It's that time of year again. The trees are barren, forever swaying in the frosted chills of the desert winter. The birds have fled south for better weather, and you would too if you could fly away without repercussion. Without wings, the warm-blooded animals, yourself included, have found refuge inside. This scarcity of life only reminds you of the certainty of death.
Just a week ago, you braved these abject feelings of mortality and hopelessness with the idealistic perception of you and your kin gathering together in harmony to celebrate a grand holiday. Joy was shared, yes, but now what? The joke's on you, all askew. The only thing you have left to accompany you through the dark of winter are your increasingly bleak thoughts. Your thoughts and basketball.
Basketball will guide you through the barren weeks. This seemingly meaningless game will show you every emotion of human life, for better or for worse. No matter success or failure, glee or sorrow, Josh Scott will fight Golden Bears, Wildcats and even Fighting Ducks to deliver you to the hope of spring. Just as the flowers sprout and the birds begin to fly overhead, basketball will conclude with a grand competition.
To get into that competition, the Colorado Buffaloes will need each and every player on their team to play to their utmost potential. Here's a power ranked analysis on the Buffs players you will forever love and cherish.
The Bench Brigade
I was down on Tory Miller early in the season for his sloppiness and lack of offensive game, but both aspects have improved quickly. Miller has promptly cut down on turnovers and fouls, and when Wesley Gordon scared us all with a knee injury, Miller stepped up and had back-to-back great games against Nicholls and Hampton. That said, he still struggled against Penn State and SMU, so we'll find out shortly how ready Miller is to play major minutes in the Pac-12 once he returns from injury.
Xavier Talton looks better than he did last year, but his offensive struggles will be hard to hide in Pac-12 play.
That quote was actually from the last player ranking article from four weeks ago, but it could have been from the 13-14 season or from today and you wouldn't have known. That's not exactly a criticism on Xavier Talton, but everyone knows he's a solid and dependable bench player with clear limitations. He's a fantastic player to have and he'll look to finish his Colorado career with leadership and hard work to boot.
The advanced stats don't exactly love Thomas Akyazili. He rates poorly on offense because of subpar shooting percentages from the field and from the charity stripe, but I'd like to imagine that with a stroke that pretty, the Belgian international is better shooter than his stats would suggest. Combining his offensive potential, shrewd passing and relatively stout defense, Akyazili should vie for lots of playing time even against conference foes.
Coming off a promising sophomore season, Tre'Shaun Fletcher impressed everyone from Boulder to Beijing. In the first handful of games, Fletcher's deft passing and deadly shot were all the rage. Then Jack Barsch ran a feature on Ralphie Report about how criminally underrated the unassuming forward was. Thanks, Jack. In the succeeding seven ames since that fateful article, Tre has averaged less than 6 points per game and has committed more turnovers than assists.
I don't see anything to worry about with Tre. I believe he's simply in a prolonged shooting slump and his confidence has been deteriorated as a result. In time, though, Fletch will be ready to return to quiet grandeur.
Since the last preview, not much has changed with Josh Fortune. He's still as smooth as a quantum stabilized atom mirror, he still racks up tons of rebounds and assists, he's still deadly from deep and trigger happy, and he still has issues with turnovers. That last bit is what stands out the most. We can forgive Collier for turnover struggles because he's a bit inexperienced, but Fortune has already played two full seasons of high level basketball with Providence and Tad Boyle is counting on him to be a trustworthy ball handler. Fortune would be second on this list if he wasn't plagued by turnovers, and he'll have to clean that up in the coming weeks to maximize his potential as the second coming of Carlon Brown.
Going into this season, Dominique Collier needed to improve as a floor general and he needed to be more decisive with his own shot. In his sophomore campaign, he has done just that. From last season, Collier has nearly doubled his assist rate from 15% to 25% and his effective FG% by .15. The Collier we see now is a well-rounded guard who can do it all. The next step of his maturation is to cut out silly fouls and cut down on turnovers.
After the aforementioned frightening knee injury, Wesley Gordon has returned to form as a shot-swatting, rebound-snatching force in the middle. Of every Pac-12 player with over 300 minutes played this season, Gordon is number one for Defensive Box Plus/Minus. That means that Gordon has been made the greatest contributions to his team's defense than anyone else in the conference. Having an established defensive anchor will be crucial against top-flight competition, and Gordon is as good as they get.
Perhaps the best pure shooter Colorado has had since Levi Knutson, George King has been a revelation this season. When he's on, King is capable of energizing the offense to a whole new level, as was the case against Auburn and BYU. King needs to step up his defense a bit, but he looks like he'll be a dynamic force for Colorado throughout the Battle Royale that is the Pac-12.
The Undisputed Champion of the World
Josh Scott is the 10th most efficient player (220 minutes played minimum) on a Big 6 program with an incredible 31.3 PER. Seven of the nine players ahead of him could easily find themselves drafted in the lottery. Scott has put himself in company with such excellent players because he may very well be the savviest post player in the nation. Using those same statistical parameters, no big man besides Gonzaga's Domantas Sabonis has contributed more offensive value than Scott.
For more statistical tomfoolery, Josh Scott is one of only five Big 6 players with as many or more blocked shots than personal fouls (250 minutes played minimum). Scott utilizes a Tim Duncan-esque skill of blocking shots without having to move or jump out of position. By doing this, Scott maintains his defensive position on the block without ceding rebounding position, even after severely altering a shot. That's some Grade-A team defense from a marvelous player.
My only complaint with Scott is that I wish we was a more heady passer when the defense collapses on him. Against SMU (or was it Penn State?), Scott pulled down an offensive rebound and all five (!) opponents were within arms reach of him. Instead of finding one of four wide open shooters, Scott went up for a shot. He made the shot, because of course he did.
Josh Scott will play his last game in the CEC in only three months. Don't ever forget how great he has been and how much he means to this program. If you can't cheer him on in person, tune in to see him school these rivals on the grandest of stages. We all know Scott will show up to play his heart out.