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Recon: Colorado

Dayton takes on Colorado in the first game of the Chicago Legends doubleheader. Neither program is from Chicago nor legendary.

With three games remaining on UD’s non-conference schedule, the Flyers head into the last important matchup left before A10 play begins. Once again, Dayton is facing a Power 5 opponent on a neutral floor. I feel like we have been anticipating this weekend’s game against Colorado since the season began, let’s get into it.

Colorado fans had good reason to be optimistic coming into this season. The Buffs returned every player that started at least one game last season and, furthermore, the top six scorer’s from last year’s club were back for one more go. All-Pac 12 player McKinley Wright recovered fully from a torn labrum injury he sustained late last season, starting center Evan Battey completely recovered from a stroke he suffered in 2017 and center Dallas Walton returned after tearing his ACL to bits last season. CU had size, experience and depth coming into the year — accordingly, they were picked to finish a close second to Oregon in the Pac 12 during the preseason.

On our award-winning podcast this week, it was revealed that head coach Tad Boyle has been running the Buffs’ program for nine seasons. My visceral reaction was surprise, as I thought his tenure has been much shorter and not very successful. However, I was sorely mistaken.

Boyle, 55, is entering his ninth year with the Buffaloes and his 166 victories rank third all-time in program history. He owns five of Colorado’s nine all-time seasons of 20-plus wins. Boyle is the first CU coach to lead the Buffaloes to seven consecutive postseason appearances and the first to guide the program to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments. His record at the CU Events Center is stellar, leading the Buffaloes to a 113-22 mark at home (.837) over the last eight seasons. He is the first CU coach to win 20 games in each of his first four years.Wikipedia, the King of Sources

Tad Boyle performing with Tyler the Creator in 2017

So there you have it. While Colorado has not established itself as a basketball power under Boyle, the program certainly has been competitive. Boyle has led the Buffs to a total of 18 postseason wins and a 56.3% winning percentage — the best in CU basketball history. Keep cashing them checks, Tadrick.

After getting feedback from the NBA, both McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey return to lead the Buffaloes’ attack. The pair were named to the Pac 12 Preseason All-Conference Team which was a nice little moment for them. As I’m sure you heard on the podcast, Wright (11.3 ppg/5.1 rpg) is struggling shooting the ball this year, which means he is primed for a breakout game (perhaps against a spurned lover?). Tyler Bey (12.6 ppg/10.1 rpg) is probably the guy UD should worry about the most, he’s a 6’7″ wing that can play and guard multiple positions. While not a great perimeter shooter, he can step out and knock down shots and is a proficient shot-blocker on the defensive end. Colorado has a chubby guy, Evan Battey, and I can’t help but cheer for chubby guys.

A friend of mine who is a Colorado alumnus said to me that CU basketball “has the misfortune of being played after CU football,” where fans of the Buffs are used to being disappointed all fall and therefore are ready to check out on the Buffaloes on the hardwood after the slightest turbulence. KenPom currently (Thursday morning before their oddly scheduled game on Thursday night against Prairie View A&M) has Colorado ranked 43rd in the country, which is the highest the Buffaloes have been in those rankings over the past five seasons. Yet, a close victory over in-state rival Colorado State and an anemic offense so far this season has caused consternation among Colorado fans despite their 8-2 start to the season.

Peering over the Buffaloes’ offensive stats, it is fair to see where those concerns come from. Colorado seems to take lots of bad shots and turns the ball over at a high rate. Their effective field goal % is 47% this season, which is 255th in the nation. Their turnover rate is at an alarming 22.3%, which is 300th in the country. They have only made 43% of their two-point field goal attempts, which is good enough for 320th among D1 teams. Yikes. As we have mentioned in previous previews before, if you miss a lot of shots, you have a lot of opportunities to get the offensive rebound and that certainly seems the case for Colorado. The Buffs get 33% have an offensive rebound rate this season, 57th among all teams in the nation. They have shot the ball well from the perimeter, shooting 35.8% from deep but they only take 36.9% of their field goals from behind the three-point line. The Buffaloes also have a free throw rate of 41.5%, which is 23rd in the nation. If the Flyers can keep Colorado off the line, it could be tough for Colorado to keep up with the Flyers offense. If they can’t, Colorado could cause UD trouble.

While the Colorado offense has struggled this year so far, their defense has been what most of their success has come from. Their defensive metrics have been very impressive, with their 88.8 KenPom Defensive Efficiency ranking is 14th in the country. They have conceded a miserly 44.7% effective field goal rate, 46th among D1 teams. On defense, their opponents have a 24.6% turnover rate, which is 20th in the nation. Similar to the Flyers, teams are shooting a decent percentage of their three-point attempts at 35%, but the Buffs only allow three-point attempts for 32.1% of opponent’s field goal attempts which is 44th in the country.  Colorado will rely on this stout defense to try and limit the explosive Flyers’ offense.

McKinley Wright will be the player that Dayton fans are most familiar with on CU’s roster, but Tyler Bey is the best player for Colorado. Bey is a great two way player who has impressive metrics both on the offensive and defensive side. His efficient scoring is seen in his 54.5% effective field goal rate and 62.5% true shooting %. Though he doesn’t take a ton of threes, Bey has shot them well when he has with a 41.7% three-point %. He’s great at drawing contact when on offense, as he draws 7.7 fouls per game and a 106% free throw rate which are 7th and 1st in the country respectively. Just as effective on defense as he is on offense, Bey has a block rate of 6.6% and steal rate of 4.2%, both metrics among the top 100 players in the country. You assume Bey’s primary role will be to match up with Obi, which could lead to a really competitive match-up between each team’s best player.

Bey is the key cog to the Buffaloes, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the former UD commit McKinley Wright. It seems the point guard has seen a regression from his sophomore year to his junior year, with Wright losing at least 10% off his effective field goal and true shooting %. The Colorado junior still has an impressive 25.9% assist rate but he has struggled to score as effectively as he had previously in his career. Wright has tried to take most of his shots at the rim, shooting 43.8% of his field goal attempts there, but he is only scoring 0.78 points per possession on those shots. It’s a bit baffling that the mid-range jump shot has been a more efficient shot for McKinley Wright, scoring 0.83 points per possession on those so far. He hasn’t been an effective shooter from the perimeter either, only shooting 30.4% from deep, though that shot has netted him 0.91 points per possession so far. All of these numbers are dips compared to where they were last season. Could the Flyers play off Wright to help on Bey with the guard’s struggles shooting this year? It could be something we see from the Flyers on defense.

There will be plenty of LOWD coming to the United Center tomorrow night, of this I am certain. If you are going to the game make sure to stop by Malcolm X College starting at 3:00 pm for a pregame drinkup. The BR will be there, attempting to run a live podcast. Please feel free to interrupt and mock them.

As far as the game is concerned, I think Dayton wins a close one, 75-70. I smell an Obi Toppin special, 24 points and 8 rebounds. It will probably be a sloppy affair, given Colorados’ propensity to drag games into the mud. Regardless, LOWD wins the day and the Flyers rack up another key out-of-conference victory.

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