Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Preview: Colorado at Kansas

Here's Colorado's defensive performances on the road in conference play this year: at Texas, 1.22 PPP (loss); at Missouri, 1.15 PPP (win, but with a defense even more generous than the Jayhawks' in their loss in Columbia); at Oklahoma St, 1.09 PPP (win, but Oklahoma State's third most efficient offensive game in conference play); at Iowa State, 1.22 PPP (loss); at Texas A&M, 0.95 PPP (loss); at Kansas St, 1.02 PPP (loss); at Nebraska, 1.28 PPP (loss). That's an average of 1.13 PPP allowed and a median of 1.15 PPP allowed.

No conference visitor to the Fieldhouse has scored more than 0.95 PPP this season. A Colorado victory tonight will depend on seriously atypical play from both teams. Only Iowa State has appeared more willing than Colorado to play at Kansas' pace in conference play, which should further help the Jayhawks cause.

Looking back to the first meeting in Boulder, Kansas (50.0 OR%, 77.5 DR%) outrebounded Colorado essentially to the same degree that Texas (54.5 OR%, 72.7 DR%) outrebounded Kansas in Austin. The Jayhawks won rather handily behind 18 points in 30 minutes from Christian Moody. Jeff Hawkins played poorly (0 points, 4 turnovers, and five fouls) in 25 minutes. Julian Wright played only eight minutes. Granted, this was back when Darnell Jackson was playing well. Downs, Vinson, and Case combined for as many minutes as Mario Chalmers: 17. In their minutes, Downs, Vinson, and Case combined for no points and four turnovers.

Hawkins, Vinson, and Moody are sure to play some minutes on Senior Night, and deservedly so, but Colorado will be facing a somewhat different team than defeated them in Boulder.

Colorado doesn't seem to have a similar argument to expect a better performance in he re-match. They shot a mere 44.7 eFG% in Boulder, but they did make 40.9% of their three-point attempts. They attempted slightly fewer threes than normal (38.6% of FGA versus a season average of 39.7% of FGA), so they can't realistically hope for better perimeter shooting tonight in Lawrence. The Buffalos can hope to better their two-point shooting (34.3% in Boulder) and free throw shooting (52.2% in Boulder), though it took LaMarcus Aldridge to get the Big 12 collectively making more than 40% of the two-point shots attempted against Kansas this year.

Kansas, on the other hand, can certainly expect to shoot better than the 46 eFG% they managed in Boulder. They'll need to as it's unlikely they can replicate the extreme rebounding advantage they secured in Boulder. Colorado allows conference opponents to shoot 48.3 eFG% and the Jayhawks shoot 52.7 eFG% on average. Specifically, Kansas made only 2 of 13 three-point attempts in their first meeting with Colorado. Though not a good three-point shooting team, I think it's safe to assume the Jayhawks will make more than 20% of their three-pointers tonight.

Even after the game in Austin, Kansas has the third most efficient offense and the stingiest defense in Big 12 play. Kansas is 18 points per 100 possessions better than their conference opponents. Colorado is only 2 points per 100 possessions better than their conference opponents.

The Texas game demonstrated how far the Jayhawks have to go to compete with an excellent team. There is no reason to believe the blowout loss impaired their ability to dispense with mediocre teams.

Prediction: Kansas 81 Colorado 67

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