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Pac-12 Tourney: Colorado Game Preview & How to Watch

The 8th seeded Dawgs take on the 9th seeded Buffs looking to complete a 3-game season sweep

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Wednesday, 3/8/23

Tip-Off Time: 12:00 pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks


Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies +4


Colorado Buffaloes 2022-23 Statistics:

Record: 16-15 (8-12)

Points For per Game: 69.9 (198th)

Points Against per Game: 66.3 (58th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 107.2 (139th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 94.1 (16th)

Strength of Schedule: 40th


Colorado’s Key Players:

G- Julian Hammond, So. 6’3, 181: 6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 37.2% FG, 30.9% 3pt, 82.1% FT

Hammond is coming off the best all-around outing of his career starting in place of KJ Simpson when he had 15 points with 5 assists and 5 steals in a win over Utah. He has been extremely turnover prone in general this season and had a down shooting year but may be heating up just in time for Colorado. He had a career high 18 points last game against UW while going 8/8 from the FT line.

Average vs. UW this year: 10.0 pts, 1.0 reb, 3.5 ast, 2.5 to

G- Nique Clifford, Sr. 6’6, 191: 6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 apg, 38.8% FG, 29.0% 3pt, 53.7% FT

It has been a rough offensive season for Clifford who in conference play is shooting below 35% from the field. He adds value on the defensive end of the floor though with an above average defensive rebounding rate and block rate for a wing player. He’s capable of defending just about any non-Braxton Meah player on the Husky roster.

Average vs. UW this year: 4.0 pts, 4.5 reb, 0.5 ast, 1.5 to, 2.0 stl

F-Luke O’Brien, Jr. 6’8, 213: 5.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 42.4% FG, 31.3% 3pt, 68.4% FT

O’Brien was inserted into the starting lineup 5 games ago and has scored at least 9 points in 8 of Colorado’s last 9 games despite averaging fewer than 6 per game over the entire season. After a slow start to the season he has shot 38% from deep in conference play and is 4th in the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding rate. It looks like Colorado has found something in O’Brien and he’ll be an interesting matchup against Keion Brooks Jr. on both ends of the court.

Average vs. UW this year: 1.0 pts, 1.5 reb, 1.5 ast, 0.5 stl

F- Tristan da Silva, Sr. 6’9, 217: 15.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 50.7% FG, 40.2% 3pt, 74.7% FT

Coming into the season it seemed like da Silva was an all-conference sleeper but he started out in a massive rut. That has turned around and he just made the 10-person 1st team today. After shooting 47% from 3-point range in Pac-12 play last year he’s hitting 41% of his 3’s in conference this season. With his length he can get off a jump shot at any time even against the UW zone.

Average vs. UW this year: 15.0 pts, 5.5 reb, 1.5 ast, 1.5 to, 1.5 stl

C- Lawson Lovering, So. 7’1, 225: 3.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 50.0% FG, 46.2% FT

If Lovering had broken out like Braxton Meah then the Buffs would be in competition for an NIT berth. The 7-footer is invisible on the offensive end and subsists almost exclusively on putback dunks. His defensive rebounding rate is 5th on the team despite being 4 inches taller than anyone else. This is a matchup Meah can abuse.

Average vs. UW this year: 4.5 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.5 to, 0.0 blk


The Outlook

Washington swept Colorado 2-0 this season, a feat they only managed otherwise against lowly 12th place California. However this is going to be a different look Buffs team than the Huskies are used to seeing. Leading scorer and primary guard KJ Simpson has mononucleosis and will miss the Pac-12 tournament. Likewise, starting forward J’Vonne Hadley (who had 15 points against UW in December) has missed the past 7 games due to injury.

That means we can expect to see a lot more of Julian Hammond and Luke O’Brien playing in their place. With Simpson out it means Hammond is the only player available on the Colorado roster with an assist rate above 13% (even assist-averse UW has 4 players above that mark). Overall, Colorado isn’t abysmal in the “assists per field goal made” stat but they’ve been concentrated almost entirely with KJ Simpson. With him out we’ll see if the ball movement is good enough to penetrate UW’s zone (that hasn’t been a problem for UW’s last 2 opponents).

Colorado has Tristan da Silva who is an elite shot maker but otherwise this isn’t a roster that scares you with their shot-making ability. On the season the Buffs are 306th nationally in 3-point percentage on offense, 230th on 2-point shots, and 281st in free throw percentage. If you only give them one look at the basket then they probably aren’t going to score. The problem is that Colorado is an above average offensive rebounding team which likely means they’re going to end up with 16+ extra boards to provide second and third chances.

The Colorado offense was actually worse than Washington’s during Pac-12 play but the defense is dramatically better. The Buffs trailed only UCLA in defensive efficiency throughout the conference season. They got to that mark by leading the conference in defensive rebounding and 3-point defense. Braxton Meah has averaged 13 points and 9.5 rebounds per game against Colorado and they’ll need him to dominate the matchup with C Lawson Lovering while staying out of foul trouble to have a shot at consistently scoring.

In Washington’s win at Colorado in January the Huskies got 38 combined minutes from Noah Williams and PJ Fuller. Each has missed 4 of the past 5 games which means the Huskies have had to rely entirely on their freshman backcourt of Keyon Menifield and Koren Johnson. They’ll need to adapt to the pressure of a “lose and you’re out” tournament setting which isn’t always a great bet for a true freshman.

Both teams are down multiple starters from the team they envisioned in the preseason and enter this game with identical 16-15 (8-12) records. The advanced stats though show that Colorado has been the better team all season despite the pair of head-to-head losses. The lack of defensive intensity we’ve seen the last 2 games has me worried about the way this Washington team is finishing and there’s nothing to suggest UW is about to make a miracle run.

This game is certainly winnable but I’m going to predict it’s one and done for the Dawgs and that they’ll drop to .500 to conclude the season (and it’s impossible to see any scenario better than two and done with #1 UCLA on deck should UW pull it out). That will give Jen Cohen plenty to think about in what proves to be a very consequential next few weeks for the future of the Husky basketball program.


Max’s Record this Year: 21-6 Straight Up, 16-10-1 Against The Spread

Washington Huskies- 64, Colorado Buffaloes- 71