By: Quin Pezoldt
3:00 PM EST – CU Events Center, Boulder, CO – Pac12
Spread: Colorado -7.5
Stanford Cardinal (8-4, 4-2)
Stanford is coming off a rough 14-point loss against Utah at the Huntsmen Center making four total losses including against Oregon, North Carolina, and Indiana. That may only be .667 but the Cardinal has a pretty quality schedule and has wins over Alabama and Arizona. That being said they need to pick up a few wins in the next couple of weeks to build their tournament resume. Joe Lunardi has Stanford in the “Last Four In” bubble conversation.
Jerod Haase has a talent team in Northern California but it’s a very young back court in Michael O’Connell, Ziaire Williams, and Spencer Jones. Ziaire accounts for 20.5% of the team’s total turnovers and his assist/turnover ratio is less than 1. He and Jones have shot a little over half the team’s 3-point shots but only hit 33.9% of them so if they can’t pull the defense out with a few makes, their game is one dimensional. Stanford takes the second most near-proximity shots in the country because of that but they hit a decent 52.7%. They are just clumsy when they are on offense turning the ball over on nearly a quarter of their total possessions. Since they play inside on defense and offense, they are great at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line (top-20 per KenPom). However, they defend driving plays and the low post really well on the other side of the ball and are also top-20 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency with a focus on the inside. The Cardinal’s leading scorer Oscar da Silva (19.1 PPG 6.9 RPG 2.3 APG 62.7% FG) was quiet in their last game with only 11 points, 2 rebounds and 4 costly turnovers. They’ll need at least his usual 20 points and to be able to box out against their upcoming competition if they want to work their way into the bracket come March. Williams picks up double-digit points along with da Silva and Jaiden Delaire, who picks up 10 points and 5.3 boards per game. Daejon Davis was their sixth man in the game against Utah and is one of the most impactful players on the roster averaging 14.7 PPG 4.3 RPG 3.5 APG 1.7 STL so he’ll probably come back into the starting spot against the Buffs.
Colorado Buffaloes (10-3, 4-2)
The Buffs are rolling with a 3- game winning streak coming into this game after thumping Cal and Utah and taking a 7-point win over Oregon. Colorado plays a very protected and balanced game of basketball. They are ranked 14th in the nation by KenPom and are currently given a 6th seed by Joe Lunardi but if they keep it up, they’ll be ranked in the top-20 in the polls they can easily pick up a 3-seed.
McKinley Wright IV has been a force for this team that no team has really figured out yet. He’s extremely fast, always attacking the ball on defense, and scores/assists on nearly 40% of the team’s plays. He was able to record a 21-point 10-rebound double-double against a talented Oregon team and a 13-point 12-assist double-double against Cal in their most recent game. In his last game, he broke the CU all-time assists record previously held by Jay Humphries. Wright is a lock for the all-Pac12 team but D’Shawn Schwartz has been scoring really well in the last three games averaging 15 PPG. Schwartz put up an amazing game of basketball against Utah scoring 12 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in just one half. His percentages speak for themselves at 38.9% FG 44% 3pt and 81.3% FT. The team shoots almost 40% from deep and none of them are afraid to stay open in the corners for a dagger. Schwartz’s and Wright’s fellow senior, Jeriah Horne, is the second leading scorer for Colorado at 10.5 PPG 5.5 RPG and hasn’t missed a free throw yet on the season. The Buffaloes’ top-4 scorers and rebounders on the team are upperclassmen and have what it takes to win games and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make it to the Sweet Sixteen if they stay on track.
Analysis & Best Bet
Colorado is going to want to control the pace of the game like they’ve been known to do for the last few years and keep Stanford in their shooting woes. After the Buffs feel out the Cardinal, they will be raining in 3-point shots trying to draw out the defense to get better looks inside and actually steal an offensive rebound against this Stanford defense. I’m going to be on Colorado at home -7.5 because these teams have been trending in opposite directions with the Buffaloes for the better. Stanford’s bread and butter is their ability to get to the charity stripe but the Buffs have been solid at home this season and they have the highest free throw make percentage in the country so they might beat them at their own game. Colorado has covered their last three games against the spread.