|Wes Gordon, yo! From: the Ralphie Report|
The key? A very Tad Boyle-like double-scoop of defense and rebounding. Lead by Wes Gordon, the Buffs were stifling on 'D,' holding State to under 30% shooting for the game, and controlled the glass throughout (+15 rebounding). In what was his best game to-date in a CU uniform, Gordon put up 12/14, with seven of those boards coming on the offensive end, and a startling six blocks. He ripped up OSU inside, leaving a team who lives on shots at the rim with essentially nothing to show for it. Oh, sure, Gary Payton II got his, going for an incredible 26/15/3/3, but the Buffs all but snuffed out the rest of the visiting Beavers, holding GPII's teammates to 24% shooting from the floor and only 28 points overall. In my preview I discussed how the son of the legend finally had some help this season, but Colorado all but erased that warning.
|Josh Scott was the offensive fuel in this one. From: the Post|
Attention now turns to a very important visit by the Oregon Ducks. The Pac-12 is a jumbled mess right now, and only USC seems to have this whole 'conference play' thing figured out. A win today would allow Colorado to keep pace with the tight upper echelon, as they head into a winnable road trip in the Pacific Northwest. With the frustrating loss to Utah the previous week, they can't afford many more slip ups on home hardwood, either, so best to just hold serve at the Keg and stay hot.
Hype Music for the Evening: "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones
Listen, I know all you locals and wannabes will be tuning into the Bronco game this afternoon. Go on, shoot your shot. To honor y'all, here's one of my favorite tracks from the Stones' canon. Enjoy!
Tip-off from the Coors Events Center is set for 5pm this afternoon. Once again, the Buffs get screwed because of NFL Playoff scheduling. I can't help but wondering, has CU ever looked into offering to trade time slots with anyone when, invariably, a Broncos game creates a conflict? Like, in this case, Pac-12 Networks has the Stanford/Oregon State women's game scheduled after UO/CU. Why not just swap those? Boom! A quick fix, and you get a bigger audience in Colorado. But, of course, corporate television schedules don't allow for creativity, so we're stuck with what we got.
For those still interested in seeing/listening to the Buffs today, you can catch the action on said Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 760AM. If you're still coming, and want to arrive early, the practice facility will be showing the Donkeys v Steelers -- that game should be ending around the end of CU's first half, so, theoretically, you could come, watch the action in the Boedecker Gym, and head on up to your seat when it's over. That's asking a lot, however, so I'm fully expecting to watch the game with just my fellow out-of-staters. We got this!
Click below for the bag...
When last we met -
After slipping past the Oregon State Beavers in in the first round of last season's Pac-12 Tournament, Colorado turned around to face a daunting quarterfinal challenge from the Ducks. As dubious as I was going in, however, CU managed to give them a hell of a game. The Buffs lead by as many as 11 in the first half, and were up by three at halftime. For much of those opening 20 minutes, they were not only playing with favored Oregon, but beating them soundly, holding UO to only 33% shooting from the field to largely keep one of the nation's best offenses silent. But, as would be expected, you can't keep a good team down for long, and, eventually, Oregon began to find traction against the porous CU defense. A wave of UO points in the second half, powered by a dose of full court press, proved to be too much, and the Buffs saw their season end to the tune of a 93-85 final.
|It was all too easy for Young and the Ducks in the second half. From: the Daily Emerald.|
There was to be some late hope, as Colorado managed to cut the deficit to only four in the waning minutes of action, but any dreams of the great Booker single-handedly leading a noble comeback to stave off the end of his career were short lived. He would get a little warm down the stretch, finishing with 12/5/5, but it wasn't enough. Ski's final attempt to spark the Buffs aside, at their best against Oregon, CU was going through Josh Scott. The Colorado Springs native was nigh unguardable, dropping 16 mostly-early points. He helped get elite rim protector Jordan Bell in foul trouble quickly, and was a terror in the paint. The Buffs struggled to get him the ball in the second half, however, and his post touches diminished, along with Colorado's chances.
|Dom Collier and the Buffs just didn;t do enough defensively to quite Oregon in the second half. From: CUBuffs.com|
Star Players -
Probably the most interesting thing about this Oregon team is that they are not wholly an invented concern. See, for years this was a flash-in-the-pan, high roster turnover program. Through the transfer process, you seemed to get introduced to an entirely new roster in Eugene every single year. Case in point, last season, after saying good bye to five graduating seniors, they also had to contend with the out-going transfers (and/or expulsions) of five other Ducks, while struggling with random discipline issues and the non-qualification of two of their biggest recruits. I described them as the Pac-12's hourly hotel, with players coming and going as they pleased. That they still ended up in the conference tournament final and the Dance itself was a minor miracle. This season, however, there are *gasp* familiar faces in Eugene. Five of their eight rotational players were in the various shades of green and yellow the Ducks trot out last season, with two of the other three true freshmen. For the moment, at least, there's continuity with Oregon, which makes me very confused.
