On Saturday afternoon, before the madness that ensued when the Colorado Buffaloes rolled over the Arizona State Sun Devils, Tad Boyle held an intrasquad scrimmage that provided immediate answers to many questions, that we’ll go through quickly. And yes, this overly optimistic but don’t be a Debbie Downer.
How good is Derrick White?
Very. In the starting lineup preview, I made a crucial error of predicting Josh Fortune to start over White, and how that haunts me. White is a truly gifted scorer and can fill it up from anywhere on the court. On Saturday against a very good defense (CU’s defense is always good), White got past any and all defenders en route to buckets aplenty. On drives to the basket, White bends space and time to find open shots, and once he’s there, he scores effortlessly. His finishing ability is special; he’s able to convert because of unparalleled creativity and body control. If he doesn’t lead the team in scoring, it would be one of the biggest surprises on the season.
What will Bryce Peters contribute this season?
Peters is a freshman who will contribute mightily off the bench without providing that much tangible value. Even if he doesn’t score or create as well some other guys or have much of a jump shot yet (the time will come), he can be a spark plug on offense ... if that spark plug had a mechanical error that electrocuted the opposition. No one on the Buffs could stay in front of Peters and his impossibly quick first step.
How will Xavier Johnson play power forward?
XJ is back and playing a position he’s relatively new to. The Buffs appear to lack depth at big man (we’re get there in a second) and will be giving up lots of size, but Xavier Johnson can mitigate the effects of either if he plays the season like he played today. Not to say he had an incredible game – he was good but it wasn’t anything unseen from him – but the way he played was inspiring. Every time a teammate’s shot went up, XJ was crashing the boards. He had a few put-back dunks and layups coming on numerous offensive rebounds. It helped Wesley Gordon wasn’t there to box him out – he’s dealing with ankle issues – but it was impressive nonetheless.
How’s the big man depth looking?
The premier big man on the roster, Wesley Gordon, wasn’t playing, but his backups were lights out. Tory Miller, the first big off the bench, looks quicker and better than he ever has. He was snatching rebounds on both ends, rocking the rim, swatting shots and even finishing in traffic. The way it looks right now, Miller looks ready to have a career year.
Behind Miller was Dallas Walton. Walton is a freshman from nearby Arvada West High School and missed parts of his last two seasons with various knee injuries. It’s been almost common knowledge that Walton would redshirt this year to put from weight on his 7-foot frame, but that may be unnecessary. Walton is still raw and skinny, but he can play and possibly contribute right away as much needed depth inside. Against the likes of XJ and Miller, Walton showed tenacity on the boards and the ability to protect the rim. Not only that, but he showed a bit of pick-and-pop potential with a feathery touch from outside. If Tad Boyle chooses not to redshirt him, he could be a valuable bench player with his current skillset.
Who else was impressive?
Everybody! The presumed starters who were playing – Collier, White, King and Johnson – all performed to or exceeded expectations. The bench brigade – Fortune, Miller, Akyazili, Peters, Walton – mostly looked good. Though he hasn’t been discussed here, George King may have been the best player yesterday. He was shooting as well as he usually does, defending up to par and, surprisingly, was killing it on the boards.
Oh yeah! Namon Wright played heavily and he looks heavenly. We should all be very excited for the Missouri transfer to play and dominate next year. In the meantime, we can enjoy this year’s team that looks like it may be Tad Boyle’s best ever.