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Game 13: at Colorado (8-5)

The last test before conference play begins is a trip to Boulder to play Colorado.  The Buffaloes have shown significant improvement over last year, however their 8-5 record is somewhat misleading.  Of Colorado's 8 wins, 2 are against non-Division 1 opponents and none of their wins would be considered noteworthy.  But, they have been surprisingly competitive against in some of their big games, losing games they should've won to Gonzaga and Arizona in Maui.  Jeff Bzdelik is in his 3rd year at the helm in Boulder and is looking to duplicate the success he had at Air Force.  Coach Bzdelik is slowly putting the pieces in to be competitive in the Big 12, but for now he's forced to rely on an inexperienced group of players, of which only 1 of his top 9 is a senior.

Starters

Dwight Thorne II, 6'3" 185 Sr.  8 pts, 2 reb.  48% FG, 43% 3PFG, 93% FT

Cory Higgins, 6'5" 190 Jr.  19 pts, 4 reb, 3 ass.  50% FG, 41% 3PFG, 87% FT

Alec Burks, 6'6" 185 Fr.  16 pts, 5 reb.  55% FG, 27% 3PFG, 79% FT

Marcus Relphorde, 6'7" 220 Jr.  9 pts, 3 reb.  36% FG, 31% 3PFG, 78% FT

Austin Dufault, 6'9" 230 So.  8 pts, 4 reb.  52% FG, 37% 3PFG, 64% FT

Off the Bench

Nate Tomlinson, 6'3" 185 So.  7 pts, 4 ass.  53% FG, 48% 3PFG, 77% FT

Keegan Hornbuckle, 6'7" 205 Fr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  44% FG, 50% 3PFG, 50% FT

Casey Crawford, 6'9" 245 Jr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  37% FG, 39% 3PFG, 70% FT

Shane Harris-Tunks, 6'11" 225 Fr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  83% FG, 50% FT

I didn't get to watch a lot of Colorado and most of what I was able to watch featured Colorado playing a matchup zone defense and against a zone defense.  At Air Force, Coach Bzdelik liked to spread the floor, let his guards have the freedom and space to make plays with forwards who could step out and make outside shots.  This Colorado team is definitely guard-oriented with Higgins and Burks, who clearly are Colorado's 2 best players.  Higgins has it all, a quick 1st step, pullup mid-range game and deep range.  He's smart with the ball and is always under control.  Burks is more of a slasher who's looking to get to the basket.  He displays good body control and gets to the foul line frequently.  Thorne and Tomlinson like to push the ball and are good shooters for lead guards.  Relphorde has the potential to be a very good player.  Colorado's bigs are clear weaknesses.  They're slow to respond defensively and they don't play very big.  The Buffs don't rebound well at either end, relying on jump shots offensively and are vulnerable to 2nd chance points defensively.  When they handle the ball, as they do in Bzdelik's offense to help out the guards, that is when you have to force them away from the basket and make Colorado run their offense 35 feet away.

Which Miami team is going to show up?  We should be ready to play since we haven't seen action since Dec. 23rd.  But are we going to be interested or thinking ahead to conference play?  On the ball defense will be vital so we don't have to help and recover.  Colorado wants to move the ball and find the open shooter because all of their perimeter players can shoot the ball.  If they don't have an open shot, they'll gladly make the extra pass (15 assists/game) or drive and get to the foul line where they are 1st nationally in foul shooting at 79%.  Defensively, Colorado does a good job of putting pressure on the ball and forcing turnovers (16).  So we have to take care of the ball, get good shots, and go after offensive rebounds though we have to be careful because of Colorado's ability to finish in transition.  Colorado is 7-0 at home, but haven't been tested at home yet.  And will they be looking ahead to a road trip to Kansas this weekend?  This game could come down to who's the more focused team.

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