Let the Games Begin: A Look at the 2014-15 Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team

… Looking Back at 2013-14: Losing Dinwiddie gave Buff fans an early 2014-15 preview …

For the first two months of the 2013-14 basketball season, Buff fans were excited not only about the present, but the future. The Buffs were 14-2 and ranked 15th in the nation. Colorado already had an impressive NCAA tournament resume, with wins over top ten teams Kansas and Oregon already on the ledger.

The present looked bright, but so too did the future. In all likelihood, the Buffs would likely lose an All-Pac-12 performer in Spencer Dinwiddie to the NBA draft. But there was a strong core of players who would return, and there were several highly touted recruits ready to come to Boulder for the 2014-15 season. The Buff Nation had a great season going in 2013-14, and 2014-15 looked like another great year in the making.

Then suddenly, on January 12th, in a game against Washington in Seattle, the future became the present. Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a torn ACL and was lost for the season. Just like that, the 2013-14 Buffs were the 2014-15 Buffs.

Colorado lost its way against Washington that Sunday afternoon last January, falling 71-54. The Buffs went on to lose three of their next four games, including humbling losses to UCLA at home, and both Arizona schools on the road. Suddenly, Colorado was no longer a ranked team, and a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament was in jeopardy.

The Buffs seemingly righted the ship with a pair of close home wins over Utah and Washington State, and a dominating (revenge?) win over Washington. The 18-6, 7-4 Buffs, though, looked better, and the NCAA bid seemed all but assured.

Again, though, the Buffs stumbled. An 18-point loss to UCLA on the road was followed a 17-point loss at home the following weekend to No. 4 Arizona, with losses to Utah and Cal on the road helping the Buffs close out the regular season with a 1-3 slide.

A pair of 59-56 victories in the Pac-12 tournament, first over USC; the second over Cal, gave Colorado a 23-10 record, ending any doubts about the Buffs’ bubble status. Arizona then drubbed the Buffs for a third time, this time by the score of 63-43 in the Pac-12 semi-finals.

On Selection Sunday, there was still a little twinge of nerves for the Buff Nation, with the slight from three years earlier by the NCAA Selection Committee still an open wound. Colorado, after all had gone from a 14-2 record in January to 23-11 in March, finishing the season with a modest 9-9 record without Spencer Dinwiddie.

The NCAA though, rewarded the entirety of the Buffs’ resume, making Colorado a No. 8 seed. The Buffs were paired with No. 9 Pittsburgh, in a game to be played in Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World.

The game may have well been played at Wally World.

Pittsburgh completely blew out the Buffs, jumping out to a 13-0 lead and never looking back. The halftime score was 46-18; the final score 77-48.

It was the worst deficit the University of Colorado had ever suffered in an NCAA game.

… Looking Forward: What to Expect in 2014-15 …

Some schools want to forget the past, especially when it carries with it unpleasant memories.

Not so at Colorado under Tad Boyle.

Forget about the humbling loss to Pitt in the NCAA tournament? Not a chance.

In almost every office window at the CU basketball complex, 8×10 signs are taped. They read: PITTSBURGH 77, COLORADO 48.

… and not only in the windows.

“They are above the urinals, in the locker room, in the weight room taped to the TV monitors,” said Boyle this summer. “It’s a daily reminder to our staff, to our players of what happened in the NCAA tournament”.

So, will Colorado, without Spencer Dinwiddie in 2014-15, revert to the 9-9 team which finished out the 2013-14 season?

Or will the Buffs be the second-best team in the Pac-12 everyone is predicting?


The discussion here begins and ends with Josh Scott. The 6’10” junior last season led the team in scoring (14.1 ppg.), rebounding (8.4 rpg.), field goal percentage (51.1), double-doubles (13), and was second in blocks (40) and steals (28). Scott was a 2014 All-Pac-12 Conference first team selection last spring, and is a preseason All-Pac-12 first team selection this fall.

Joining Scott in the frontcourt are junior Xavier Johnson and sophomore Wesley Gordon. Johnson enters his junior year on the school’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists, ranked No. 51 in rebounding (353) and No. 67 in scoring (691). Gordon was named as a Pac-12 Conference All-Freshman team honorable mention. Gordon played in 31 games, with 27 starts, missing four games due to injuries.

Last season, Colorado was 2nd in the Pac-12, and 16th in the nation, in rebound margin, with a plus-5.9 rebounds per game. All three starters return, joined this fall by heralded recruit, Tory Miller. A 6’9″, 255-pound forward, Miller was rated by Rivals as the No. 144 player in the nation out of the recruiting Class of 2014. Miller, from New Hampshire, had offers from all over the country – from Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Kansas State, Marquette, and Miami (Fla.).

