As sad as it is to say out loud, it feels like CU is just about ready for football season to wrap up. I guess that’s what happens when you go from maybe making the Pac-12 championship to maybe making the Radiance Technology Independence Bowl.
But there’s good news: Boulder got almost a foot of snow this week and A-basin is open. Winter is here. And what’s better than getting way too invested in early winter college basketball. Random exhibitions! That moment where you see highlights on Sportscenter and mutter, ‘oh shit it’s already basketball season?’! Holiday tournaments in weird locations! Pre-Thanksgiving hoops really has it all.
The even better news is that this Buffs season may actually live up to the hype and in any good season, there’s always a good breakout season or two. Here’s who fits the bill:
Eddie Lampkin Jr
Would it really be a blog about CU sports if we didn’t mention at least one transfer? Granted, you don’t see a lot of POTENTIAL BREAKOUT? blogs written about seniors who have only ever averaged six and six, but Lampkin’s taking the spot of a guy who averaged four and four. After three years at TCU, Lampkin’s in Boulder and primed for a major role this season. No shade to Lawson Lovering, but the new guy is a much more complete player. It may be a slower burn – Lampkin’s still ramping up after offseason back surgery – but the early reviews (tweets) have been positive. Given that he’s the only actual true center on the roster, we’ll see a bunch of him whether he breaks out or not. So let’s choose optimism!
Say it with me: Guard! Depth! Matters!
Smith’s in a weird spot – he’s probably not stealing playing time from KJ Simpson or Julian Hammond, at least early in the season, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t rotation minutes there for him. Right now, no one really knows what the Buffs have in Smith – he redshirted last season after suffering a knee injury during his senior year of high school. He’s definitely got the size (6’4, 185 according to ESPN) to hang in a Power 5 conference, and like Tad Boyle said recently, he’s sort of a weird, intriguing combo of Simpson and Hammond.
There’s almost certainly a ‘defensive headache and overall creator of chaos’ role out there for Smith, who set his high school’s All-Time record for steals. He had a forgettable “debut” against MSU (one (1) point, 0-6 from the field, 0-4 from three) but did have two steals and played the second-most minutes off the bench, which feels kinda noteworthy. Defensive breakouts don’t exactly drive clicks, but the Buffs are going to need a guard who can put the clamps on Bronny James (and everyone else, but, you know). Maybe Smith’s that guy.
I decided to really go out on a limb and predict that the fourth-ranked prospect in the 2023 class could have a breakout season. Williams played for about 25 minutes in the Buffs’ exhibition game against Metro State, and looked pretty good (eight points, five rebounds, two assists) despite an unspectacular shooting night. Twitter also let me know that he threw down some vicious dunks, which is not as much Very Important as it is Very Cool. And while it’s all well and good if the Buffs get a little more offensive production at center or find some decent guard depth, Williams is far and away The Guy. Having NBA-level talent on your college team typically goes a long way.