Poised for what could be their best season in many years, CU head basketball coach Tad Boyle and two of his players still showed up to Pac-12 Media Day in Las Vegas with a chip on their shoulders last Wednesday. The media voted the Buffs to finish fifth in the Pac-12, behind Arizona, USC, UCLA and Oregon. Tad seemed completely unbothered by the media potentially underrating his team, as he knows how talented this group is.
“If we are the fifth best team in the Pac-12, then the Pac-12 is pretty good this year,” said Boyle. “I like the combination of the returning players, our veterans, as I like to call them, and the new young talent. I think it’s about right.”
This year’s team may be the most talented team Tad has ever had in Boulder. Forward Tristan da Silva decided to return to Boulder for one final season before declaring for the NBA Draft. Point guard KJ Simpson is also back and healthy after battling though an ankle injury and a bout of mono that kept him off the court for significant time last season.
The Buffs also made some huge additions to their starting lineup with Cody Williams and Eddie Lampkin. Williams is the highest-rated recruit in Colorado history, as the McDonad’s All-American was the #4 recruit in his class and a potential one-and-done NBA draft pick. Williams will start on the wing and handle the ball quite a bit, particularly in transition.
Tad also brought in TCU transfer Eddie Lampkin for this year’s campaign. Lampkin is expected to play the role of a plug-and-play center for the Buffs this season. He might not be the defender that Lawson Lovering is, but the 6’11, 300-lbs. center is skilled in the interior, a tremendous offensive rebounder and a steady veteran presence.
As for that fifth starter, right now it’s up for grabs with Luke O’Brien and J’Vonne Hadley, with Julian Hammond III likely being the sixth man in a Dom Collier-like role. Each of them will add something different to the rotation, LOB being a promising shooter and energetic rebounder, Hadley being the most defensively sound and better interior scorer, and Hammond being the best passer on the team.
What could have been the biggest takeaway from Tad’s time in Vegas was him saying to temper expectations of Cody Williams. Williams’ addition has been getting a lot of hype and media attention, but Tad thought it important to remind everyone that Cody is just a kid and he is making a big jump to the college level.
“I want our fans to understand there will be a learning curve,” said Tad. “There was an adjustment there. Managing expectations is going to be big for him, and it’s something we’re going to talk about a lot as the season goes for sure.”
Despite that, Tad did have some high praise for Williams. Boyle even went as far as to say coaching Cody feels like coaching his own son and said he reminds him of a specific Colorado hoops great.
“I’ve never coached one of my own kids. A lot of people have. I never have. That’s how I felt with Cody,” said Tad. “Cody’s such a coachable young man. He listens. He learns. He self-corrects himself. McKinley Wright was like that when we had McKinley.”
Cody wasn’t the only new Buff who Tad had kind words about, as Eddie Lampkin also received some nice compliments from his head coach. Lampkin’s unselfish tendencies should make him a perfect fit for Colorado’s brand of basketball.
“He’s a unique player, but he’s a lot like Evan Batty in the sense that he really likes to pass the ball. We can play through him,” told Tad. “Not necessarily always at the low post, but even at the high post, and he’s a willing passer. He’s a good screen and roll guy.”
This media day trip to Vegas for the Buffs will be their final one before they jump ship to the Big XII next year. This will be Colorado’s final season playing against teams in Los Angeles, which is a big deal for Simpson. KJ is from LA and was previously committed to Arizona, so leaving the Pac-12 hits close to home for him.
“Growing up, I always watched the Pac-12. I had a sense that this is where I really wanted to play,” said Simpson. “I’m just blessed to be able to be here during the time when the Pac-12 has so many amazing teams together.”
Men’s basketball season is finally less than one month away. Practices start to ramp up, so will the excitement around campus for the team. The Buffaloes will open their season against Towson at home on November 6. The final year in the Pac should be a wild ride.