiting arms of Josh Scott and Wes Gordon, who are swatting shots at a high clip without committing fouls. This wold negate CSU's lone saving grace -- the home whistle and getting to the free throw line. 25% of their total attempts have come from the charity stripe, which is surprisingly high, considering how little offensive activity they get off the edge. If they don't get those calls - it would help if Collier and Talton aren't in foul trouble here - then the Rams have nothing left but to take contested jumpers, something the Buffs would welcome.
|Clavell is legit, and the Buffs will struggle to keep him in check. From: the Collegian.|
Personnel wise, my biggest concern is Clavell. The 6-4 senior is a very smooth player, and an elite Mountain West performer. He's both the team's best scorer (21.3 points per) and a fantastic rebounder (8.6 per game from the wing). Colorado will struggle to keep Clavell in check, and a big game from the Puerto Rican could keep the Ft Collins crowd into it throughout. Elsewhere, Gillon is a really good point guard, and could be very difficult to guard without fouling (and hits 96% from the line), while Joe De Ciman, adds versatility and depth on the wing. Inside, I'm most concerned about 6-7 senior forward Tiel Daniels, who was, defensively, the driving force behind Josh Scott's poor performance in the CEC last December. The Buffs need to find a way to counter his defensive activity in the paint.
|Gotta keep Gillon off the line. From: the Coloradoan|
Tip-off from Moby Arena in Fort Collins is set for high noon tomorrow. I expect a large number of black-and-gold faithful to be in attendance, and an incredible atmosphere overall. If you haven't yet committed to making the drive (or bus ride) up to the Fort, let me assure you that a solid number of tickets are still available, and that the Buffs need you! For those not headed north, televised coverage can be found on ROOT Sports (hey, that's still a thing!), with the radio call on AM 760.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE RAMS!