Coming into the season, it was expected that a very young CU basketball team would develop into one of the more competitive programs in the conference. Returning a whooping eight players from last year, including rising sophomores Tyler Bey and D’Shawn Schwartz, and a finally healthy Evan Battey, everyone was expected to take a step forward.
But thus far, Colorado has struggled to find a consistent scorer aside from McKinley Wright. Even worse, is the fact that McKinley has struggled with turnovers and lackluster shooting in two out of the three games early on. It’s expected that he’ll turn the corner eventually, but for this team to be truly successful everyone else will need to step up.
Bey has done well on the defensive end of the floor and crashing the boards - and he did put up 16 points against Omaha - but generally he hasn’t been aggressive enough using his size to get to the basket and create space on the outside. Schwartz only had two shot attempts against USD after scoring 15 points on 6-10 shooting the game prior. After getting off to a rusty start, Battey gave fans a glimpse of the player they’d been waiting for, exploding for 18 points and four rebounds.
The point is none of the players have been able to score consistently and in unison so far which has to be concerning considering they just started the non conference portion of their schedule. ESPN Color Analyst Adrian Branch phrased it best on the San Diego TV broadcast when he said “sometimes Colorado’s unselfishness - which is their biggest strength - turns into a weakness.”
Translation: The Buffs occasionally get so caught up in moving the ball around and playing unselfishly, that they’re missing good shot opportunities and chances to be aggressive. Playing unselfish in the game of basketball is almost never a bad thing, but when players are passing up good shots, favorable isolation matchups, and open driving lanes, it turns into something that handicaps the team.
However, the issue goes beyond a seemingly unselfish mentality. Aside from McKinley (and maybe veteran Namon Wright), nobody on the young roster is accustomed to stepping up and being “the guy” on a given night - even though they are well capable of it. In order to maximize their potential collectively, this group will at times need to focus more on what they can do individually in terms of getting good shots and scoring points, even if that means being more selfish.
Schwartz, Battey, Bey and to a lesser extent big man Lucas Siewart all have the ability to be score consistently. Siewart and Schwartz are excellent perimeter shooters who can also get to the basket, while Battey is a physical, aggressive player who can knock down shots from all over the floor. Bey is best shooting inside the paint by the rim, and getting put-back attempts. All four can act as the team’s primary scorer on a given night, and take some of the weight off McKinley’s shoulders.
Judging by the fact that he’s made careless turnovers and had questionable shot selection, knowing that it’s his job to lead the team in scoring has led to Wright forcing the issue on multiple levels. Getting some of the other guys going in the scoring column on a nightly basis should allow Wright to play looser and more freely.
Even though Tad Boyle has always had a reputation of being a defensive minded coach, scoring points by way of good shot attempts will ultimately be what wins games. If Colorado wants to hang with teams that put triple digits on the scoreboard consistently, they’ll need to find a way to put up points in bundles and get their team going offensively IN ADDITION to playing good defense.