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Pac-12 Basketball Team Preview: Colorado Could Be Very Awkward Customers In The Conference Hunt

Outside of guard George King, it’s open competition for playing time with the Buffs.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Buffaloes

  • Last Season: 19-15 (8-10)
  • Head Coach: Tad Boyle (8th Season)
  • Projected Media Poll Finish: 9th (112 Points)
  • Leading Returner In Scoring: George King (11.1 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Rebounds: George King (6.8 RPG)
  • Leading Returner In Assists: Dominique Collier (1.6 APG)

The Skinny

For a program that’s averaged 21.3 wins per season under head coach Tad Boyle, Colorado sure does sit at an enigmatic spot in the bigger overall picture in the Pac-12. On one side of things, the Buffs have always been one of the league’s tougher teams to consistently beat, having made four trips to the NCAA Tournament during Boyle’s tenure and regularly taking some of the country’s top teams down to the wire. But on the other side of things, it’s the unknowns for Colorado that paint a daunting picture of what the 2017-2018 campaign may shape up to be.

After finishing 19-15 a season ago, which included an abysmal 0-7 start to conference play, the Buffs settled for a trip to the NIT, where they bounced early by UCF. While the late-season push by Colorado was commendable in a way, it much more revealed a larger issue for the program that couldn’t find their way to the big dance, even with one of Boyle’s more recently impressive rosters. If nothing else, it leaves the question with the season just days away as if that’s only what last year’s team could do, what in the world should be expected from this year’s model of the Buffs?

NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Oregon
Dominique Collier will need to lead a new-look Colorado back-court.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

While saying goodbye to high-scoring guard Derrick White and the front-court duo of Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon would hamper any team, the trio’s departure surely leaves some noticeable holes for Colorado, where only senior George King (11.1 PPG) has proven true ability to carry a heavy scoring load. For King, he’ll need to work flawlessly in tandem with point guard Dominique Collier (6.0 PPG) and Missouri transfer Namon Wright (8.2 PPG) to give the Buffs the versatility needed to compete in an always rigorous Pac-12.

Where things will get really tricky for Colorado is in the front-court, where no players besides 6’ 9”, 250-pounder Tory Miller-Stewart (5.6 PPG) logged more than 15 minutes per contest for the Buffs a season ago. It means that Boyle will have to get significant contributions from a cast of players in the paint ranging from sophomore Lucas Siewert to the freshmen core of Evan Battey and Dallas Walton. At the wing spot, much-heralded freshmen D’Shawn Schwartz or Tyler Bey both could be likely candidates, pending how Boyle chooses to align his guys on the floor.

Player To Know: George King (SR)

The one known commodity on the Colorado roster is 6’ 6” guard/swingman George King, who last season averaged 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the 19-win Buffaloes. This time around, those averages will likely need to increase, considering the unknown depth of the roster behind him. While King will be thrust from last season’s third option to this year’s first option, it’ll really be the way he clicks with point guard Dominique Collier that will make all the difference for King. If him and Collier can understand the task at hand and flourish together, it’ll take some of the burden off the rest of this Colorado depth chart, that at the moment has more questions than answers.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Des Moines Practice
George King is a projected all-conference selection for the Buffs this season.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Key Non-Conference Games

  • 11/16 v. Providence* (2K Classic)
  • 12/6 v. Kansas*
  • 12/10 v. Gonzaga