Games of the day for 1/11/21

It’s not a vast Monday of hoops. Nevertheless, I am fully committed to making a day of previews until the season ends as long as I’m alive. 

Colorado Buffaloes (8-2) Utah Utes (4-3)

Tad Boyle’s Buffs have been rumbling through the PAC-12 this year, winning in the newly appointed Boulder Arena (check out the MakingTheMadness podcast), over Oregon, on the road against USC. However, they did lose to UCLA in Westwood and in Tucson against Arizona. 

Look, Colorado isn’t going to make you jump out of your seat watching them, but just like the teams they play, McKinley Wright can lull you to sleep. The ability that Wright shows is absurd, the poise, the ability to pick lanes, and he will have Rylan Jones struggling to defend him in this one. You don’t have any stars outside of Wright, although you have three elite shooters with Jeriah Horne, Maddox Daniels, and D’Shawn Schwartz. Evan Battey is a tough matchup for Branden Carlson, a much more slender, less physical prominent than Battey is. Colorado’s free-throw shooting is a massive selling point for this team, shooting 85.6% from-the-line, third-best in the country. Only behind Colgate & Lafayette, who both have only played two games, so for all intents and purposes, Colorado is the top foul shooting team in the country. Computer numbers also love the Buffs. According to KenPom, Colorado ranks 19th. The main player to key in on for the Buffs is Alphonso Plummer, the sniper for Utah that can pull-up for anywhere with a lightning-quick release. Plummer can fill-it-up, and he leads Utah in scoring. Focus on Plummer if you’re Tad Boyle.

The Utes have been disappointing this season, Larry Krystowiak only lost Both Gach from last season, and the Utes are off to a poor start. The scoring issues are too prominent for Utah, Timmy Allen hasn’t lived up to his expectations, Rylan Jones doesn’t shoot the ball nearly enough, Riley Battin is struggling, there are just so many things not going right for the Utes in 2020-21. Both offenses play in a phlegmatic fashion, making this game, not the most electrifying game, but Colorado is a loaded team. Teddy Allen needs to revert to last year’s form. His numbers have dropped from 17 PPG to 14 PPG, Allen’s efficiency has subsided, Allen needs to play like to his talent level in this one. Don’t force shots. Let the game come to Allen, and it’ll come easier.

Keys to the game:

Utah needs to force the ball out of McKinley Wright’s hands. Make someone else run the offense, control the ball, and don’t let Wright beat you.

Colorado needs to continue playing their game. The Buffs play slow and play their style, don’t change anything.

Players to watch:

Colorado: Jeriah Horne

Utah: Timmy Allen

Prediction:

Colorado: 74

Utah: 64

UConn Huskies (5-1) DePaul Blue Demons (1-2)

UConn won their first game without James Bouknight, as he suffered an injury and is out indefinitely. The Huskies were able to defeat Butler on the road, on the back of Tyler Polley with 19 points, and the sharpshooter finally looks fully healthy after his ACL injury last season. Speaking of healthy, Glue-guy Akok Akok made his first appearance since tearing his Achilles against USF last season. Akok likely won’t significantly impact this game, but he can produce winning plays in a small spurt. Without the services of Bouknight, Dan Hurley opted to go small with an interesting lineup, that was R.J. Cole, Jalen Gaffney, Brendan Adams, Tyrese Martin, and Isaiah Whaley. With that lineup, you have four guards but no elite scoring threat like Bouknight. Without their star, they’ll need to play mistake-free and defensive Basketball. Tyrese Martin will be a key player in this contest due to his rebounding ability and capability of going off scoring-wise. We saw at Rhode Island that Martin could fill it up scoring-wise. Let’s see if, without Bouknight, if the scoring starts to come around for Martin. The three-point shooting besides Polley can be an issue; therefore, I think getting Gaffney going from three will be integral to getting the victory. These two squads play vastly different tempos, and if UConn is comfortable, the Huskies will play slow like usual.

The Blue Demons have been the laughing stock of the Big East for about two decades now. That continues in 2020-21 with DePaul being 1-3, althought there is some talent on the roster. Charlie Moore continues to be DePaul’s best player averaging 16.3/3.7/5.3. Moore will be a large piece for DePaul in this one if they want to finally win a game. Dave Leitao hits the transfer portal often, this time in the form of Javon Freeman-Liberty from Valpo, a two-way athletic player that plays far bigger than his 6’4 frame, a tremendous secondary scorer alongside Moore. Freshman Kobe Elvis could be the key here for DePaul. Elvis is a sharpshooter but has only shot the ball nine times from three in 2020-21. Get Elvis some looks from three. It’s a necessity for DePaul to limit their turnovers in this game. The Blue Demons turn the ball over far too much that can’t continue in this game.

Keys to the game:

R.J. Cole needs to be the go-to guy without Bouknight. Cole was tremendous at Howard for two seasons as the main guy, and now it’s time for him to be great for UConn.

DePaul needs to stop turning the ball over.

Players to watch:

UConn: R.J. Cole

DePaul Kobe Elvis

Prediction:

UConn: 74

DePaul: 65

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