On December 7th, on a cold snowy day, the Colorado Buffaloes defeated #6 Kansas 75-72. This Saturday, two weeks later, they will be tested again by facing the #7 team in the country with Oklahoma State (10-1). A win for the Buffs (10-1), who are currently ranked #20 in the country, would likely propel them into the top 15 and ahead of premier teams Kansas and Kentucky. And you know what? This is a very winnable game for Colorado. If Tad Boyle’s squad can continue its play outside the comfy combines of the Coors Event Center, then they will win. In fact they will win, that’s right I said it. Allow me to explain why through my keys to the game:
Neither team has home court advantage
This game takes place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which gives Colorado a geographical advantage. Generally when CU plays in a neutral site the majority of the fans who attend favor the opposing team. When normally it could be assumed that the crowd would resemble that of a Cowboys home game, one can expect a reasonable showing of Buff fans with the game this close to home. Albeit Colorado has improved on the road, they play noticeably better when the crowd is on their side. This game should feature a 50/50 split in fan attendance between the teams, and anyone from Boulder knows that the 50% representing CU will be loud and probably inebriated. Perfect.
Spencer Dinwiddie vs. Marcus Smart
This is an exciting matchup for two reasons. First, both will be first round picks if they choose to declare for the NBA draft after the season. Marcus Smart is a sure top 10 pick while Dinwiddie will likely be chosen towards the end of the first round. Second, they both play guard and will focus primarily on each other during the game. You know how analysts will say something like “a matchup between Dwight Howard and Chris Paul” or “these two pitchers will be facing each other” even though they never do during the game? These two will be glued to each other.
Both are terrific defenders and excellent on offense, too. Yet here is why Dinwiddie has the advantage: he is a better passer. Marcus Smart is a pure scorer, maybe the best in the country after Doug McDermott. Spencer Dinwiddie, on the other hand, will get his team involved on the offense along with being a proficient scorer. Both players can expect diminished individual offensive output since both are great defenders and will guard each other, but Colorado’s offense doesn’t rely on Dinwiddie as much as Oklahoma State’s offense relies on Marcus Smart. When the best player on both teams are locking each other down the game comes down to who can get the best out of their teammates, and in this case its Dinwiddie.
Frontcourt vs. Frontcourt
This is the area where the Buffaloes should have a significant advantage. Colorado’s frontcourt consists of Josh Scott, Wesley Gordon, and Xavier Johnson. Combined they average 30.0 ppg and 21.0 rpg. Oklahoma State’s frontcourt, meanwhile, deploys Brian Williams, Le’Bryan Nash, and Michael Cobbins. Together they average 28.3 ppg and 14.8 rpg. Both teams like to play small and controlling the boards will be a key factor for the victor. Who wins the rebounding battle will hinge on the play of Josh Scott–or as I like to call him, Tim Duncan 2.0. Scott spearheads the Colorado front court which is ranked 35th nationally in rebounding, and his height and beautiful, finesse post play will be difficult for the Cowboys to match up with. For Oklahoma State, the heart of the frontcourt is Le’Bryan Nash. Perhaps Nash is a better scorer than Josh Scott, but the Cowboys best rebounder is inconsistent on the boards and has a lower rebounding average than both Scott and Wesley Gordon. Consequently, Oklahoma State is only ranked 72nd nationally in rebounding. Do I sense a weakness in the #7 team?
The Argument for Oklahoma State
Guard play. Even an avid Buff’s fan as myself must concede that the combination of Marcus Smart (18 ppg) and Markel Brown (15.7 ppg) trumps CU’s frontcourt of Dinwiddie (15.5 ppg) and Askia Booker (11.5 ppg). Even if Spencer Dinwiddie keeps Marcus Smart in check, Brown’s play poses a major threat to the Buff’s quest for victory. If Markel Brown and Marcus Smart go off then Colorado will lose. The Buff’s rely on defense to keep games low scoring, something that Oklahoma–11th in the country in scoring at 87.2 ppg–will try to avoid.
Despite the backcourt advantage for Oklahoma State, Tad Boyle has proven that he can change defensive strategies mid game and be successful doing so, as proven by the Buff’s shutting down Kansas by switching to a zone–which they never played before in the season. Dinwiddie will always provide elite defense and if Colorado can stymie the Cowboys prolific frontcourt enough, then they will win, perhaps handily.
Prediction: Colorado 80, Oklahoma State 76
This is the perfect high profile game for Colorado. They matchup well with the Cowboys at almost every position and a victory–along with UNC’s loss to Texas–will push Colorado into the top 15. This is an opportunity they have to take advantage of.
Join the conversation on the game at http://movoli.com/event/7332/20-colorado-vs-7-oklahoma-state/12-21-2013