Optimism abounds in Boulder
During the final two months of last season, Colorado went 12–4 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT. Every player who saw the court during that stretch is back, and two of them — Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright IV — were first-team All-Pac-12 performers.
Coach Tad Boyle, in his 10th season, has spent the past two years rebuilding his team and leaning on youth. Now that they’ve grown up, the Buffs’ expectations are higher than they’ve been in a long time.
“Obviously our expectations, both internally and externally, are higher,” Boyle says. “We certainly expect to be in the NCAA Tournament and we expect to hopefully advance in that tournament. I want to continue to improve and get better every day. If we do that in the fall and we do that during the season, everything else will take care of itself.”
At a Glance
HEAD COACH: Tad Boyle
2018-19 RECORD (PAC-12): 23-13 (10-8)
2018-19 POSTSEASON: NIT: Lost to Texas 68-55 in the quarterfinals
G Deleon Brown (4.1 ppg, 0.8 apg)
G Namon Wright (7.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Bey averaged 16.0 points and 11.1 boards — with 11 double-doubles — in the final 16 games, leading some fans to worry that he would test the NBA waters. He’s a monster on the boards and developing as a scorer, especially on the perimeter. If he takes another leap forward, this could be his final year in Boulder.
Evan Battey shook off the rust last season of not playing for two years. He can be a force on the boards and as a scorer, and he’s also one of the team’s best passers. Lucas Siewert lost his starting job to Battey in the middle of last season but has been a valuable shooter and role player during his career.
A starter two years ago, center Dallas Walton missed last year with a torn ACL — his third since his junior year of high school. He’s been at CU for three seasons but played in only one of them. He has the potential to be a standout in the paint.
With good depth, there could be times when three frontcourt players are on the floor together. “Finding minutes for them might be a little bit of a challenge, but that’s a better problem to have than the alternative,” Boyle says.
Junior Alexander Strating, redshirt freshman Jakub Dombek and walk-on Frank Ryder provide depth if the Buffs deal with foul trouble or injuries.
Wright saw his production decline a bit last year, but he’s the unquestioned leader of this team. He spent much of last season dealing with a shoulder injury that required offseason surgery and yet still improved his shooting percentages. Back to full strength this year, Wright will look to take his game to another level.
Competition will be tough at the other guard spots, and it starts with Shane Gatling and D’Shawn Schwartz, who were both regular starters. Schwartz is developing into a solid wing player, while Gatling is a talented shooter who needs to play with more consistency this year. Daylen Kountz provided a spark off the bench as a freshman, and he’s explosive going to the rim.
Junior college transfer Maddox Daniels brings needed length on the perimeter, as well as the ability to help the Buffs improve their dismal 3-point shooting (32.3 percent as a team). Eli Parquet got limited minutes last year but will compete as well.
Injuries and suspensions left a thin rotation last year, but this might be the deepest team Boyle has had in Boulder. “Practices are going to be competitive,” he says. “[Last year] everybody knew they were going to play. This year, if you’re not producing, I’m going to have other options to go to. It’ll put a little bit of a premium on production.”
With experience and depth, the Buffs expect to get plenty of production from their lineup. The core of this team is entering its third year together, and there are aspirations for playing in the NCAA Tournament and also for challenging for the program’s first league title since 1969.
Postseason Prediction: Sweet 16
Pac-12 Prediction: 1st