Breaking Down Colorado vs. BaylorPosted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2013
It’s New Year’s Day for college hoops fans. To help celebrate, Big Twelve correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of an interesting opening night game: Colorado vs. Baylor in Dallas.
Baylor will win if… It feeds its stars and contains Colorado’s secondary options. The Bears’ offense under Scott Drew has always been among the nation’s best, and this season should be no different. There may not be a big man in the country that can stretch a defense like Isaiah Austin can, and Cory Jefferson‘s 41-of-56 shooting mark during the NIT should put Colorado on notice. Throw in Brady Heslip‘s three-point prowess and the Buffs will have their hands full. Defensively, it’s hard to say whether Baylor’s guards can contain Spencer Dinwiddie. Heslip has never been known for his defense, Kenny Chery is the Bears’ newest undersized point guard who will be playing his first Division I game, as will heralded freshman tweener Ish Wainright. I’m not sure either of the three can be counted on to keep Tad Boyle‘s emerging star in check, so Baylor’s defensive gameplan should lean more heavily towards containing Colorado’s other options. If Austin, Royce O’Neale and Rico Gathers make Xavier Johnson think twice about driving and keep Josh Scott and redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon from getting easy looks in the paint, it probably won’t matter how well Dinwiddie plays.
Colorado will win if… Their veteran backcourt can make life miserable for a couple of Baylor perimeter guys – Chery and Wainright – who are making their Division I debuts. Between Dinwiddie and his junior backcourt mate Askia Booker, the pair of Colorado guards has been through a lot of battles. Dinwiddie has turned into a rock solid presence at the point, capable of creating for himself or finding his teammates in good position. Booker, however, has taken plenty of heat as a guy who is a bit too wild and a bit too in love with his own jumper. With more offensive weapons on this year’s squad, the hope is that Booker dials back his shot-hunting a bit and dials up his shooting percentages in turn. Either way, both of these guys are capable of causing plenty of trouble for young Bear ballhandlers like Chery and Wainright. In a big game right out of the gate where emotions are high, the calming presence of a pair of backcourt greybeards who have been through their fair share of battles may be enough to tip the scales in the Buffaloes favor. Oh, and not to pile on or anything, but in a battle of wits between Boyle and Drew, gimme Boyle.
Baylor will lose if… They underestimate Colorado’s bigs and don’t show enough interest on defense. Baylor’s D was their undoing last season, based on their pedestrian ability to turn opponents over (just 18.7% of the time) and disappointing passivity on the defensive glass (they allowed opponents to rebound 32.8% of their own misses). Those “extra” possessions added up and played a huge role in the outcome of games, as eight of their 14 losses in 2013 were by five points or less, so the Bears either need to improve defensively or put up enough points to mask their issues. Given that the offense can’t get much better than it already is, the first choice seems like the more realistic option. The addition of Wainright, who was lauded for his defense throughout high school, should help address Baylor’s shortcoming, but can he step in right away and lock Dinwidde and Johnson down? I think that’s asking too much. Down low, Scott may be a breakout candidate nationally, but Austin, Gathers and O’Neale need to take him just as seriously as they would an established frontcourt star. Baylor’s offense was one of the best units in the country last season and should be up there again, but if the Bears don’t show any improvement on the other end, it could be a long night in Dallas.
Colorado will lose if… They experience growing pains on the defensive end without last year’s catalyst Andre Roberson. There isn’t one Buffalo who can do all the things that Roberson did on the defensive end – he was a versatile defender, capable of guarding most spots on the floor and rebounding with the best in the nation – but if they work as a team they’ll be fine in the long haul. But it may take some time. And facing a potent Baylor offense with serious frontcourt weapons like Austin and Jefferson awaiting in their first time out, that Colorado defense will be tested immediately. And, given their relative lack of depth, size and experience up front – between Scott, Gordon and freshman Dustin Thomas is exactly one season of college experience – if the Bears can wear down the Colorado frontline through physicality and maybe a little foul trouble, Baylor could dominate up front. In particular, Austin’s ability to pull his man (likely Scott) away from the hoop could open up the middle for the wily senior Jefferson, who made all seven of his field goal attempts last year against Colorado, to take advantage of freshmen defenders. Colorado’s frontcourt will have to show some maturity beyond their years to battle Baylor’s frontcourt to at least a draw.