The biggest question facing Buffs’ Men Hoops going into the 2023 season.
Colorado Men’s Hoops season is almost upon us, as the team hosted their first official practice on Monday. The 2023-24 campaign is shaping up to be one of the most important seasons for the Buffs in recent memory. What are the biggest questions facing head coach Tad Boyle and what should we expect out of this team?
Are the Buffs as good as we think?
The expectations levied against the Buffs this year are quite lofty. Colorado looks poised to make a run at a Pac-12 championship. The last time the Buffs won their conference was 2012 and this is their last chance to stand on top of the Pac before making the jump for the Big XII. The Buffs had an up and down season in 2022-23. The crew had notable wins against Tennessee and Texas A&M, but also some ugly losses to teams like Grambling and UMass. Many players on last year’s squad were young and inexperienced, but they now have a year under their belt. With the addition of Cody Williams and Eddie Lampkin, the Buffs should be in a great spot to make some noise within the Pac-12.
“As a team, we obviously want to push for the Pac-12 Championship,” said forward Tristan da Silva. “I feel like we’ve got a good opportunity this year, much better than the last couple of years just because of the experience and the type of people we’ve got on the team.”
The high expectations fans are holding the Buffs to don’t come out of nowhere. This team showed glimpses of greatness last year, but just couldn’t sustain that level of play. Da Silva and company know what this squad is capable of and seem to be up to the challenge of living up to the hype.
“I think we’ve set those expectations for ourselves too,” da Silva said. “We’ve got goals for ourselves and we know those goals. That’s what we are working towards.
Can Tad rise to the occasion?
This is a very important year for Tad. He hasn’t had quite this level of talent and experience at his disposal in quite a few years and it’s time to see if he can make the most of it. Tad isn’t going to be the sole reason that the Buffs breakout this season or flop out of the gates. Instead, CU fans should watch to see if Tad and rise to the occasion and lead this team to greatness with a steady hand. The Colorado head coach can firmly cement himself as one of college basketball’s elite coaches if he can take this team to the promised land with his signature style of basketball.
What changes is Tad making to get the most out of this year? Well, not a whole lot truthfully. Expect that same physical, defensive basketball from the Buffs. The only big change Tad is making will be running a five out offense much more often. This should make CU a much more versatile scoring team, but the offensive rebounding could take a hit.
“[Running the five out system] has been an adjustment and the only thing that concerns me with it is the offensive rebounding,” said Boyle. “Getting [players] to go from the three point line to the rim and pursue the ball is something we’ve got to create habits with that we haven’t done yet.”
Will Tristan da Silva make the most of his final year at CU?
Da Silva was the Buffs undisputed best player last year and it’s massive for the Buffs that he decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft to return to Boulder. It’s no secret why da Silva made the call to return, he thinks he can boost his draft stock even higher.
“Obviously I have some personal goals. I’m definitely trying to get myself into the first round of the draft this year,” said da Silva. “I’m trying to up my stock and knowing my worth.”
It’s probably safe to expect a fantastic season from da Silva. The forward is one of Colorado’s best shooters and has been gradually getting better at facilitating the game on the floor. Da Silva is a very intriguing dark horse candidate for Pac-12 Player of the Year. The sky’s the limit da Silva, we’ll just need to see how high he can reach.
How big of a game changer is Cody Williams?
The five star forward and McDonald’s All-American is going to play a big role for the Buffs this season. Williams is going to be starting at the three as a true freshman. The hype that Cody is getting is off the charts and it doesn’t stop at just the fans. His own teammates were adding to the frenzy after CU’s first practice on Monday.
“[Cody’s] talent is off the charts. He’s probably the most talented player I’ve ever teamed up with.” said Tristan da Silva.
Williams is undoubtedly going to play a big role this season, but it may be smart for fans to temper their huge expectations. He’s only 18 and the jump from high school basketball to college is a massive change. Cody even said so himself today.
“I’d say the biggest [change] is just the physicality and speed,” said Williams. “Obviously, I’m playing with men at this point. I was playing with teenagers in high school.”
Who is the fifth starter?
KJ Simpson, Eddie Lampkin, Tristan da Silva and Cody Williams are all but locks to start for the Buffs this season. That fifth starting spot is up for grabs however. Julian Hammond, Luke O’Brien and J’Vonne Hadley are all fighting for the opportunity to start at the two.
At this point, there’s no clear answer to who Tad is going to call upon. If I had to guess, I would say Luke O’Brien is going to get the nod. Tad spoke specifically about how big of an asset
O’Brien is going to be crashing the board while playing five out. This is all mere speculation though and something to keep an eye on going forward.