Preview: Quinnipiac men’s basketball faces Colorado in Paradise Jam

Photo Courtesy: Quinnipiac Athletics

By Ryan Chichester

Baker Dunleavy and the Bobcats hit the road for the first time this season as they head down south to open up the Paradise Jam against the Colorado Buffaloes on Friday night. The tournament will be played in Lynchburg, Virginia after massive hurricanes forced a change of scenery from the original tournament location in the Virgin Islands.

The new tournament location may no longer scream “paradise” at the same volume as the sunny Virgin Islands, but Dunleavy and the Bobcats still have an opportunity to make positive strides on the court as they continue to adjust to their new-look roster.

The Bobcats’ three games in as many days starts with Colorado, a team they have never faced before. The Buffaloes enter the tournament with a 2-0 record after handling Denver 89-62 on Tuesday night after a stout defensive effort in the second half.

The Buffaloes made an appearance in the NIT last season, but were bounced in the first round by UCF. Their highlight win was a home victory against Oregon last January, who was ranked 10th at the time.

Colorado lost the bulk of their scoring after last season, saying goodbye to senior star Derrick White and his 18.1 points per game. They also lost senior Xavier Johnson to graduation, who averaged just under 15 points per game last season.

Here is what to watch for on the court when the tournament kicks off Friday evening.

Crash the glass

Quinnipiac struggled to eliminate second chances for Brown in Monday night’s loss, allowing the Bears to grab 17 offensive rebounds which resulted in 12 second chance points. The effort will have to be better against Colorado, who finished second in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding last season, averaging just under 12 per game. In their last game against Denver, the Buffaloes finished with an impressive 46-23 rebounding advantage, giving the Pioneers no chance in the second half.

Chaise Daniels will have to play a complete game on Friday for the Bobcats to win the battle on the boards. Abdulai Bundu will also be called upon for valuable minutes off the bench to neutralize the second chances for Colorado. The Buffaloes have a strong bench presence in 6’ 10’’ sophomore Lucias Stewart, who has 13 rebounds in 31 minutes so far this season. If Stewart is on the floor and a shot goes up, the Bobcats need to get a body on him in a hurry.

If the Bobcats want to beat the Buffaloes at their own game and crash the offensive glass, they need draw Colorado guard George King away from the rim. The 6’ 6’’ senior not only leads the team in points (23), but also leads in the rebound category with 16 boards in the young season, 13 of them coming on the defensive end. An active guard who loves to crash the glass, King will have to be constantly accounted for if the Bobcats are to get some second chances themselves.

Free throwin’

Let’s agree that the free throw horse has been beaten to death for the Bobcats, after missing 14 of them on Monday night. Dunleavy clearly has every intention of moving on and not obsessing over one night of struggle, and that’s likely for the best.

However, their opponent on Friday has suffered similar struggles through the first two games of the season, which would make a close game in the second half very interesting if it came down to free throws.

The Buffaloes have made just 28 of their 49 free throw attempts through two games, adding up to a painful 57 percent clip. The Bobcats are shooting at a better rate of 64.8 percent, but it is still just ninth in the MAAC.

A big question heading into Friday’s matchup will be if these shooting woes at the charity stripe are a lingering problem or a brief struggle that will soon solve itself. The Bobcats were fine from the free throw line in the season opener, while the Buffaloes were efficient at the line in their win against the Pioneers. Both teams’ free throw stats were heavily influenced by one awful foul shooting night, especially for Colorado, who shot 44 percent in a win against Northern Colorado. Their awful night at the line was not as prevalent as Quinnipiac’s since Colorado won the game, but it could quickly move to the forefront if they struggle against the Bobcats and it costs them a win.

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