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Colorado Game Preview & How to Watch

Washington starts off Pac-12 play tonight on the road in Boulder

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament First Round - Washington vs Colorado Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Friday, 12/29/23

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT

TV: ESPNU

Streaming: Espn.com/watch

Radio: Huskies Gameday App, Sports Radio KJR

Location: Boulder, Colorado

Betting Line: Washington Huskies +9

Colorado Buffaloes 2023-24 Statistics:

Record: 9-2

Points For per Game: 86.2 ppg (14th)

Points Against per Game: 69.0 ppg (103rd)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 116.0 (22nd)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 96.0 (35th)

Strength of Schedule: 277th

Colorado Key Players:

G- KJ Simpson, Jr. 6’2. 189: 19.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 57.7% FG, 48.9% 3pt, 90.4% FT

Last year Simpson put up huge numbers but did it while being wildly inefficient (28% on 134 3-point attempts). He has taken a leap in every way this season. He’s setting career highs in literally every single category this season and is off to a ridiculous shooting start from deep that seems unsustainable for someone who shot below 30% coming into the year. He’s #10 on KenPom’s Player of the Year award right now and is 12th in the country in offensive efficiency. UW will try to keep Koren Johnson on him as much as possible.

G- Julian Hammond, Jr. 6’2, 193: 9.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 54.2% FG, 45.9% 3pt, 75.0% FT

The other half of Colorado’s backcourt is also having a crazy good start to the season shooting the ball with career highs from both 2 and 3-point range. Hammond doesn’t get all that many shot attempts with this many mouths to feed but makes the most of them when he’s open. The offensive explosion may have been at the expense of his defense a bit as his steal rate is about 40% of normal so far.

F- J’Vonne Hadley, Sr. 6’6, 205: 10.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg, 56.9% FG, 0.0% 3pt, 77.8% FT

Hadley is listed as a 6’6 guard but he doesn’t shoot 3’s (1/12 for his career) so I’m calling him a forward. He’s a defensive specialist that can bruise his way to the basket and will likely take the Keion Brooks Jr. matchup where he should matchup well physically. He’s shooting 61% on 2’s this year with a career best 50% free throw rate.

F- Tristan da Silva, Sr. 6’9, 220: 15.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 53.6% FG, 38.8% 3pt, 83.7% FT

Last offseason da Silva explored the NBA draft but decided to return and is putting up almost identical numbers to last season. The one spot where he has vastly improved is as a playmaker where his assists per game have more than doubled. Just like everyone else on the team he has sky high efficiency totals and isn’t that far away from the vaunted 50/40/90 club. He also has a career high rebounding rate which has always been an issue since he has traditionally been more of a finesse player who doesn’t play like he’s 6’9.

C- Eddie Lampkin, Sr. 6’11, 265: 8.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 51.4% FG, 0.0% 3pt, 70.4% FT

Colorado did extremely well in the portal to add in Lampkin from TCU. He has been an absolute beast on the boards so far with top-100 marks in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. He’s certainly capable of posting up but isn’t an elite scorer like almost everyone else in the Colorado lineup. He’s a big dude and will be an interesting matchup against UW’s lankier, more athletic centers. The one thing he is not though is a shot blocker so he doesn’t offer rim protection.

The Outlook

Washington sure wasn’t dealt an easy hand by the conference schedule. The Mountain road trip of Colorado and Utah is almost certainly the hardest 2-game slate in the conference this year (unless you somehow get at Arizona back-to-back with it). Colorado was a trendy pick as a Pac-12 sleeper and that has mostly paid off. Their 2 losses were both away from home, one on the road by 5 to the same Colorado State team that beat UW and the other a surprising OT defeat to a middling Florida State squad. The 9-2 record is nice but there’s not a lot of meat there as Colorado has played the 320th ranked slate of defenses so far.

It’s reasonable to wonder how much Colorado’s own success has played into how bad all those defenses have been to this point. The absolute numbers are staggering. As a team Colorado shoots nearly 41% on 3-pointers (7th nationally), 58% on 2-pointers (16th nationally), and 79% on free throws (9th nationally). They’re the only team in the country to rank even top-30 nationally in all of those categories.

So far Colorado has managed that feat despite missing star freshman Cody Williams for the last 3 games (all 20+ point wins). The younger brother of Santa Clara and now OKC Thunder star Jalen Williams was a top-5 recruit and the top signee in Colorado history. He’s averaging 14 points per game on 62% shooting but it’s unclear if he’ll be able to return tonight after suffering a wrist injury earlier this month. If he does play and is 100% it only adds another major weapon for the Buffs.

Part of the reason that Colorado shoots so well from deep is that they don’t actually take that many shots from that range. They’re 320th in the country in 3-pointers taken per field goal attempt so they’ll wait for the perfect shot and otherwise are content to drive and get it inside. Six players on the team average 2+ assists per game so they love to pass the ball and no one is a ball stopper who plays a ton. Turnovers have been a bit of a problem but that’s to be expected when you pass it this much (averaging nearly 20 assists per game).

If there are any flaws in this team then they come on the defensive end. I mentioned in the player writeups above but starting center Eddie Lampkin is absolutely not a rim protector. No one the team is averaging more than a half block per game and four separate Huskies would be leading Colorado in block rate. Washington should be looking to drive the ball with their guards and get to the free throw line. Sahvir Wheeler should be able to penetrate for either scoop shot layups or drive and kicks against the Buffs.

One thing that Colorado does on that end though is protect the glass and the passing lanes. Opponents only get assists on 38% of baskets which is the 6th lowest mark in the country. Colorado’s size makes teams hesitant to pass and forces them into isolation matchups. UW has to find a way to keep moving the ball. The Buffs are also top-20 in both offensive and defensive rebounding so UW’s centers have to battle Lampkin for boards.

The Huskies were without Franck Kepnang in their last game after he tweaked his knee. Coach Hopkins made it sound like it was precautionary knowing there was an extra week to get healthy before this game. Washington better hope he is back and playing like he was before he got hurt because the way Braxton Meah has played this season means UW absolutely needs Kepnang to play 30 minutes.

A win to start off Pac-12 play in Boulder against Colorado would be a statement that the Huskies are a serious contender to challenge for 2nd place behind Arizona where there’s currently a bit of a logjam. That’s just a bit of a tall task though given how they played the last two games barely scraping by much weaker competition in Seattle.

Prediction

My record this year: 9-2 Straight Up, 3-7-1 Against the Spread

Washington Huskies- 81, Colorado Buffaloes- 91