It is a quirk of the 2019-20 season that the Colorado Buffaloes do not have a single freshman on the active roster, though Keeshawn Barthelemy is waiting in the wings as he goes through a redshirt season.
Still, there are plenty of rookies worth the price of admission in the Pac-12 Conference this year, though three of them — the Arizona trio of Nico Mannion, Zeke Nnaji, and Josh Green — do not make a trip to Boulder this season.
Among the remainder of the league’s freshmen not named Isaiah Stewart or Onyeka Okongwu, two of the best will visit the CU Events Center Saturday afternoon. Stanford features a pair of freshmen in Spencer Jones and point guard Tyrell Terry that helped spark the Cardinal’s 15-2 start to the season, though Stanford arrives at CU with four losses in its past five games.
Jones owns a 3-point percentage of .416, though that figure has dipped slightly to .389 in Pac-12 play. Terry has averaged a team-best 15.2 points in his first nine Pac-12 games, and also is averaging 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
“They’re both really, really good players,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Spencer Jones has had a little bit tougher time in league play. As you get this deep into the season, people scout. We know what our game plan is against him, and we know what other people’s game plan has been against him. Tyrell Terry is a guy, man, he’s a poised, confident, play-making point guard. As good a freshman point guard as I’ve seen in this league since McKinley (Wright). He’s a really, really good player.”
Stanford junior Oscar da Silva is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, and he presents a matchup problem for the 24th-ranked Buffs. Da Silva averages 16.4 points per game, and his field goal percentage of .602 ranks fourth in the Pac-12. While da Silva is a potent scorer inside, he also is more than capable of knocking down jumpers.
“Da Silva is a really key matchup, because he can play inside and score inside, but he can also shoot threes and he can put the ball on the floor really, really well for a big man,” Boyle said. “He’s a five-man. I’m not saying he’s Obi Toppin (from Dayton), but Obi Toppin is the same kind of guy. He can shoot three, can put the ball on the floor, can score on the block. Da Silva is a lot the same way, but he plays the five a lot of times.”
Expect Tyler Bey to get the first shot at containing da Silva, who went 8-for-13 with 21 points and seven rebounds in the teams’ only meeting last year, a 75-62 home win for Stanford.
Turnovers were a glaring issue for CU during nonconference play, as the Buffs averaged 15.1 during their 13 nonconference games.
It has been a different story so far in Pac-12 play, as the 10 turnovers CU committed during Thursday’s win against Cal lowered its turnover average in 10 league games to 11.7. CU enjoyed just two games with 10 or fewer turnovers in 13 nonconference games but has hit that mark four times in 10 Pac-12 games.
“I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we take care of the ball,” CU senior guard Shane Gatling said. “When we’re not getting stops, we’re still scoring as well. It’s not like they’re scoring, and then we’re not scoring, which causes blowouts like Kansas and stuff like that. If they’re scoring, we’re scoring as well. When we’re getting stops, that’s when we really want to score so we can expand the lead.”
Stanford might be without a key player on Saturday in sophomore guard Bryce Wills, who suffered what appeared to be a significant lower leg injury in the second half of the Cardinal’s overtime loss Thursday at Utah. Wills has started all 22 games for Stanford, averaging 6.4 points and 4.3 rebounds…A win on Saturday would be the 19th of the season for CU and invoke an additional $30,000 bonus for Boyle. CU’s 10th-year head coach already has pocketed $30,000 for win No. 15 and another $20,000 for win No. 17…The Buffs enter Saturday’s action across the nation at No. 18 in the NET rankings and No. 20 at KenPom.com.