The Colorado Buffaloes were sneaky good last year. Despite landing in a 8/9 game, that they lost, to UConn they put together a very successful in which their worst loss came to UCLA on the road. That’s not the UCLA of the Wooden (or even the Howland) years, but it hardly takes much of the shine off what Colorado accomplished last year. Only knocked out of the Pac-12 tournament by KenPom’s #19, Arizona, and only knocked out of the NCAA tournament by #26, they rebounded well from a 16-18 campaign the year prior.
Tad Boyle has been the coach at Colorado since the 2011 season. In that span the Buffaloes have made the tournament four times, with last season being their most successful in terms of KenPom ranking. Boyle, like many mid-level program coaches before him, prefers to get the job done with defense. In that 16-18, the Buffaloes dipped to 100th in defensive efficiency, other than that they haven’t been below 47th when Boyle has his players.
Colorado does it by clamping down on shooters. They don’t chase turnovers and they only block shots on a middling level. What they do well is chase shooters off the arc and, in general, chase down and challenge shooters. The most important part of the Colorado defensive plan, though, is preventing second chances. Last season the Buffs allowed opponents to grab less than a quarter of their missed shots.
Josh Scott. Scott was a 6-10, 245 pound wrecking ball of a post player who was near the top 300 in OR%, the top 200 in DR%, 179th in block rate, 88th in the nation in offensive efficiency, and played 71.6% of the team’s minutes. In other words, he’s not going to be an easy guy to replace.
The other loss that Colorado suffered was Xavier Talton. Talton was a 6-2 guard who logged just over 50% of the available minutes and played at almost exactly a national average in offensive efficiency. Talton shot 91% from the line but other than that, he did a pretty exemplary job as a space filler.
The good news for Tad Boyle is that only losing two means he’s bringing back a lot of Scott’s supporting cast. Wesley Gordon, a 6-9 forward, played the most of any of those guys, logging 27.9 minutes with a line of 7.2/7.6/1.3 and offensive efficiency of 109. Not far behind him in minutes is returning high scorer, 6-6 swing George King. King averaged 13.6 on 44.6% from the floor and 45.6% from behind the arc.
6-5 forward Josh Fortune is also coming back to the team. Fortune scored 10.3 points per game last year, but shot 40.3% from the floor and had an offensive efficiency of only 95.9. Dominique Collier returns to add his 44.3% from deep and 7.5 points per game from the point guard spot. Another player possibly rising to the starting five is Tre’Shaun Fletcher, a 6-7 forward who played 20 minutes per game and averaged 7.1 points on an impressively bad 39.7% from the floor. Tory Miller is an intriguing 6-9 forward who had excellent rebounding rate in limited time last year. The final returnee with significant time is Thomas Akyazili, a 6-2 slasher who is excellent at the rim and should spend the rest of his time pondering how to get there.
Teams live and die by how they reload after good players leave and Colorado reloaded...middlingly. The star of the class is undoubtedly Bryce Peters, a 6-4 guard out of Long Beach. Peters can shoot the ball and get to the rim well, and is an excellent finisher. He lacks a bit of burst despite landing a four star rating. Lucas Siewart is the 6-9, 220 center looking to take Scott’s place. More a face up post than a true banger, he lacks the bulk, at least currently, to play inside against high-major big men. He can shoot, but he may be stuck as a swing four. Finally, the Buffaloes added Dallas Walton, a 6-7, 185 (Colorado is apparently trying to save on meal plans) forward with a high IQ but not the requisite size or face up game yet to make it play. It’s not a bad class, but it also isn’t one loaded with players.
Ken Pomeroy has Colorado at 56th, which seems about right. Tad Boyle returns quite a bit of talent to replace his one big loss, but the incoming class leaves a bit to be desired. The guys who are still there, boosted by Peters, will be able to score and defend, but they’ve lost a lot on the inside when it comes to their vaunted rebounding.