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LJWorld.com weblogs Five-minute Scout

Tad Boyle's offensive freedom a blessing and curse for Colorado

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Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, front, looks to pass the ball as Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier covers in the second half of Colorado's 70-61 victor in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012.

Colorado guard Spencer Dinwiddie, front, looks to pass the ball as Colorado State guard Wes Eikmeier covers in the second half of Colorado's 70-61 victor in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012.

Team: Colorado
Record: 7-1
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 56

3 Strengths

Getting to the free throw line: The Buffaloes are averaging 29 free throws per game and also have the fourth-best free throw rate (a statistic used to measure how frequently a team gets to the line compared to its field goal attempts) in the country. CU has three players over 6 foot 5 that all have free throw rates in the nation's top 250, which means the Jayhawks' defense will be tested on dribble drives Saturday.

Three-point shooting: After making 34.6 percent of its threes a year ago, Colorado has made 41.2 percent of its treys this year (11th nationally). Sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie has been a big reason for this, as he's made an impressive 19 of 35 threes (54.3 percent) so far this season.

Blocked shots: With its length at the 2 and 3 positions, Colorado is the rare team that that blocks more of its opponents two-point jumpers (10 percent) than layups (9 percent). CU has three players in the nation's top 400 in block percentage, including Dinwiddie, Andre Robertson and Xavier Johnson. The Buffs have blocked 11.8 percent of opponents' twos so far this year (75th nationally).

3 Weaknesses

Forcing turnovers: Much like Oregon State, Colorado plays an extremely passive brand of defense. The Buffaloes force turnovers on just 17.7 percent of opponents' possessions (297th nationally) and come away with steals on just 8.8 percent of those possessions (250th nationally). This has traditionally been a weakness of coach Tad Boyle's teams at CU, as in his three years, the Buffaloes have never been above the NCAA average at forcing turnovers.

Three-point defense: Colorado allows opponents to shoot way too many threes, as 42.8 percent of the opposition's field goal attempts this year have been three-pointers (ninth-highest split nationally). Teams facing CU have scored 37.8 percent of their points from the three-point line (seventh-highest split nationally) even while shooting a slightly below-average mark from beyond the arc (32.5 percent).

Bench: Non-starters have played just 25.1 percent of Colorado's minutes, which ranks 293rd nationally (31.1 percent is average). The Buffaloes have done a good job of avoiding fouls this year, which has helped them keep their best players to remain on the floor. Still in a game at Allen Fieldhouse, Boyle might be a little scared to go deep on his bench with foul trouble when the top six guys all average more than 19 minutes per game and no one else averages more than 12.

3 Players to Watch

• Talent-wise, six-foot-7 forward Andre Roberson (No. 21) is Colorado's best player. Projected by some sites as a late first-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Roberson has shown himself to be a complete player defensively because of his athleticism. He was second in the nation last year in defensive rebounding percentage (I bet you know who was first) and ranks in the top 25 in the same stat this year. He also ranks 114th in steal percentage, 205th in block percentage and 270th in offensive rebounding percentage.

Offensively, he's best at getting to the free throw line, though he's made just 20 of 39 shots there this year (51.3 percent). KU should be just fine if it can force him into jumpshots, as he's made 78 percent of his layups so far but just 14 percent of his two-point jumpers.

• Six-foot-5 guard Spencer Dinwiddie (No. 25) has easily been CU's best player offensively this year (though surprisingly, he's only fourth on the team in shot percentage). As mentioned above, he's a great three-point shooter (54 percent), but even more than that, he puts pressure on a defense by driving and forcing whistles. He has posted the fifth-best free throw rate in the country, as he's actually shot more free throws this year (74) than field goals (66) ... something that doesn't happen often. He's a good free throw shooter (74 percent) and draws more than seven fouls per 40 minutes, making him a potentially tough matchup for KU's perimeter defenders.

• According to RSCIhoops.com's rankings, 6-foot-10 freshman Josh Scott (No. 40) is the top-ranked recruit to go to Colorado since David Harrison in 2001. The forward has produced like a highly ranked player offensively, getting to the free throw line often (106th in free throw rate) while making 77 percent of his shots there. Scott also is the least turnover-prone CU player, as he has just 10 giveaways in 226 minutes. Though not a great defensive rebounder yet, Scott has given the Buffaloes a nice boost on the offensive boards (223rd nationally).

Prediction

Boyle is known as a coach that gives his players a lot of freedom offensively. Statistically, this appears to give Colorado one distinct advantage and one distinct disadvantage.

The good news for Boyle is that the Buffaloes' players aggressiveness has resulted in opposing fouls and free throws, which is a good way to get reliable scoring.

The bad news is, his team has settled for way too many two-point jumpers (this does not include layups). According to Hoop-Math.com, 41 percent of CU's shots this year have been two-point jumpers, well above the NCAA average of 33 percent. And that's not a good thing, as the Buffs have made just 30 percent of those shots (NCAA average is 35 percent).

With that in mind, it looks like there will be three keys for KU: 1. Force CU into a becoming jump-shooting team from two-point range; 2. Keep turnovers down against a team that doesn't force many giveaways; 3. Avoid an ice-cold shooting night from three, as CU should allow open jumpers from the perimeter.

Though KU's perimeter defense makes this matchup a little scary, I don't see this is a game that will come down to the final minutes, especially if KU knocks down some threes.

Kansas 78, Colorado 62

Hawk to Rock

This just feels like a big game for Elijah Johnson. KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said Friday on 810 WHB that the KU senior was regaining some of his spring this week while recovering from a nagging knee injury. Roberts also said that Johnson had one of his best practices of the year this week and that KU coach Bill Self was pleased with what he saw. Look for Johnson to heed Self's words and try to create more for himself offensively. The threes should be there, and with a more aggressive mind-set, this seems like a game where he'll match or top his season high of 18 points.

Predictions tally
7-0 record, 80 points off (11.4 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Average: 4.4th in KUsports.com ratings

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