Throughout the preseason, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle fretted about his team's ability to play solid transition defense.
Due strictly to the more methodical pace of the Buffaloes' early opponents, the jury remains out on just how efficient CU will be in that department. However, despite winning three games in three days en route to the Paradise Jam tournament championship over the weekend, a different defensive shortcoming along the perimeter was exposed that the Buffs are seeking to shore up before another team off to an unexpectedly strong start, Air Force, visits the Coors Events Center Sunday.
"I think our perimeters have to get better in all aspects, not just defense," junior guard Namon Wright said. "We reached in on a couple guys on corner threes (at the Paradise Jam). But also we haven't shot the ball well at all. Our perimeters really have to step it up on both ends of the floor."
A glance at the team statistics through the Buffs' 5-0 start shows the team is limiting its opponents to a .295 mark — a solid total by any measure. However, much of that figure is skewered heavily by a 6-for-37 effort put together by Northern Colorado during the season opener. Take that game out of the equation, and the Buffs' past four opponents are connecting at a more discouraging .352 clip from 3-point range.
That defensive effort along the perimeter was even more suspect during the three wins in Virginia. The Buffs allowed 26 made 3-pointers overall, with their opponents posting a percentage of .361. CU didn't surrender fewer than eight in any game, and the Buffs also committed five fouls on 3-pointers, leading to 15 free throw attempts for the opposition.
"Mercer did a very good job (in the title game) with the slip screens on us," freshman guard McKinley Wright said. "That's something we've been working on and we've got to continue to get better at. We've also got to know if a man is beaten off the dribble. That determines how much we help or not. It's something we're getting better at. It's a work in progress."
Air Force enjoyed a couple of solid outings from long range in the season's first two games, going 17-for-41 (.415) on 3-pointers in wins against Texas State and Canisius. But the Falcons have cooled down in their past two games — a win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and AFA's first loss of the season Tuesday against Pacific — going 15-for-54 (.278) from long range.
"I thought our 3-point defense really took a step back," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We worked on it (Tuesday). Contesting shooters, understanding scouting reports — who are shooters, who are drivers, how do you close out on a shooter, how do you close out on a driver. It's all part of guarding the 3-point line. I don't think we did a very good job of it.
"We fouled five 3-point shooters in the tournament in three games. We shouldn't foul five 3-point shooters all season. We've got to get better at that. We'll continue to work on it. Sometimes you take things for granted as a coach until you're sitting there and you're like, 'You know what? We really haven't worked on that a lot.' We talked about it. We haven't worked on it. We came into the gym (Tuesday) and we worked on it. We'll work on it Friday and Saturday. We have got to guard the 3-point line better, especially as much as we're switching."