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#20 Colorado State Game Preview & How to Watch

Washington returns to Vegas against a very tough CSU team

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BUFFALOES VS COLORADO STATE RAMS, NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Saturday, 12/2/23

Tip-Off Time: 4:00 pm PT

TV: CBS Sports Network

Streaming: https://www.cbssports.com/general/show/live/

Radio: Huskies Gameday App, Sports Radio KJR

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Betting Line: Washington Huskies +6

Colorado State Rams 2023-24 Statistics:

Record: 7-0

Points For per Game: 85.1 ppg (17th)

Points Against per Game: 68.6 ppg (110th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 117.5 (15th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 98.5 (59th)

Strength of Schedule: 102nd

Colorado State Key Players:

G- Isaiah Stevens, Sr. 6’0. 185: 17.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 8.3 apg, 56.8% FG, 50.0% 3pt, 84.6% FT

Stevens was one of the better point guards in the country in recent years but has taken his game up to another level in his 5th and final college season. So far he has matched last years’ scoring while averaging an extra 1.5 assists per game and the same number of turnovers. He has always been a good shooter (career 39% 3pt, 86% FT) but so far has made half of his 3-point attempts and nearly 60% of his 2’s. Sahvir Wheeler and Koren Johnson will have their hands not just full but overflowing while trying to slow down Stevens.

G- Josiah Strong, Sr. 6’4, 195: 7.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg, 46.7% FG, 18.2% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Strong missed most of last year due to injury after transferring in from Illinois State but now is starting for the Rams. He is a career 37% outside shooter who has made just 12 of 51 attempts for Colorado State. It’s reasonable to think he’s due but hopefully it doesn’t happen tonight. He has been fantastic taking advantage of Stevens’ passing though to make 74% of his 2-point shots, mostly on cuts to the basket.

G- Jalen Lake, Jr. 6’4, 190: 7.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 38.6% FG, 34.6% 3pt, 84.6% FT

So far in his career Lake has primarily been a long range gunner having taken about two-thirds of his shots from beyond the arc. He doesn’t put up a lot of stats beyond that but keeps the ball moving and doesn’t turn it over. He is though coming off a career high 16 points against Colorado.

F- Nique Clifford, Sr. 6’6, 191: 13.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 61.4% FG, 55.0% 3pt, 81.3% FT

Speaking of Colorado, the former Buffs starter moved across state and is off to a huge start with his new team. Clifford had previous career highs of 6.7 pts and 4.6 reb while at Colorado but has increased each of those by 50-100% so far. Right now he’s 17th in the country with a 71% effective field goal percentage after a career high of 51.9% as a sophomore. At some point his shooting is going to cool off but he’s a very good rebounder and a defensive stalwart. Expect him to get the Keion Brooks Jr. assignment and be effective at it.

F- Joel Scott, Sr. 6’7, 225: 14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 55.7% FG, 25.0% 3pt, 66.7% FT

The Rams love their undersized centers and they’ve finally found a replacement for David Roddy after he headed to the NBA. Scott was a D-II national player of the year last year averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds each of the last two seasons at that level. So far he hasn’t found his 3-point stroke but has been a beast scoring in the paint and a menace on defense. If there’s a flaw in his game it’s that he’s a very poor offensive rebounder which should make the Huskies feel good about that at least.

The Outlook

Washington got a brief respite from what has turned into an extremely challenging non-conference slate when they easily pulled away from UC San Diego in the second half on Tuesday night. Things go back into hard mode now. Washington will be playing their 3rd Mountain West contender in the span of 5 games and are hoping to avoid a winless record against the trio (losses to #48 Nevada, #18 SDSU).

Coming into the season it looked like Colorado State would be a nice neutral court test but the Rams have been dominant in the early-going to move up from 74th preseason an KenPom up to 27th through 7 games. The offense has been sensational led by the steady hand of PG Isaiah Stevens. He currently leads the country in assists while maintaining nearly a 4-to-1 A/TO ratio and shooting 50% from the 3-point line.

Unsurprisingly, CSU’s offensive numbers are off the charts with Stevens at the helm. They rank 3rd in the country in effective field goal percentage including 5th on 2-point shots and 18th on 3-point shots. The Rams are 8th in the country in percentage of their shots that are assisted so they move the ball beautifully and almost never resort to isolation basketball. They’ve scored at least 81 points in every game this year except against #16 Creighton. And they still won that game by 21 because their defensive held Creighton to just 48 points.

If there’s one weak spot to the Colorado State offense, it’s offensive rebounding. The Buffs are 359th nationally in offensive rebounding rate as their philosophy is to give up on the possession after a miss and get set on defense. That will be an interesting contrast to the Huskies who despite moving to a man-to-man structure continue to be abysmal at preventing second chances. The Dawgs are hoping to get out on transition but expect CSU to sacrifice a few extra possessions towards shutting down UW’s fast break attack.

The defense was stellar against Creighton but is merely good outside of that. Teams haven’t been able to score at the 3-point line against the Rams and Creighton was 6/29 (21%) from outside in that game and still shoot 39% for the season. Given that Washington isn’t exactly known for being lights out from deep, it seems like their best bet is to consistently pound the ball inside and hope to get CSU into foul trouble with their size advantage at the center position.

The Rams play a 6’7 center (who is very good) and no one in their rotation is taller than 6’8. We’ll see if Washington can dominate the paint with Kepnang and Meah and if it will be enough to negate CSU’s advantage playing a 5-out style on the other end.

As you can see below, I’ve been abysmal when picking UW against the spread this season. Maybe it’s a good sign then that I don’t see the Dawgs getting it done against Colorado State. Washington did okay without Paul Mulcahy against UCSD but if he isn’t back for this game with his finger injury then it’s a major problem as his defensive contributions are needed against CSU’s fleet of wings.

Prediction

My record this year: 5-1 Straight Up, 1-5 Against the Spread

Washington Huskies- 74, Colorado State Rams- 83