Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Preview: Kansas at Colorado

There is no doubt that this is a better-than-usual Colorado team. Richard Roby looks like the best Colorado player since Chauncey Billups spent his two years in Boulder. Senior starters Chris Copeland, Jayson Obazuaye, and Andy Osborn are all decent, experienced players. Perhaps the most important factor in the improvement is that Antoine McGee hardly plays any more (just 80 minutes in 12 games).

That being said, and their strong power ratings be damned, Colorado's best win this year is either 1) UNC-Wilmington, 2) vs. St. Mary's (CA) in Denver, or 3) at Penn. All three of those victories came prior to December 1 as did their best loss, a 1-point defeat at Colorado State. They're better, but I'm not convinced they're good.

Furthermore, don't be fooled by Colorado's gaudy 85.7 scoring average. Home games against Cal-Poly, UC-Irvine, Mercer, Savannah State, and Dartmouth inflate that number. Their season high against a respectable opponent is 82 in that loss to Colorado State. Colorado doesn't shoot well enough to score in the 80s against decent teams. They've won by attacking the offensive glass and limiting their turnovers. On the year, they've attempted 99 more shots than their opposition.

Colorado's defense improves slightly against better competition (though it's been aided by some miserable free throw shooting by Penn and St. Mary's). They've been able to force turnovers on 25% of their opponents' possessions consistently. Their field-goal defense has been more variable. Colorado State shot 65-percent in their win against the Buffs. After holding St. Mary's to 39- and Penn to 41-percent shooting, Colorado allowed both Cal-Poly and UC-Irvine to shoot over 60-percent from the floor. Back on the road at TCU, the Buffs held the Horned Frogs to 37-percent from the floor. I have no idea how those performances indicate what will happen tonight.

Moving on win tonight Colorado will have to either force a lot of turnovers and create easy chances for themselves or rebound enough of their own misses to limit the value of Kansas' excellent field goal defense.

Speaking of which, I present the following table to dispel the notion that the Jayhawks' defensive performances should be diminished because of their opposition.

OpponenteFG%vs. KUPPPvs. KU%Change
Idaho St50.
W. Illinois49.736.91.040.73-29.7
St. Joseph’s53.657.11.131.17+3.8
N. Colorado47.643.40.900.94+4.5
New Orleans47.241.80.960.80-16.7

Pepperdine, New Orleans, and Yale are bad offensive teams. Kansas didn't just hold them to their established level of ineptitude, they made them look worse. Kentucky's a mess right now, but nobody else is holding them to 46 points on 26% shooting.

Nevada and Northern Colorado were able to score enough at the free throw line to make up for the extra missed shots. Colorado probably won't do that. They're only making 19 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts on the season (they're even less productive at the line than are the Jayhawks). I expect a faster-paced version of the Cal game. The Jayhawks will turn the ball over too much and they'll give up too many offensive rebounds, but they'll force a lot of missed shots and take advantage of their opponent's indifferent defending to win fairly handily.

Prediction: Kansas 72 Colorado 64

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