|If Colorado's going to return to the NCAA tournament, coach Tad Boyle (right) is going to need a big season from Andre Roberson (left). (US Presswire)|
Preview: Colorado Buffaloes
Last year: 24-12 overall, 11-7 Pac-12 (6th), lost to Baylor in NCAA tournament Round of 32.
Coach: Tad Boyle, (third year, 48-26; seventh overall, 104-92)
Projected starters: G Spencer Dinwiddie, Soph. (10.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.8 apg) G Askia Booker, Soph. (9.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.4 apg); F Andre Roberson, Jr. (11.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.2 apg); F Josh Scott, Fr. (HS: 28.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.5 bpg); C Shane Harris-Tunks, Sr. (2.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.5apg).
Top newcomers: F Josh Scott and F Xavier Johnson. Boyle brought in six freshmen and these two are the best of the bunch. Scott was rated by most recruiting services as the top player in Colorado after averaging 28.5 ppg his senior year in high school. Boyle even tooted Scott's horn a little bit at Pac-12 Media Day, saying, "Josh is a special player. He's a guy who can score on the low block, which we haven't had since [I've been coach] at Colorado."
Key losses: A few eyebrows were raised when Colorado was tabbed to finished sixth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll -- some thought that was too low for the defending conference tournament champions -- but there's a reasonable explanation for that: the Buffaloes lost three starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Gone are C Austin Dufault, G Nate Tomlinson and last year's leading scorer, G Carlon Brown. That trio combined to average 29.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.
What you need to know: Learn Roberson's name now. The junior forward had a double-double average last season (11.6 ppg/11.1 rpg) and will be one of the most explosive players in the country. If he can cut down on the turnovers -- he had 65 last season -- he could make a case for Pac-12 player of the year and possibly second or third team All-American. At Pac-12 Media Day, Boyle called Roberson, "the most underrated player on the national scene." If Roberson takes Colorado back to the NCAA tournament, he won't be underrated anymore.
Mark the calendar:
- Nov. 15-18 in Charleston, S.C.: Colorado won't have much time to rest following its Nov. 9 season opener vs. Wofford. After that, the Buffs will head for Charleston, S.C., where they'll face Dayton -- a 20-win team from last season -- and possibly No. 19 Baylor.
- Dec. 8 at No. 7 Kansas: Colorado will be the final and most likely toughest Pac-12 test of the season for the Jayhawks. Kansas also plays Washington State and Oregon State before playing the Buffaloes.
- Jan. 3 at No. 12 Arizona: Colorado drew the short end of the stick in Pac-12 play as the Buffaloes open the conference season on the road at preseason favorite Arizona.
Biggest question: Which freshmen will step up? As mentioned above, the Buffaloes lost three starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Boyle brought in six freshmen to replace the guys he lost and he expects many of them to play right away. If guys like Scott and Johnson don't have any trouble adjusting to the college game, Colorado could be a dangerous team.
Best-case scenario: Roberson wins Pac-12 player of the year, National player of the year and is an unstoppable force all season. The Buffaloes then ride the Roberson wave to first place in the Pac-12 and to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. Yes, seriously, Colorado could win the Pac-12.
Worst-case scenario: When you lose three starters, a worse-case scenario can get pretty ugly. If Roberson has a down year and the freshmen don't contribute like Boyle hopes they will, this team could finish as low as eighth or ninth in the Pac-12.
Reality: The media picked this team to finish sixth, but with Roberson and experienced guards in Dinwiddie and Booker, it's hard to see the Buffaloes falling even that low. Colorado should finish the season in fourth or fifth place and on the bubble looking in when it comes to an NCAA tournament berth.
Season opens: vs. Wofford, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)