Ralphie Report has it all if you are looking for information about Colorado Basketball, and all other sports for that matter. Parker Baruh, one of the authors from their excellent site, stopped over and answered some questions about the Buffaloes, and what we can expect to see from them on Thursday. I did some return answers for their site, and be sure to check back and see if I did Pitt justice. You can follow their site on Twitter, and keep up with their side of the story leading up to the game on Thursday.
Q - Once we saw the Colorado draw, we heard all over the place that they were without their best player, little it be known to many that Spencer Dinwiddie has been out since mid-January and this team has had time to adjust, what did Colorado lose in him, and how have they adjusted without him?
A - When Colorado lost Dinwiddie, they lost their best perimeter defender, leading scorer, facilitator and expectations for a deep NCAA Tournament run. But there have been some bright spots from the dreadful ACL injury. Xavier Talton, who was a decent bench player with Dinwiddie, was inserted into the starting lineup and has improved with each game he has played. He leads the team in three-point shooting at 38 percent and has become more willing to take contested jumpers while excelling on defense. Josh Scott, Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson have shouldered the scoring load, but the biggest adjustment has been made by Askia Booker. Booker, who was a good scorer but little else before Dinwiddie's injury, has unexpectedly become a great facilitator controlling the pace of the game. His assist rate is 26.1, according to KenPom, and in his sophomore and freshman years, it was 15.6 and 14.8 respectively.
Q -Nationally, Pitt is labeled as a defensive minded team, and that has basically stuck since the Ben Howland era. Is there a label that defines this Colorado team, and what brand of basketball does Colorado play?
A - Tad Boyle preaches defense and rebounding and his teams play man-to-man defense that focuses on racing to closeout to force players to penetrate. Although there are no standout overall defenders, most of the team can play strong one-on-one defense. On offense, Colorado likes to run as much as possible. When they get into their half-court sets, they try to feed the ball into Josh Scott in the post. When they fail to do that, Askia Booker will usually attack the paint and attempt to finish or draw the defense to find open shooters.
Q - Tad Boyle is leading Colorado to their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, what is the consensus from the fan base on Tad? Is he taking the program in the right direction, or does he have his critics?
A - It's impossible to find a Colorado fan that dislikes Tad Boyle. He is definitely taking the program in the right direction and aside from being snubbed in the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11, has made the field of 68 every year he has coached in Boulder, which wasn't the norm before he got here. Boyle has been a perfect hire.
Q - Colorado is 3-3 in March so far, how is this team trending in your opinion? Are they capable of making a run or are they limping to the finish line?
A - The Buffs are trending how they should be. They can beat teams with equal or inferior talent, but have trouble beating the elite teams. Without Dinwiddie, that's what the fan base hoped would happen and it has. But because of that, I don't see them capable of making a run. If they get by Pitt, their season will likely end against Florida.
Q - Josh Scott and Askia Booker are at the top of scoring list for Colorado, what kind of players are they? Also, who else is a keyplayer for this team?
A - Booker can hurt opponents in a variety of ways on offense. He excels from mid-range and can hit a variety of set or off-balance jumpers and stepbacks. Booker also likes to get out in transition and score in the open floor and has improved his finishing ability against big men tremendously as the season has progressed. Josh Scott is a back-to-the-basket scorer who can make jump hooks with both hands. If opponents dare him to shoot from mid-range, he will and is capable of making that shot. For most of the Pac-12 season, he drew double teams constantly. Xavier Johnson and Xavier Talton are both key secondary players for this team. If either of them scores double-digits, the Buffs tend to do well. They are 18-7 when Xavier Johnson scores 10 or more and 4-1 when Xavier Talton does.