Oregon at Colorado, February 4, 7 PM PST, ROOT-NW/ROOT-RM
After both the Ducks and the Buffaloes took care of business on Thursday night, they sit tied with California a game back of Washington in the Pac-12. And provided the Ducks can get to Boulder from Salt Lake City (their original flight on Friday morning was cancelled due to weather), we should be in for a good fight for Saturday evening. While Colorado has yet to lose a Pac-12 game in their Coors Event Center (aka, the Foam Dome), the Ducks have been the best road team in the conference thus far, winning four of their five tests away from Eugene. However, the combination of the travel problems that Oregon is experiencing and the 5300-foot elevation in Boulder combine to give Dana Altman and his crew a unique challenge. CU head coach Tad Boyle hasn’t shied away from giving some credit to the elevation for his team’s success at home, but whether it is physical or psychological, there is no doubt that a significant advantage exists for at home. The Buffaloes have won their six conference games at home by an average of 28 points, compared with a 1-3 record away from home and the three losses coming by an average of almost 15 points. At home, the Buffs have scored 1.12 points per possession and held conference opponents to a stingy 0.85 points per possession; those numbers get flipped on the road to just 0.93 points per offensive possession while allowing a more reasonable 1.01 points per defensive possession.
Altman’s crew, however, has been excellent on the road so far this season, handing losses to both Arizona schools, as well as Washington State and Utah. Altman credits his team’s maturity for their play away from home (the team is the 15th most experienced team in Division I, according to Ken Pomeroy) and Boyle sees their mental toughness as their biggest road asset as well. Another significant strength for the Ducks is their ability to not only get to the free throw line on a regular basis offensively, but also to prevent their opponents from getting to the line. The Ducks are in the top 50 nationally in FTA-to-FGA ratio, setting up an interesting conflict, as the Buffaloes rank 20th nationally in their offensive FTA-to-FGA ratio; in short, the Buffs want to attack the opposition and get to the line on a regular basis, while the Ducks want to play solid defense without fouling. Whichever team is most successful in getting to the line may earn an advantage in an otherwise remarkably even matchup.