Some scorers are much more efficient than others for the Buffaloes.
Colorado has an interesting team. They don't shoot particularly well, but the get to the free throw line a lot, where they don't shoot a high percentage. They're a good rebounding team, both defensively and offensively, which gives them more opportunities to score. After looking at the Colorado team report from Ken Pomeroy (behind a pay wall), here are a few keys for the Illini to get a win against the Buffaloes.
1. Send the right guys to the free-throw line. As mentioned, Colorado isn't a great free-throw shooting team, just 68.4% as a team, which ranks #208 in NCAA Division One. But, they have one guy who gets there a lot, and shoots a high percentage. That's 6'5" sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie, who has attempted 236 free throws this season, where he shoots 82.6%. In fact, Dinwiddies free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of 77.0% is the 19th highest in D1 this season. Two guys the Illini wouldn't mind sending to the line are 6'7" junior Andre Roberson and 6'6" freshman Xavier Johnson. Both shoot just 55% from the line, which in Roberson's case is only slightly better than he shoots 2 pt field goals, and for Johnson is actually slightly worse than his 2 pt field goal percentage.
2. Apply constant ball pressure. As I mentioned earlier this week, Colorado is a team that doesn't fare particularly well in the turnover battle. In particular, Roberson and Johnson both struggle with turnovers, with individual turnover percentages above 21% (anything above 20% is a red flag). Also, all five bench players who have seen significant playing time this season (Chen, Adams, Harris-Turks, Talton and Stalzer) have turnover percentages of 21% or higher. Illinois must take advantage of the Buffaloes' shoddy ball-handling skills and get some points off of those turnovers, as Colorado is a very good half-court defensive team.
3. Make Askia Booker be the primary scorer. Booker is a talented guard who shoots a lot, probably too much for coach Tad Boyle's liking. When he's on the floor, he takes nearly 30% of his team's shots, but shoots less than 40% from the floor. He also leads the Buffs in three-point attempts with 147, but shoots just under 31% from behind the line. Booker's personal offensive efficiency rating is just 93.0 (100.0 is average). Contrast that with Spencer Dinwiddie's offensive efficiency of 116.5, which leads the team. Dinwiddie's proficiency at the free-throw line comes into play here, as does his much better field goal percentage (48% on 2 pt, 35% from 3 pt). The Illini must limit Dinwiddie's scoring opportunities and force Booker to be the Buffs' primary scorer.
4. Be competitive on the boards. Colorado isn't as proficient as Minnesota on the glass, but they are very good, ranking in the top third of D1 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Illinois has actually been a pretty good offensive rebounding this team this season, but has struggled at times on the defensive end. Roberson and 6'10" freshman Josh Scott are both very good on the offensive glass, and the Illini must try to limit their second-chance opportunities.
5. Good decisions from Tracy Abrams. Tracy has come a long way from where he was a season ago, but as we saw in the Big Ten Tournament, his decision-making can still be suspect at times. On the plus side, he leads the Illini in assist rate (assists/FG made while he's on the court) at 24.8%. On the down side, he also leads Illinois in turnover rate at 22.6%, the only Illini player over 20%. Abrams also has the lowest offensive efficiency of the Illini regulars at 96.3, largely because of those turnovers. Colorado doesn't force a lot of turnovers, so Tracy must avoid unforced errors and try to get his teammates good looks, while not forcing difficult shots. That's not asking much, right?
Those are just a few things to keep an eye on during today's game. Then, we can talk about it afterward during the Fastener's Etc. Postgame show on WDWS and Lite Rock 97.5. Thanks for reading.
[photo courtesy Durango Herald]