As expected from a team this young, the Colorado Buffaloes have had their share of highs and lows in their first 12 games. Now that the Buffs are about to start Pac-12 play, we can look back at their non-conference play as a whole and try to figure what this team may be.
1. McKinley Wright is here to save us
McKinley Wright is better than anyone imagined and he’s already the best player on the Buffs, if not the Pac-12, if not the world. Wright has been and will continue to be the rock as he proves to be the team’s most consistent player in every facet of the game. Wright is the primary facilitator all while being the player CU relies upon to get buckets when they absolutely need a score. He’s playing an omnipresent role we’ve only seen Spencer Dinwiddie and Derrick White take on, and neither of whom were freshmen. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to Pac-12 play once he’s the center of defenses’ attention and he has elite athletes chasing him.
2. Wright needs more help on offense
Once Pac-12 defenses key in on Wright, the Buffs will absolutely need supporting players to step up. George King has been fine this season, but he has to be better than fine. King will never be a consistent primary scoring option, but if the Buffs want to be relatively competitive in the Pac-12, his shooting, effort and focus need to improve for his scoring threat to warrant significant attention. Namon Wright is another player with the potential to be a key supporting player and he certainly has to shoot better than 30% from 3 and show more consistency as a secondary playmaker. It’s probably too late to expect anything good from Dom Collier, it pains me to say, but he’s still better than someone shooting 33% from the field (that’s not a typo).
3. Colorado needs solid play in the frontcourt
Tory Miller-Stewart’s injury has been a critical blow to a team that was already struggling with rebounding and rim protection. Miller-Stewart’s replacements have been Lucas Siewert and Dallas Walton, and while those two have shown promise, Tad Boyle has experimented playing without a traditional big man. Freshman wing Tyler Bey was the tallest starter against Iowa at 6’8 and he and George King have often been thrust into an interior role they’re probably too small for. Even with Bey and King playing excellent defense thus far, those super small lineups have been bullied on the block and on the boards against bigger teams like Iowa and Colorado State; just imagine what USC will do with Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatright, or Arizona with DeAndre Ayton and Chase Jeter.
4. Lucas Siewert and Dallas Walton are ready for larger roles
Even with the team having no depth in the frontcourt, Siewert is only averaging 17 minutes per game. Even with the team shooting a paltry 33% from three, Siewert, an excellent shooter who helps the entire offense flow, has a usage rate of only 12.6%, lower than anyone on the Buffs besides non-scorers Schwartz and Lazar Nikolic. Siewert doesn’t want to bang down low — and he really shouldn’t — but his size alone would help the Buffs’ interior issues and his shooting ability should help open the floor. Walton, meanwhile, has been CU’s best interior defender even though he’s still learning how to read the floor at the college level. At 7’0 with athleticism, Walton has all the potential to be the rim protector and rebounder the Buffs desperately need — maybe he won’t develop that far this season, but it can’t hurt to give him more than 15 minutes per game.
5. Tad Boyle needs to experiment
We have seen Boyle eschew traditional big man lineups for ultra-small ball, so he hasn’t exactly been afraid of change, but still, it would be great to see the veteran coach spice it up a bit more. Boyle has never been an offensive mind and we shouldn’t expect anything more creative than the current system, but damn, Tad, please just experiment with a motion offense. You have athletic big men, high flying wings, good shooters and even an elite point guard to run everything. The “stand around the perimeter, pump fake, pass the ball and shoot a contested three-pointer” offense works with a great defense, but this is a year to build for the future, so why not just try to see if anything else works?