By the numbers:
Colorado 2012-2013 record: 21-12 (NCAA Tournament) Injury Report- none.
Baylor 2012-2013 record: 23-14 (NIT Champions) Injury Report- none.
Colorado gets the 2013-2014 season started by facing a talented Baylor team in Dallas. Colorado defeated Baylor last year 60-58 in the Charleston Classic. Baylor returns three starters, but lost its most important player to graduation in point guard Pierre Jackson. Junior college transfer Kenny Chery will take over the point, and his task will be to feed contrasting big men Isaiah Austin (perimeter-oriented, made 30 3-pointers last year) and Cory Jefferson (highly athletic low post threat) and shooter Brady Heslip. Jefferson torched Colorado last year, scoring 17 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking three shots. He did all that while not missing a shot (7-7 from the field, 3-3 from the free throw line). Royce O'Neale, a transfer from Denver, was recently ruled eligible to compete this year, and he'll be another player to keep an eye on.
Here are Colorado's three keys to a victory over Baylor:
Contain Austin and Jefferson down low, Heslip from three Colorado's bigs are in for a challenge against Baylor's vaunted front-court. Austin and Jefferson are legitimate threats on the interior. Josh Scott is penciled in at center, and either Wesley Gordon or Dustin Thomas will be the power forward. If any of Colorado's bigs get in foul trouble, it could be a long night for the Buffaloes. In Colorado and Baylor's last two games against each other, Heslip has had a good game and a bad game. In 2011-2012 in the NCAA Tournament, Heslip lit up Colorado for 27 points and made 9 of 12 3-pointers. Last year, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie neutralized Heslip, holding him seven points in 28 minutes, and he shot 1 of 5 from three. Colorado will once again need to shut down Heslip from deep, or at least limit him.
Offensive balance is a must
Booker and Dinwiddie combined to score 30 of Colorado's 60 points in last year's victory. There will need to be more balance this time around. If Booker and Dinwiddie once again account for half of Colorado's points, it wont be a good sign. Scott needs to provide points in the paint to open things up for Booker and Dinwiddie to be effective. Thomas also needs to be a threat from three to space the floor well.
It will be Chery's first game starting for Baylor. The junior college transfer is taking over for Jackson. Colorado needs to take advantage of his inexperience at the most important position on the floor, point guard. Dinwiddie is exceptional at drawing fouls, he and Colorado need to take it to Chery early and often.