Colorado Basketball: Looking Ahead after A Great 2011-2012 Season Part I

ALBUQUERQUE, NM - MARCH 15: Nate Tomlinson #1 and Carlon Brown #30 of the Colorado Buffaloes celebrate after defeating the UNLV Rebels during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at The Pit on March 15, 2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

CU basketball has undergone a transformation under 2nd-year Head Coach Tad Boyle. The man some call "Taddy" proved that his team's year-one performance wasn't a fluke with a second consecutive 20-win season (for the first time in program history). And they weren't just 20-win seasons, they were both 24-win seasons, the most wins ever in a season. A nice run in the NIT last year and the upset victory over UNLV to get to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament this season proved that this team is improving even with the loss of some bigtime players. Tad Boyle is building something here, something we haven't seen in a long time, if ever.

Follow the jump because Colorado has a basketball team!

Who we're losing after 2012:

Anyone remember when we lost 78% of our scoring from 2010-2011 team? When Alec Burks left early and Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphord graduated and we were supposed to be rebuilding? I certainly do. Well we're losing a number of key contributors once again, guys that really picked up the slack this season from those players I just mentioned.

We only got one season from Carlon Brown, but it was one that will be remembered. He slumped badly to finish out the regular season, but that didn't matter. In the playoffs we got a guy who was unwilling to let his team lose. With some pretty spectacular efforts, he led the Buffs to the first Pac 12 Conference Tournament Championship and was named MOP (Most Outstanding Player) for his efforts after the win. He single-handedly woke the team up three times late in games with big dunks and was seemingly the only player who could score in the last 5 minutes of games. He was a talented wing player for us, playing primarily at the 3-spot, and was a physical defender when he wanted to be. And he was a leader out there, getting in guys ears about hustle and defense, which was noted during the Pac 12 Tournament run.

Austin Dufault ended his career with the most games played of anyone in CU basketball history. He was asked to play out of position much of his time here at CU. He learned to defend effectively down low against true centers and guys who were taller and stronger than him, and he learned how to operate with his back to the basket in the low post. He wasn't always aggressive but when he was, he was a guy who could beat guys with quickness, some nice post moves and a pretty good outside shot. He was a very versatile player who shined in stretches and who worked as hard as anyone else out there on the court. While he was never the biggest or most skilled player down low, he did what he could to give the Buffs a presence there. He was the lead-by-example type, with a good work ethic and lots of humility.

Nate Tomlinson... I don't know if there's been a more divisive player on a Colorado basketball team. You either love him or you hate him. He's a strong personality who has turned a lot of people off with his "attitude," but he also knew how to run Tad Boyle's offense and understood what he had to do to propel his team to a victory. He couldn't always follow through, but he knew what he needed to do. And he hit made big plays for us throughout this little postseason run. Whether or not you're a fan, you can't deny that we lose a guy who has logged a lot of minutes leading this team up and down the court. He was a more vocal guy out there, making sure guys knew when they missed an assignment. Sometimes this came across as hot-headed, but guys seemed to listen.

Trey Eckloff was a guy who made his biggest impacts on the practice courts. And on twitter, but that's a story for another time. Everyone talked about how much energy he gave in practices going up against the other forwards and centers. High quality bench guys are a big part of the makeup of the team as well.

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