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Game day notes: Dramatic dip in turnover rate fueling CU Buffs’ attack

NCAA finalizes tourney dates

BOULDER, CO - Dec. 16, 2020: ...
Led by more efficient play from point guard McKinley Wright IV, Colorado has dramatically reduced its turnover rate so far this season. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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SEATTLE — Defense has often been a staple, and certainly a point of emphasis, throughout coach Tad Boyle’s 11 seasons leading the Colorado Buffaloes.

Offense hasn’t exactly been an afterthought, but CU’s production often has ebbed and flowed over the past decade. The biggest culprit that has kept the Buffs’ offensive efficiency from matching their defensive efficiency has been an above-par turnover rate. But that has not been the case so far this season.

At 11-3, the Buffs have just passed the halfway point of the 27-game regular season heading into their Wednesday night Pac-12 Conference contest at Washington (7 p.m. MT, ESPN2). And so far they are setting a pace for a Boyle-era low in turnovers.

Obviously that improvement begins with senior point guard McKinley Wright IV. Wright entered the season with a career assist-to-turnover rate of 1.68, and posted his best single-season mark back in his freshman year (1.86). Wright goes into the game at Washington boasting a career-best assist-to-turnover rate of 3.0.

Wright, though, hasn’t been the only CU player doing a better job at limiting their turnovers. Guards Maddox Daniels and Eli Parquet are playing significantly more minutes this season, but both players have dramatically improved their rate of turnovers per minute.

Last year, the Buffs posted just four single-digit turnover performances in 32 games. They already have five in 14 games this season. In Boyle’s previous 10 seasons, CU averaged fewer than 13 turnovers just twice, recording 12.1 per game when Derrick White ran the offense during the 2016-17 season, and posting a Boyle-era low of 11.7 during his first season in 2010-11. This year’s Buffs are on pace to break that mark, averaging 11.1 going into the Washington game.

“I would say that’s one of the biggest differences between this year’s team and last year’s team,” Boyle said. “I think our offensive efficiency is better. I think it shows up in the numbers at KenPom and things like that. When you don’t turn the ball over as much, you’re more efficient offensively. You’re going to shoot what you shoot from the field. The balls that go in are going to go in. The balls that are not going to go in, aren’t going to go in. But if you can just get a few more shots on goal every game, and certain games instead of 18 (turnovers) you’ve got nine, that’s nine extra shots you’re getting.”

Rematch

Although the Buffs routed Washington in a nonconference game last month in Las Vegas, Boyle has reiterated to his club that several Huskies players are performing at a much higher level than they were a month ago.

Reserve guard Marcus Tsohonis is coming off a 4-for-6 outing in UW’s near-upset at UCLA last weekend. Hameir Wright has struggled this season with his outside touch, but he went 3-for-5 on 3-pointers against the Bruins. And junior guard Erik Stevenson has emerged as a force for UW since that loss against the Buffs, going 13-for-23 (.565) on 3-pointers over the past three games. Stevenson went 0-for-2 in just 7 minutes off the bench against CU last month.

“They’ve got guys playing a lot better now than they were against us,” Boyle said. “Stevenson is one. He’s been really shooting the ball well here over that last four or five games if you look at his numbers. They’ve got some guys who can put it in the basket. (Riley) Sorn gave us problems in Vegas with his size and he’s playing better. They’ve got good players that we’ve got to be dialed-in to and have a great defensive game plan. And like always when you play against Washington, you’ve got to be able to handle that zone.”

NCAA dates

The NCAA on Tuesday announced the tentative schedule for this year’s NCAA Tournament, which will be held in its entirety in Indiana. The First Four games will be played on Thursday, March 18, with the first round games to follow on March 19 and 20. The second round will be held March 21-22, with the Sweet 16 to follow the next week on March 27-28. The Elite Eight will be played March29-30, with the Final Four national semifinals set for April 3. The title game will follow April 5.

Notable

Former CU Buffs star Tyler Bey, a second-round pick in the NBA draft in November and a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks, scored his first career point on Sunday against Chicago by going 1-for-2 at the free throw line. Through Tuesday, Bey had played five minutes over three games so far this season…In seven career games against UW, Buffs senior D’Shawn Schwartz has gone 13-for-29 on 3-pointers (.448). Schwartz needs one more 3-pointer to match Levi Knutson and Donnie Boyce for 10th all-time at CU…Next up for Wright on CU’s all-time rebounding list is current Buffs radio analyst Scott Wilke. Wright ranks 26th with 568 rebounds and needs eight more to match Wilke for 25th…The Buffs began Wednesday ranked ninth in the NET and 15th at KenPom.com.