Night Line: Buffs a Dangerous Team, Although Roberson’s Uncertain Status a ConcernPosted by BHayes on March 8th, 2013
Bennet Hayes is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @HoopsTraveler on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.
Colorado has underachieved at times this year, but don’t look towards Thursday night for any further proof of that phenomenon. Even without Andre Roberson — their breathing, eating, walking double-double, the Buffaloes blasted the Pac-12 leading Oregon Ducks. The boys from Eugene will take their 23-point thrashing and now head to Utah, where focus for Dana Altman’s crew will shift to earning at least a share of the Pac-12 title. Back in Boulder much of the discussion will center around Roberson’s availability moving forward. Tad Boyle announced that a viral illness has the junior on the mend, with no official timetable set for his return. Roberson’s absence will surely have an impact – he is far too talented and effective for it not to. But if Thursday night taught us anything, it’s that these Buffaloes are more than capable enough to be a headache come Tournament time – with or without Roberson.
If the old cliché holds true and good guard play really does win in March, Tad Boyle has to feel pretty good about his odds this month. Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie may not be household names, but the duo makes up one of the best (and most underrated) backcourts in the country. Dinwiddie has seen his numbers rise across the board in his sophomore season, with his 15.2 ppg and 3.0 apg leading the team. He has struggled from the field of late –18-63 in his last five — but his ability to get to the line (and convert) has been a constant this season, as he has gone 39-43 from the stripe over that stretch. Same story for the dynamic lead guard tonight, with his 3-9 line from the field offset nicely by nine made free throws, seven rebounds, and six assists. His backcourt mate Booker is a more limited player, but the fellow sophomore chips in with over 12 points a game and is another capable ballhandler — a definite plus for a team with a relatively raw frontcourt.
If Roberson is out for any extended period of time, tonight will serve as a nice source of confidence for an undermanned team. Even without Roberson’s aggressiveness around the rim, Colorado managed to outrebound a good rebounding Oregon team (by four) and outscore the Ducks in the paint – two of the primary area of concerns for a Roberson-less version of the Buffs. Talented freshman Josh Scott helped out on the backboards with eight rebounds, while Xavier Johnson and his perfect line from the field (7-7) was a pleasant bonus. You don’t replace an All-League type talent with just one guy, so expect Tad Boyle to continue to look to Scott, Johnson and even sparingly used Shane Harris-Tunks to fill the void in the frontcourt.
Tonight’s win erased any doubt surrounding Colorado’s tournament worthiness; the only question that remains pertains to seed. Roberson’s availability will also play a role in that decision, but reasonable expectations should have Colorado sitting somewhere between a seven and a ten on Selection Sunday. A healthy Roberson might make this team a one or two seed’s nightmare in the third round (damn you First Four, this still does not sound right!), but there is plenty of talent here to cause issues either way. Perhaps most hopeful for Boyle is that his team has been winning recently in spite of Dinwiddie’s struggles shooting the ball; if the talented sophomore can put it all together at the right time, Colorado will have a real opportunity to better their third round exit of a year ago — and for a program that has made just three NCAA Tournament appearances since the 60’s, an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen would be oh so sweet.