After opening up the season with 3 games at Baxter Arena, the UNO Mavericks basketball team will take a nice little trip to the state of Colorado for a Sunday match up against the Buffaloes (and then Northern Colorado on November 25th).
This could be a fun trip if any UNO fans wanted to take an adventure to the neighboring state. Colorado is always a great time, unless you are one of those people who like to binge watch the crap out of a show like Vampire Diaries instead of getting out and living life. You got your great breakfast and lunch restaurants, some of the best breweries in the world, tremendous hikes with beautiful views, and if you were to also make this trip you could check out the Denver Nuggets take on the Clippers and Warriors. You can also hear stories from locals on you should try edibles, but also not try edibles because you could die doing something dumb.
The Mavericks built a bit of a reputation of being able to give bigger conference teams a little scare over the last two years, by being close in games but then losing in the final minutes when depth became an issue. The Mavs will not be afraid to go into Boulder and compete against the Buffaloes, but Colorado could be a little scary for a team that finished with a losing record in 2014-2015.
The Buffaloes lose their leading scorer, Askia Booker, a 6’2″ guard that averaged 17.2 pointes per game, and shot 39% from the field. With that in mind, Colorado had a Providence transfer sitting out last season. 6’5″ junior, Josh Fortune will look to make an immediate impact for the Buffaloes this season. Fortune averaged 8.4 points per game in his sophomore season at Providence, while also shooting 35% from long range. Fortune became a big piece for Providence, who won the Big East in his sophomore season. In the months of February and March, he averaged 11.4 per game after being inserted into the starting line up. Combine Fortune with what Colorado has for a front court, and you have yourself very tough piece of competition in front of you.
The Buffaloes will also see plenty of players in the post returning:
Josh Scott, 6’10” Sr: 14.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 54 FG%, 75 FT% in 2014-2015
Xavier Johnson, 6’7″ Sr: 10.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 45 FG%, 65 FT%, and 37 3pt% in 2014-2015
Wesley Gordon, 6’9″ Jr: 6.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 55 FG%, 67 FT%
Tre’Shaun Fletcher, 6’7″ 5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 45 FG%, 71 FT%, and 46 3pt%
While Colorado has a lot returning in the front court, the Buffaloes will not have much of their back court returning, so (I am guessing) the Mavericks will look to utilize the speed and shooting of Devin Patterson, Marcus Tyus, Tra-Deon Hollins, and JT Gibson as much as possible in this game. While depth has been an issue for the Mavs going up agains these bigger teams, the Mavs will have some added depth this season with so many players coming back and quality players being added to the roster.
Relying on Patterson and Tyus is not a terrible thing at all. In 4 career games against power conference teams, Devin Patterson has averaged 18.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg, and 2.0 spg while shooting 47% from the floor. In 8 games against power conference teams, Tyus has averaged 8.4 ppg and 3.3 rpg while shooting 53% from the field and 47% from three point range. So you have to feel comfortable with those two guys going against an experienced back court, right?
As the first road game and the first game against a big school, some of the Mavericks could have some jitters as this could be the biggest stage they have ever played on. Colorado ranked 49th in the nation last season in attendance with 9,135 fans per game. With that on your mind, Tre’Shawn Thurman had 12 points and 7 rebounds off of 6 of 7 shooting in his first big game his freshman season at Marquette. Marquette averaged 13,657 fans per game last season.
Also Colorado does not really have that much of a home advantage. If you ever frequent to Colorado, you will notice that not many people even really care about the Buffaloes (in anything). The area has many people that have migrated from somewhere else in the country, which is why downtown Denver is filled with alumni bars to go watch their teams play. The Giggling Grizzly is a Husker and a Michigan State bar, that can be weird on some days I am sure.
One advantage that Colorado has that people love to point out is the altitude. It can be difficult for teams who are not used to it to come in and play for a full 40 minutes, especially with the Colorado players so accustomed to the atmosphere. Actually, Colorado was 12-5 at home last season (if you include their CBI win) and 2 of those home losses were to Colorado State and Utah, who are both used to the altitude. The other three losses were to Oregon, Washington, and Arizona who are not bad teams at all. So maybe Colorado does have a geographical advantage here. So can the Mavs maintain their pace from last season in Boulder?
Colorado finished last season with an RPI of 118, with Fortune being inserted into the line up, and much of their returning core coming back, Colorado will be looking to improve on that RPI. Colorado had a trip to the CBI tournament where they lost to Seattle. I kind of wanted to put a question mark at the end of that sentence.
So how do we look here? Colorado is deep in the post, very deep actually. Aside from the players listed above, they also have Tory Miller on the roster. Miller is a 6’9″ sophomore who only averaged a shade under 9 minutes a game last season, but he is a Kansas City native who was offered by Creighton and Nebraska…so even the guy they are not using much has some upside. Much of this game will rely on how well Jake White and Tre’Shawn Thurman can compete with that post, but as I have said it a few times before, Devin Patterson is the Mavericks’ blood line. If Patterson can play well, the Mavericks will play well through him (did I sound real hippy-ish there). Do you need evidence for that?
Patterson vs. Marquette: 26/6/8 and the Mavs win.
Patterson vs. UMKC: 8/6/3 and the Mavs lose.
I know there are more to stats than that, and I wish there wasn’t more to stats than that, but I have seen Patterson tweet that he loves the big games and the big opponents. It seems like he loves these moments, and based tweets from Tre’Shawn Thurman since he was a senior in high school, I am pretty sure he loves these moments as well. Man, I feel like a creep now. When you have a senior leader bringing that energy and quality of play to the point guard position, you have a shot at getting another upset against the power team. Obviously, other Mavericks will need to step up in order to get a win against a team like Colorado on the road, but Patterson has the ability to raise their ability with his great passing.