It's finally here. It's been a long fall dealing with the Colorado football team and although football is not over, Colorado basketball is here and the Buffaloes look ready to have another remarkable year. Here's a breakdown of the 2012-2013 season for the Buffaloes.
Biggest Strength: The biggest strength this year has to be the front-court for Colorado. They return Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate Andre Roberson and welcome impact freshman Josh Scott. Roberson provides phenomenal defense and rebounding up front and while Scott also possesses defensive skill, he can hurt teams possession after possession with his offensive repertoire. If Roberson or Scott manage to get into foul trouble, freshman Wesley Gordon should be able to step in and fill the defensive void, and even though Shane Harris-Tunks isn't the best of the bigs, he can hold his own down there scoring the occasional bucket. The frontline for the Buffs has depth, size, skill, athleticism, defense, and shot-blocking ability and will make teams work constantly down low on both sides of the ball. Tad Boyle has never had this unit as a strength since he's been at Colorado and now that he does, Colorado's front-court should be hard to stop.
Biggest Weakness: The Buffs have some depth, but their bench isn't exactly filled with offensive firepower. The bench should be fine on the defensive side of the ball, but if too many starters struggle in games, it could get ugly offensively for Colorado. Right now, they're looking at Xavier Johnson being the only capable scorer off the bench. Harris-Tunks isn't a go to option in the post; Chris Jenkins isn't a consistent scoring threat yet; and, Eli Stalzer didn't come to Colorado because of his scoring ability. Colorado shouldn't struggle to score with their starting lineup, but it'll be up to Tad Boyle to put the right players in the right lineups, so there is always some type of scoring because as of now, there is not one proven scorer on the bench.
Non-Conference Outlook: It starts tomorrow with Wofford, who the Buffs should be able to beat, but it won't be an easy game. The Charleston Classic comes next and will provide some very tough tests for the Buffaloes with Dayton coming first and then the possibility of either Boston College or Baylor in the next round. In the Buffs' third game, they'll either match up against Murray State, St. Johns, Charleston, or Auburn. No matter who they face in the Charleston Classic, if the Buffs could come out with two wins and one loss, it would be a great start. After that, they have easy games against Air Force and Texas Southern. However, it gets much more difficult after that as Colorado will take on Wyoming on the road, Colorado State at home, Kansas on the road, and Fresno State on the road. Not one of those games is an assured win. The Buffs will be able to gain some momentum heading into conference play as they finish off the non-conference schedule with Northern Arizona and Hartford both at home, and those should be wins. I'll say 9-3 for Colorado in non-conference play with losses coming to Baylor in the Charleston Classic, a loss at Kansas, and one loss out of the Wyoming, Fresno State, and Colorado State games.
Conference Outlook: In order for the Buffaloes to have success in conference play this year, they need to perform much better than they did on the road last year and have the same exact type of performance at home as last year. The Buffs don't get any easy games to start off their conference schedule as they open up the season in Tucson against Arizona and then after playing Arizona State come home to take on USC and UCLA. Out of their first four games, they have to play the two best teams in the Pac-12. Next, they travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars in what should be a split. Then, the Buffaloes come home to face Cal and Stanford, and a sweep is possible here. Although Stanford and Cal are good once again, Colorado will be itching to play Stanford again in the Coors Event Center after their embarrassing loss last year and they should be able to continue the success they had last year against California as the strengths of Cal are still in the backcourt.
After the Bay Area teams, Colorado embarks on a three game road trip against Utah, Oregon and Oregon State. Three wins would be ideal here, but two out of three would keep the Buffs in position to stay atop the conference. The Buffs then get three at home against Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah. The crucial matchup here is against Arizona. Colorado barely sneaked by Arizona at home last year and the Wildcats are a much better team this year. Once again, three wins would be great, but it doesn't seem likely. The Buffaloes close the season out with a road trip against Stanford and Cal and return home with games against Oregon and Oregon State. These last four games will be very important for Colorado as they will most likely be in the top four of the conference all year long and will be making a push for a conference title or top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Overall Outlook: In conference play, the Buffs go 12-6, bringing them to a 21-9 overall season record prior to the Pac-12 Tournament and postseason play. The Buffs place third in the Pac-12 behind Arizona and UCLA and reach the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals but lose, however not all is lost, as the Buffaloes make the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year going as a ten seed. The Buffaloes win their first game once again, but fail to make the Sweet Sixteen. Tad Boyle proves for a third straight year why he is a great coach and continues to build this program into a legitimate one.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG- Spencer Dinwiddie (So. 6'5" 190 lbs. 10.0 PPG 3.6 RPG last year)
SG- Askia Booker (So. 6'1" 170 lbs. 9.1 PPG 2.7 RPG last year)
SF- Sabatino Chen (Sr. 6'4" 190 lbs. 2.0 PPG 1.0 RPG last year)
PF- Andre Roberson (Jr. 6'7" 210 lbs. 11.6 PPG 11.1 RPG last year)
C- Josh Scott (Fr. 6'10" 215 lbs.)
C- Shane Harris-Tunks (Jr. 6'11" 250 lbs. 2.7 PPG 2.2 RPG last year)
F- Wesley Gordon (Fr. 6'8" 225 lbs.)
F- Xavier Johnson (Fr. 6'6" 220 lbs.)
F- Chris Jenkins (Fr. 6'7" 180 lbs.)
G- Eli Stalzer (Fr. 6'3" 185 lbs.)