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Colorado Buffaloes unofficially #27 in pre-season AP Poll

Tad Boyle’s team has NCAA Tournament expectations

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes have had more hype than usual coming into the 2023-24 season. That’s what happens when you bring back two First Team All-Pac-12 contributors, an instant impact transfer and a consensus five-star freshman.

After the Buffs were picked to finish 5th in the Pac-12, national writers unofficially placed them 27th in the pre-season AP Poll. They are the third team from the conference, as only Arizona (12) and USC (21) featured in the Top 25, while UCLA was behind them in votes and Oregon didn’t feature in any media ballots.

This is the joint-highest Colorado has placed in the preseason poll in the Tad Boyle era. The 2019-20 team was also an unofficial 27th as that squad featured junior year McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey and Evan Battey. The 2014-15 Buffs were 29th, but that team led by Askia Booker and Josh Scott went 16-18 in the most dysfunctional season of Boyle’s tenure.

According to Ken Pomeroy’s metrics, this hype is not unwarranted. The Buffs are ranked 28th in his advanced stats, as this balanced squad figures to have the 24th best offense and 31st ranked defense. The number loves Tristan da Silva, whose efficiency, passing ability and consistency make him arguably the most complete player in the conference. KJ Simpson should also be much better with Cody Williams and Julian Hammond supporting him as ball-handlers, while Eddie Lampkin Jr. boosts the rebounding numbers.

Maybe the biggest thing is that KenPom projects the Buffs to be a good three-point shooting team. The Buffs have good shooters who had relative down years in 2022-23, as Simpson, Hammond and Luke O’Brien all shot around 30% from three last year. They should all be better and more efficient as Tad Boyle establishes a fast-paced, unselfish offense that will hum as long as the defense gets stops.

Another element to Colorado’s bounce back is that they have a clearer rotation than they did a year ago. They have a top 7 that makes a lot of sense if they remain healthy: Simpson, Williams, da Silva and Lampkin will start, with J’Vonne Hadley, LOB and Hammond either starting or playing 20+ minutes off the bench. That’s a very solid rotation, assuming Lampkin makes it back from his offseason back surgery.

From there, the Buffs just need one of RJ Smith or Courtney Anderson to play a steady 10-15 minutes per night and get some solid backup center minutes from freshman Assane Diop. (Javon Ruffin would have helped a lot but he’s out for the year with a knee injury.) Also keep an eye on Bangot Dak, who might not redshirt if he keeps doing interesting things in his 6’10, 180-lbs. frame.