Tuesday’s only Big 12 game features two teams coming off tough losses. The Kansas Jayhawks travel to Boulder, Colorado for the last time looking to rebound after losing their first game of the season. The Buffaloes are just trying to keep their heads above water, their 3-0 start in conference play quickly lost its luster after they lost both their games last week.
The long term implications of this game are simple. Colorado can prove that they aren’t a fluke, and that they can compete for a NCAA tourney birth with a win. Kansas just wants to get back on track, and not lose another game in the standings. They are still the favorites to win the conference title, and just need to avoid another letdown.
This one shouldn’t be that difficult for the Jayhawks. The key to beating Colorado is to pound them inside on offense, and keep Alec Burks out of the lane on defense. Kansas has always been more than capable defensively, though this season they aren’t quite as strong as they have been in the past. Their size on both ends should lead to plenty of points in the paint for the Morris twins, and a lack of them for Burks.
For Kansas, it’s all about the Morris twins. They will not face a player taller than 6-9 tonight, and should be able to score and rebound at will. Marcus Morris is the best post player in the conference, and Bill Self should be calling his number early and often tonight. The twins have to play well on defense too, because if they start fouling Alec Burks, this will be much more of a game than it should be.
Colorado will rely on Alec Burks as always, but tonight they really need their “bigs” to step up. Marcus Relphorde will probably get a lot of Morris duty tonight, and if he can help contain the Jayhawks inside game, that will go a long way. Same goes for Austin Dufault. If those two can play passable defense, and rebound well, this can become the perimeter oriented game Colorado wants it to be.
The outside match-up favors Colorado. Alec Burks is obviously the star, and Cory Higgins isn’t bad himself. Both rely on penetration to get to the foul line, rather than jump shots, so the Kansas guards will have to make them take jump shots. In the past, Kansas has tried to funnel opposing guards into the paint, but that is not a good strategy tonight. Allowing Burks and Higgins inside will just get them to the free throw line. It also sets up open shots for Levi Knutson, who is shooting almost 50% from the three point line this season.
I expect Kansas will win the game, their advantage inside is much greater than Colorado’s outside. As long as the Morris twins don’t get into foul trouble, both should have plenty of points tonight. If they let Colorado hand around though, anything could happen. Too many trips to the free throw line, and they next thing you know, Colorado has a five point lead with two minutes to go.
Kansas 85 Colorado 79