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NIT Basketball Tournament 2011: California Golden Bears vs. Colorado Buffaloes Preview

After taking down Ole Miss on Wednesday night, the California Golden Bears are probably going to be involved in a huge shootout in Boulder with the Colorado Buffaloes. Colorado is one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country, and it'd be hard to think Cal would be able to stop them from getting the looks they'd want Friday night.

Stats courtesy of Pomeroy: 10th best offense, 167th best defense, 76th fastest tempo. One of the best shooting teams in the country, both from three point land and three point land. They're a great ball-handling team that rarely turns over the ball. Pretty good on the offensive glass, decent at getting to the free throw line, excellent free throw shooting team.

Colorado's biggest weakness is their terrible shooting defense. They are one of the worst three point shooting defenses in the country, and they're not much better inside. They also don't force many turnovers, and aren't that great on the defensive boards. This is a team that generally has to outscore you to win basketball games. 

How does Cal matchup with them? Shooting-wise, pretty poorly. The most glaring problem is the three point line; Cal is one of the worst defenses while Colorado is one of the best offenses. Conversely, Colorado might not be great at defending the outside, but Cal isn't that great at shooting from distance either. Cal does have an advantage on two point shots. Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Brandon Smith will need to nail shots, and Crabbe and Jorge will need to make shots off the dribble and get inside to score.

With the four out, one in lineup that Colorado loves to run, we might see Cal go small and use only one big, putting in Jeff Powers or Emerson Murray on the floor to try and challenge Colorado's shooters outside. A thankless task to be sure.

There are a few things to like, most notably Cal's ability to get to the free throw line and get defensive rebounds, but with Markhuri Sanders-Frison out for the rest of the season, their ability to do both will be diminished.

Player evaluation
Alec Burks (6'6", 185 lb). Alpha dog. Decent shooter, although what really makes him dangerous is his excellent free throw shooting and offensive rebounding ability. This is probably Crabbe's assignment.

Cory Higgins (6'5", 190 lb). Second banana. Also good at getting to the free throw line and nailing shots from there.

Levi Knutson (6'4", 200 lb). Dead on three point shooter, one of the best shooters in the country. He's a sixth man, so Emerson Murray or Jeff Powers are probably responsible for him.

Marcus Relphorde (6'7", 200 lb), Andre Roberson (6'7", 195 lb), Austin Dufault (6'9", 230 lb): With Sanders-Frison, this is probably a decent enough matchup for Cal; without him, the Colorado bigs should have ample opportunites to grab offensive rebounds.

Lean: Colorado. The Buffaloes should use their superior shooting and the home court advantage to put an end to Cal's tumultuous season. If Cal is to win, they'll need to play man-to-man defense and force tough shots outside and risk being worn out by playing a physically stronger and more experienced squad.

For more coverage of the game, go to the California Golden Blogs (Cal) and Ralphie Report (Colorado) for more discussion and analysis.