We had four college basketball games on Thursday’s betting board. We have five today. The best game on the card is an in-state rivalry tilt in the Rocky Mountain State between Colorado and Colorado State. The Buffaloes are favored by 5.5 over the Rams with a total as high as 140. It appears that oddsmakers got caught a little bit by this line, as the side has moved from 4.5 to 5.5 and the total has gone up from 137.5.
It makes a lot of sense that this line moved. In a lot of ways, Colorado has been the better team. The Buffaloes rank 47th per Bart Torvik and the Rams rank 140th. Colorado has a top-20 adjusted defensive efficiency and Colorado State is outside the top 200. The question in this game is whether or not Colorado can continue to be deadly from distance because the Buffaloes have had major issues scoring points two at a time. They’ve been good at scoring them in ones and threes, but deuces have been an issue.
Colorado State has actually shot the ball well from 2 and 3 and has gotten to the line a ton, but a lot of poor defensive efforts have held Niko Medved’s team back. Medved, who has been a rapid riser up the coaching ranks, is in his second season with the Rams. He started his coaching career in 2014 with Furman and spent four years with the Paladins. After a one-year stop at Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference, he took the job in Fort Collins.
The Rams only won 12 games last season, but were effective on the offensive end. They had an Effective Field Goal Percentage that ranked 33rd nationally and were 21st in 2P%. Unfortunately, they were 297th in 2P% defense and 286th in eFG% on defense. That looks to be the case again this season, as Colorado State is a pretty efficient offensive squad, but cannot play much defense.
There are higher expectations in Boulder this season for Tad Boyle’s team. The Pac-12 was a laughingstock last season, but it looks like the middle of the conference will be better this season, Colorado included. Boyle has been in Boulder since 2011 and has four NCAA Tournament appearances, but none since 2016. This could be the year, especially if the Buffaloes can keep playing strong defense and improve upon last season’s offensive profile. The Buffaloes won 23 games last season, which tied for the most of any Boyle team.
Colorado needs a big effort tonight. Not only is this a rivalry game, but a post-Kansas hangover led to a tough home loss against Northern Iowa. The Panthers are a really solid program and have a good team again this season, but Colorado couldn’t let that game slip away and did, as UNI canned 14 three-pointers on 26 attempts. It was the first time Colorado allowed more than eight made threes in a game this season. Colorado State doesn’t take a lot of threes, but ranks 85th at 35.6% in terms of making them.
UNI’s shooting performance led to Colorado’s worst defensive performance of the season with 1.195 points per possession allowed, but the Panthers were only 13-of-32 from inside the arc. Colorado also struggled on the defensive boards for the second straight game. Fortunately, Colorado State is close to the bottom 50 in offensive rebounding.
Colorado’s stunning contrast inside the arc really stands out. The Buffaloes are only allowing opponents to make 41.2% of their two-point shots, but the Buffaloes are only making 43.8% of their own. Three-point shooting and extra bites at the apple have saved the team. Colorado is 51st in ORB% and also 26th in free throw rate, though games against Sacramento State and Loyola Marymount skew that rate a little bit.
This is a pretty classic handicap. Colorado has a bad offense and a good defense and Colorado State has a good offense and a bad defense. Which one wins out? Can Colorado State senior Nico Carvacho start cashing in on free throw chances? He’s 44-of-83 from the stripe, leaving a lot of points out there for his team. Other than Carvacho, the Rams are pretty young, including sophomore Adam Thistlewood and freshman Isaiah Stevens, who already leads the team in percentage of minutes played.
Colorado has a much more established team, led by juniors Tyler Bey, McKinley Wright IV, and D’Shawn Schwartz, but the youngsters have been more consistent than the upperclassmen when comparing these two teams, at least on offense.
Both teams have played pretty decent schedules thus far, as Colorado has only played one really awful opponent and a lot of above average teams. Colorado State has had a few more weaker foes, but also took New Mexico State to overtime and eked out neutral-site wins over Loyola Chicago and Washington State.
The line move on Colorado makes sense here, as the expectation would be that defense wins out over offense with a more experienced team. But I’m going to take Colorado State here +5.5. Wait this one out as the line is likely to go even higher, but Colorado State has done well on the defensive glass this season and Colorado should have more one-and-dones than they are used to here.
Pick: Colorado State +5.5 (wait and try to get 6 or 6.5, as the line is moving up)