Colorado vs Xavier Preview and Prediction
Colorado vs Xavier Preview
Xavier has been on a mission to start the season. Beat the teams that beat you last season–and they have been wildly successful.
Already this season, the No. 13 Musketeers have avenged losses from last season to Baylor and crosstown rival Cincinnati, and a loss at the buzzer in the NCAA Tournament to Wisconsin two years ago.
Next up: Colorado.
“We got Wisconsin already, we got Baylor already, we got Cincinnati already,” Xavier forward Sean O’Mara said. “They’re next on that list. We’re checking them off.”
The Musketeers (8-1) started last season 7-0 before losing at No. 9 Baylor. Four days later, the Buffaloes pulled off a surprising 68-66 victory over Xavier in Boulder. Coincidentally, Xavier also was ranked 13th at the time.
The difference this season: The Musketeers are at home.
Xavier has won 36 straight non-conference games at home dating to the 2012 season, and coach Chris Mack made sure this week that his players were aware of what has transpired around college basketball in recent days, with No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 5 Florida both being upset on their home courts to lesser opponents, and No. 2 Kansas losing to Washington in Kansas City, Mo.
“You can’t shield your guys from people asking about a letdown,” Mack said. “You watch a game like Ball State and Notre Dame and it really sends a message to our guys. I texted them (Tuesday night after the Irish loss) and said I didn’t want it to happen to us.”
Colorado (7-1) suffered its only loss at Colorado State last Saturday. The top scorers in last year’s win over Xavier are gone. McKinley Wright leads the Buffs with 15.6 points per game. He’s among three players in double-figures. Wright and George King, who scores 14.4 points per game, are their top 3-point threats.
Colorado outrebounds its opponents by 8.9 per game. The Buffaloes had a 58-30 rebounding advantage in Wednesday’s win over New Mexico, helping them overcome 23 turnovers.
“It certainly was not a thing of beauty,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told the Daily Camera. “We did what we had to do to get a win. The turnovers were something we knew coming into this game was going to be an issue. We talked about it, we practiced, we prepared for it, but we didn’t handle it real well.”
Key for Xavier
Xavier forces more than 11 turnovers per game, but also commits more than 12. If they can force more turnovers than they give up, they should easily win this game. That’s not the easiest thing to do however, as the Musketeers like to take chances on their passes, but it is something coach Chris Mack is working on…
“The only turnovers we made against Kent were being lazy with the ball, or too aggressive throwing passes that aren’t necessarily open,” Mack said.
Key for Colorado
The senior forward is the leader of this Buffs squad, but his play hasn’t translated. He is averaging career-highs in points (14.4) and rebounds (8.9) but the point totals specifically could be a lot higher. A more aggressive style of play from King will help take the pressure off of the younger guys in Tad Boyle’s rotation.
If the Buffs want to score another upset, George King will need to score more than 25 points tonight, something he has done twice this season (against Mercer and Air Force).
Ultimately, Xavier is more talented and out to revenge last year’s loss. The line is currently at -16.5 Xavier and I like the Buffs to make it closer than that throughout the game.
Xavier will win outright, but I’ll take the Buffs plus the points.
Xavier 82 Colorado 71