Is It Time for Colorado Fans to Panic?Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 12th, 2013
Prior to the start of the season, Colorado was considered one of maybe three teams in the Pac-12 that was expected to be in the chase to pressure Arizona for a Pac-12 title. Now here we are, four days and two games into the season and the Buffaloes so far have looked, well, not good. Against Baylor on Friday night, they combined to miss 19 of their 21 three-point attempts, they showed no ability to slow a very good Baylor offense, and they crashed back to earth in an ugly 12-point defeat. Sunday night, against a bad UT-Martin team, the Buffs wound up eventually running out to a 26-point win, but along the way, didn’t look a whole lot better. So, after a small two-game sample, should Colorado basketball fans start to panic?
Well, we’re not going to go that far, but, we have spotted three areas for concern in those first three games:
Where’s the Defense? Colorado isn’t missing many players from last season, but in terms of impact, losing Andre Roberson a year early to the NBA is huge. On the very, very short list of best defenders in the conference last season, he was not only capable of locking up his own man defensively, but of offering help defense to his teammates and grabbing what seemed like every rebound. Against Baylor, the Buffs did a fair job of rebounding, but there were plenty of times where they wound up way out of place on defense and allowed good looks, both in the paint and behind the arc. These issues continued against a far less potent UT-Martin team, especially in the first half. For now, let’s just agree to call this year’s defense a work in progress, at least during the period of adjustment, because there are plenty of reasons why Colorado has a chance to become a terrific defensive team. One thing this team does not lack is athletic depth. And, as they’ve already shown, outside of maybe the center spot, this is a team that can switch on everything. Wesley Gordon has already shown his ability to defend effectively on the perimeter, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker are a proven defensive backcourt. And those youngsters — guys like Tre’Shaun Fletcher and George King and Jaron Hopkins? These guys need to dial up their consistency of effort, but there is a lot of defensive upside here. The Buffs will be fine defensively.
Size and Rebounding? Against a Baylor team with future NBA players up front, the Buffaloes held their own, fighting the Bears to a draw on the glass with Gordon and Josh Scott combining for 11 defensive boards and eight offensive rebounds between them. The problem is that, beyond those two guys, there isn’t much size on this team. Freshman Dustin Thomas looks like he’ll need some time before he is truly able to bang with the big boys down low, so Colorado is going to need to rely on guys like Dinwiddie and their parade of 6’5”-ish wings to help out on the glass, especially if and when one of those big guys gets in foul trouble or, god forbid, gets hurt. The good news is that the strength of most of the Pac-12 conference is in the backcourt, so there aren’t going to be too many teams that are capable of taking advantage of this weakness on the roster (although teams like Arizona could hurt Colorado with its size). The flip side of all this is that with all those athletic mid-sized wings, Colorado could eventually create some mismatches of its own on the perimeter, especially if this team starts to play a more up-tempo style to fit its roster.
Askia Booker? Even before the season began, Booker was getting plenty of heat for his reputation as a guy with a love for jacking up shots, and, yeah, he has more than earned that reputation. Last year, on a team with probably three (maybe even four) other players who project to have NBA futures, Booker shot more than 100 more field goal attempts than the next closest guy. And he did so by shooting just 39.5 percent from two and 31.2 percent from three along the way. Thus far this season, he again leads the team in jacks, having already pumped up 22 shots including six from deep. He’s missed all six of his threes and made just seven of his twos. He’s still a fixture in the starting lineup and his defensive ability is certainly an asset, but with many other talented players looking for minutes on the wing, will we see his minutes drop? Last year only Dinwiddie played a higher percentage of the team’s minutes, but after getting 37 minutes against Baylor, Booker was only on the court for 18 in the Buffs’ next game. If Booker’s shot selection (not to mention his shot-making) doesn’t improve, with so many other options, we should expect to see his role decrease.