|The return of Dom Collier is a welcome sight for the Buffs. From: USA Today|
All that said, this was far from a perfect effort. The Buffs committed 16 turnovers (most of them in the opening 10 minutes), allowed 15 offensive rebounds, and threatened to pull a 2015-16 late (i.e., cough up a solid lead). The rebounds are probably the most baffling. There's just no reason to play -5 on the glass to a team like AF, especially as they were missing a lot of shots. 15 offensive boards to a team that largely plays the Princeton is awful, and, combined with what we saw in Provo and against FHSU, is only worrying. Colorado survived this fault by playing quality defense (36% shooting allowed), and hitting their outside jumpers (42% from deep), but, as we've seen this season, when either of those categories slumps, the rest of the package isn't enough to earn wins.
|How did the Falcons get so many rebounds? From: USA Today|
The Eagles went and did a very neighborly thing this week -- they went on the road to Xavier on Tuesday night, giving me an opportunity to scout against a common opponent. The result didn't go well for EWU, either. After some fireworks early, they settled into steady suffocation at the hands of Xavier, eventually tapping out at the end of an 85-56 drubbing.
The big thing that really jumped off the screen for me is how much they rely on isolated dribble penetration in their offense. Not entirely sure if that's a key for head coach Jim Hayford every night, or just in this particular case against Xavier, but it didn't really strike me as an effective strategy, long term. Simply, EWU doesn't have the skilled dribblers to pull that off every night, and it'll lead to a number of turnovers as quality teams adjust. In fact, in this game the Musketeers quickly started bringing delayed traps to the dribbler at the top of the key -- sure enough, turnovers soon followed. Elsewhere, I noticed standard man-to-man defense, but one that got into a lot of trouble against hard cuts and quick passes; poor recovery overall. Coupled with the fact that the Eagles don't have a true rim protector or a major rebounding threat in the paint, and this is a team that can give up buckets of points.
|Xavier blitzed EWU on Tuesday. From: the Charlotte Observer|
Speaking of, Wiley had a strong game against Xavier, dropping 16/6/4/5. The 6-7 senior grad transfer was All-America at his NAIA school last winter, making his a story akin to Derrick White -- coming up from a lower level of play to run with the D-I bigs. He's averaging 14/8 so far for the Eagles, and really shines as an impact player on both ends. It'll be interesting to see how Wes Gordon matches up with him. 'Good' Wes should have no issue, but 'Bad' Wes could get burned.
Working with Wiley up front is Aussie swing-forward Felix Von Hofe. Hailing from Melbourne, he's more of an outside threat, as Alex looks to get up about 8 three point shots per game (40%). Colorado better be ready to defend him all the way to the arc, and hound him off open looks. Still, Von Hofe can be a liability on the other end of the court, and highlights a major vulnerability in this roster -- just one player is listed over 6-7. While there are no 'undersized' players, per se (no one listed under 6-3), they just don't have the bigs CU is used to playing.
|Bliznyuk is the Eagles' best. From: the AP|
Long story short, this is a team that CU can plot a path to a solid win against, if they come out with focus and intensity. The Buffs should be able to score as many as they want, while owning the glass, and taking advantage of the dribbler-focused offense of EWU. Assuming nothing gets stupid, I'm anticipating a big win to close out the non-conference campaign.
Tip-off from the CEC is set for 6:30pm MT Thursday night. Coverage for those not coming up to Boulder can be found on Pac-12 Networks, with the radio call on 850 AM.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE EAGLES!