The Kansas Jayhawks (6-1) travel to Boulder, Colorado on Saturday to face a familiar foe. The Colorado Buffaloes (8-1) were part of the Big 8 and the Big 12 until they left for the Pac-12 in 2011.
This game will be aired on ESPN2 at 2:15 p.m. CST.
The Buffaloes, who earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament last season, and finished 21-12, visited Allen Fieldhouse a year ago and took their lumps in a 90-54 thumping by the Jayhawks. Colorado, coached by former Jayhawk Tad Boyle, are certainly looking for a better outcome this time against a Kansas team that struggled in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament last week.
Perry Ellis leads Kansas in scoring, averaging 15.1 per contest, and freshman Andrew Wiggins averages 14.3 for the next highest point total. Freshman reserve center Joel Embiid leads the team with 7 boards a game from the bench , while Naadir Tharpe paces the team with 5 assists per game. Wiggins leads the team with 9 steals, and Embiid has the most blocked shots with 16.
Kansas is looking to improve on their play last week, in an arena where they have enjoyed a lot of success historically. The Jayhawks have beaten the Buffaloes 19 of the last 20 games they played in the Coors Event Center.
There will be a new face in the starting five against Colorado. Freshman Frank Mason is getting his second start of the season, and the first since the opening game. He gets the nod over junior Naadir Tharpe.
It isn’t as if Tharpe has played all that bad this season – he has 30 assists to just 12 turnovers – but Mason offers a dimension Tharpe does not. Mason is quicker with the ball in his hands, and he has shown the ability to get to the rim off dribble penetration, something Tharpe seldom accomplishes.
Mason also seems to be a better defender, although without as much understanding of the team defense concept as Tharpe has, because of the difference in experience.
With Mason at the helm, look for Kansas to be in a little bit more of an attack mode on offense. Look for them to run a little bit more, and to be more aggressive going toward the rim. Tharpe is a steady player but Mason is an exciting one. This is probably going to be a successful decision by Bill Self.
The Colorado Buffaloes are led in scoring by junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie who averages the same points per game this year as last – 15.3. He is followed on the scoring average list by sophomore forward Josh Scott (12.2), and junior guard Askia Booker (11.4).
Scott leads the team in rebounding with 8.7 per game, and Dinwiddie is the top assists man with 3.3 per outing. As a team, Colorado is averaging 77 points a game, just 3 behind Kansas.
The Buffaloes dropped their first game of the season, an 8-point loss to the Baylor Bears, but they have won each game since. They have scored over 90 points three times and under 70 three times.
There should be no worries about the Jayhawks running out of gas at the renown high altitude as they can go 12 deep. In fact, Kansas has 10 players that average 8 minutes or more per game, and another two that average more than 4 minutes a contest. Nine players average double figure minutes.
Colorado has 8 players that average double digit minutes and another at 9.8. Both coaches should be able to shuffle players in and out whenever necessary.
Although Kansas won 2 out of the three games they played in the Bahamas, they didn’t play particularly well in any of the the match ups. They are hoping to return to form against the Buffaloes. This Colorado match up is the start of an extremely rugged stretch of games leading into Big !2 play. After the Buffaloes, Kansas has Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown, Toledo, and San Diego State lined up over the next month.
The Jayhawks cannot afford a prolonged team slump, so they need to put last weekend behind them and get back to smart Kansas basketball starting Saturday in Colorado. The Buffs are a solid, improving program, so it will not be a cake walk.