CU men's basketball preview: South Dakota State
MATCHUP: South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at Colorado Buffaloes (7-3).
GAME TIME: Friday, 6 p.m., Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network; Radio — 850 AM.
COACHES: South Dakota State — TJ Otzelberger, 2nd season (27-21 at SDSU and overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 8th season (156-98, 212-164 overall).
LEADERS: South Dakota State — Scoring: F Mike Daum, Jr., 20.0 ppg; Rebounding: Daum, 7.5 rpg; Assists: G Brandon Key, Jr., 4.1 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, Fr., 15.3 ppg; Rebounding: G/F George King, Sr., 9.0 rpg; Assists: Wright, 3.9 apg.
NOTES: Boyle invited former CU football coach Bill McCartney to speak to the team at the end of Thursday's practice...Reserve forward Alex Strating lost about 15 pounds due to the intestinal ailment that kept him off the team's trip to Xavier last weekend...South Dakota State won the Summit League tournament last year and reached the NCAA Tournament as a No. 16 seed. The Jackrabbits lost to Gonzaga in the first round...CU and South Dakota State have played just twice, with the Buffs winning both games. The last meeting was Feb. 14, 2005 in Boulder...The Buffs have gone 11-for-46 on 3-pointers the past two games...
The Colorado Buffaloes already knew South Dakota State forward Mike Daum was going to be a handful.
But then, as head coach Tad Boyle attempted to start turning the page from Tuesday's ugly loss against San Diego to Friday's nonconference home finale against South Dakota State, CU's leader put on game film of the Jackrabbits. The concerns regarding Daum instantly grew into full-blown migraines.
Perhaps no visiting player outside Arizona's Allonzo Trier and Deandre Ayton will bring as much individual talent to the Coors Events Center this season than Daum, whose squad tips off at 6 p.m. Friday against a Buffs squad trying to shake off losses in three of its past four games.
"I'm not an NBA scout. I'm not an NBA GM. But he's an NBA player from what I've seen," Boyle said. "Everybody I've talked to who's coached against him or played against him has said the same thing. He's got such feel for the game, such knowledge of the game. He's got great pace to himself. He can shoot the ball with range. And he's 6-10, so it's really hard to block his shot.
"He's a hell of a player. I don't know any other way to put it. I've got great respect for him."
Daum has averaged 20 points per game for the 9-4 Jackrabbits, topping the 20-point mark seven times. A 6-foot-10 junior forward, Daum has posted four double-doubles and is shooting .436 from the field.
However, against some of South Dakota State's more marquee opponents Daum has proven mortal. At the Cayman Islands Classic in a win against Iowa — a team CU faces next week in its nonconference finale — Daum went 4-for-11 and matched a season-low with 10 points. In loss to Wyoming at that same tournament also scored just 10 points with a 2-for-10 mark.
Then again, maybe Daum simply struggled adjusting to the Grand Caymans air. South Dakota State led a No. 6-ranked Wichita State team 50-42 at halftime on the road and Daum was critical in the upset bid, going 7-for-12 on 3-pointers and 6-for-6 at the free throw line in a 31-point, six-rebound performance.
"He's going to test our principles," said CU forward Dallas Walton, one of several players who will be tasked with slowing Daum. "It's not often that we go against a big that has a shot like him, that has movement like him. It's going to test our help defense. It's going to test our principles, making sure we're jumping to the ball with high hands on close-outs."
For the Buffs, Boyle admitted he hasn't seen the growth he had been hoping to see out of his young club in the three weeks since returning to Colorado as the champions of the Paradise Jam, where CU won three games in three days. With only two games remaining before the start of Pac-12 Conference play and final exams looming next week, the Buffs are eager to reverse that trend.
"My feeling is that we have not improved as much as I think we should have improved from Lynchburg to now," Boyle said. "Some of that might have to do with the level of competition. I don't know. It's probably a combination of both those things. Our improvement hasn't risen to the rate it needs to. Our competition has gotten better and it's going to continue to get better."