|Brooks stands as the best in Eugene. From: CBS Local|
Fellow returners Elgin Cook, Dwayne Benjamin, Jordan Bell, and Casey Benson serve as excellent role players in support. Cook is the best offensive piece of this bunch, as the 6-9 power forward featured on the Pac-12's All Second Team last season. A starter of all 36 games a year ago, he's back providing solid 13/5 numbers this season, and is the veteran soul of the team. Benjamin and Bell are defensive dynamos. The 6-7 Benjamin is a tricky flex wing who brings athleticism and versatility off the bench; he's also a sneaky-good three point shooter who needs to be guarded out to the perimeter. The sophomore Bell is an elite rim protector, leading the Pac-12 in the category a year ago, and can alter shots just by being the area. He missed the first eight games of the year recovering from offseason foot surgery, but has been back since mid-December, and has made the Ducks a formidable defensive force again. Finally, the 6-3 Benson runs the ship as the primary point guard. He's scrappy, efficient, and quick with the ball, and rarely turns it over. None of these guys, outside of Cook and maybe Bell, would start for the other conference leaders, but damn it if they don't form an elite group at the heart of the Oregon attack. The product here is greater than the sum of the parts.
|Dorsey is an impressive offensive talent. From: USA Today|
But, no Oregon team would be complete without at least one incoming transfer, and that bill is filled quite ably by 6-10 center Chris Boucher. Another Canadian import, Boucher matriculated to Eugene from Northwest College in Wyoming, where he played well enough to get named the '14-'15 NJCAA D1 Player of the Year. Having seen him a few times this season, I can see why. He's a dynamic defensive paint presence, and even better at swatting shots than Bell is. A bean pole at only 190 lbs, he's incredibly efficient on both ends of the court, taking most of his shots at the rim on offense, and locking down the block defensively. All told, he's in the top-125 for both offensive and defensive rebounding rates, while featuring an unholy 14% block rate (3rd nationally) and posting a flat ridiculous 85.7 defensive rating. It's because of this that I tabbed him the most important Duck when writing up my Pac-12 preview for the AllBuffs Roundtable. The combination of Boucher and Bell inside is simply unfair, and I wonder at times how teams get anything inside against them.
|Boucher has erased a lot of shots this year. From: Daily Emerald|
The Ducks in 2015-16 -
The thing that jumps off the Ducks' Kenpom page is just how balanced they are. Top-30 offensively, top-35 defensively, Oregon excels at a number of areas, and can beat you in a number of different ways. There's a reason, after all, that they're 14-3 this season. Versatile, athletic, and strong defensively, they are a hard nut to crack for even the best teams. Of note, however, all three losses this season (to UNLV, Boise St, and Oregon St) were on the road. I would suspect the easy answer here is that they are very young (200th in experience), and not especially deep (295th in bench minutes). That doesn't make tonight's game easy, though, by any stretch; Oregon has proven that they can win tough road games. Take, for example, one from this past week. With Boucher and Bell there to lock down the paint, they dominated the Utes in SLC on Thursday, wiping them out before they ever had a chance to respond. Be wary.
|Oregon dominated Utah this past week. From: Oregon Live|
Their real strength, however, is on the defensive end. 3rd nationally in block rate, 15th in steal rate, they get more empty possessions out their opponents than pretty much anyone else, and, when teams do get through to the rim, they're 23rd nationally in defensive field goal percentage at the rim... just one spot below Colorado. I can't help but think of CU, and their undeniable penchant for sloppy-ass offensive execution, then look at all those long, active athletes ready and willing to take away the ball... this just doesn't bode well.
|Oregon is very active defensively, particularly around the rim. From: the SD Union Trib|
Fucking Dana Altman. His magical escape act from the brink of being shit-canned last season may have been impressive, and earned him the 2015 Pac-12 Coach of the Year award in the process, but it pissed me off. That was supposed to be the moment, with a series of rape, theft, and other arrests hanging over his program (not to mention his sleaze-ball attempts at a cover-up), that the basketball gods were to pounce. A quick 13-19 season, and he'd be gone, banished to some forgotten mid-major backwater, never to be heard from again. Instead, the Ducks took flight to a 26-10 record and a Round of 32 appearance. Just makes me want to spit.
|The Pac-12's teflon don continues, unabated. From: SBNation|
My record on the year: 4-0. Against the spread: 2-1-1. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -0.23 pt/gm)
Lines as of Saturday @ 12pm - CU +0.5, O/U 140
If you've been paying attention over the years, you'll note that Buffs have yet to lose to Oregon at the CEC. In that vein, I certainly think Colorado has the defensive capabilities to compete with a very strong UO squad this evening. My only questions are on the offensive end, and the main problem is Boucher and Bell. They are going to be able to use length, athleticism, and blocking ability to clog up the Buffs in the paint, while others like Brooks and Cook eliminate the inside-out flow that has served Colorado well this season. As the Buffs struggle to find joy on the offensive front, the Ducks will only continue to roll up the points on the other end, even against Colorado's stout defense. CU will quickly find themselves slipping behind, and, without a solid home crowd to make any impact, it will prove to be decisive. Give me Oregon, by a bunch. I want to go throw up now.
UO 73 - CU 60
GO BUFFS! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE DUCKS!