“Immediately, he’s going to be ready to compete physically,” CU assistant coach Mike Rohn said last spring, before Miller arrived at CU. “The physicality of practice is going to go up significantly when Tory walks on campus.

“The guys may not like him guarding them in practice every day, or guarding him, but it’s going to make us better.”


Askia Booker was thrust into the point guard position last January when Spencer Dinwiddie went down, with mixed results. The question for the 2014-15 season is whether the senior will keep that job.

Booker, for one, has no doubts. “I wanna play point-guard from the jump,” says Booker. “I might move to the 2 if Dominique [Collier] comes in or Xavier [Talton]; whatever Coach (Boyle) wants. But I plan on playing the 1 as soon as the game starts.”

Boyle, as Booker noted, does have options. Junior Xavier Talton saw the biggest increase in playing time after Dinwiddie went down, and will be counted upon for even greater production this season.

And then there is Dominique Collier. The true freshman from Denver East was rated as a four-star prospect this past recruiting cycle, considered by Rivals to be the No. 93 recruit in the nation. Collier had an offer sheet even more impressive than that of Tory Miller – Arizona, UCLA, Kansas State, Missouri, Oregon, Gonzaga and Iowa – but stayed with his home state Buffs. The two-time Colorado Mr. Basketball will have the talent to contribute right away, but may not become dominant until he can add some muscle to his 6’2″, 170-pound frame.


Colorado lost fan favorites Beau Gamble and Ben Mills to graduation, but, other than Mills’ occasional contributions, the pair were not major contributors.

This season, the Buff bench is talented and deep.

“I think the biggest growth, and potential for this team, is in that sophomore class,” Boyle told cubuffs.com. “Guys like George King, Dustin Thomas, Jaron Hopkins and Tre’Shaun Fletcher, they’re not freshmen anymore. It’s time for them to kind of step their games up and if that happens, we’re gonna be pretty good. I think we know what we’re getting from a lot of our veterans, but from that sophomore and freshmen class, it’s kind of really the benefit of this team.”

One player who may surprise is Fletcher, who was injured early in the Pac-12 campaign along with Dinwiddie. “I’ve just been working out,” Fletcher says. “I stayed (on campus) over the summer, just hitting the weight room as much as I can, going and playing games. I went overseas and played a couple games over there, just trying to get back to where I was before I got hurt.”

Boyle calls Fletcher the X-factor because he was developing nicely in the first two months of his freshman season before his injury. “He never really kind of got back in the flow and never really got back in the rotation cause he came back so late,” Boyle says. “He has great length and great size. He can put the ball on the floor. He can shoot it. He’s got a chance to really make an impact on this team.”

… The 2014-15 Non-Conference Schedule …

The 2013-14 non-conference schedule was a gauntlet from the old Big 12. After opening against No. 25 Baylor (a loss), the Buffs also played No. 6 Kansas (a win) and No. 7 Oklahoma State (a loss). The non-conference schedule also included games against quality opponents like Harvard, UC-Santa Barbara, Colorado State and Georgia (all wins). The tough non-conference slate helped preserve CU’s NCAA tournament bid when the Buffs finished the season with a 9-9 record.

The 2014-15 schedule is not quite as daunting. The Buffs open against Drexel on November 14th before taking on Auburn in ESPN’s 24-hour marathon (11:00 p.m. tipoff in Boulder). The only true road games will be against Wyoming (always a tough out for the Buffs) and Georgia. The interesting tidbit in non-conference play comes in the days leading up to Christmas, when CU participates in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. The Buffs will play DePaul in the first road, then either George Washington or Ohio in the second round. Two strong candidates on the other side of the bracket – Wichita State and Nebraska – await the Buffs if Colorado makes it to the championship game on Christmas night (6:30 p.m., MT).

“Two things that you want out of your non-conference schedule, is the opportunity to win and prepare your team for conference play,” Boyle said.  “I think the schedule we have put together accomplishes both those goals. It’s a very good non-conference schedule given the fact we have only one senior (Askia Booker) and the jury is still out on this team; it challenges us enough to have bring it every night.”

… Preseason Rankings …

The Associated Press preseason poll won’t come out until October 31st, but that does not mean that there will not be plenty of speculation before then.

– Lindy’s has Colorado as its preseason No. 16 team. Lindy’s ranks Arizona No. 3 nationally, with three other Pac-12 schools: Utah (No. 29); UCLA (No. 32); and Stanford (No. 37) in its top 40 schools.

Lindy’s Overview of Colorado:

“The challenge remains catching Arizona in the Pac-12. Of course, that remains a challenge for 11 teams, not just the Buffs. Colorado, with near-sellouts, altitude advantage, and sharp non-league scheduling, is now an annual contender for the upper division of the Pac-12, and annual NCAA trips. ‘The expectation of this program has risen,’ said Boyle”.

Athlon’s, meanwhile, has Colorado as its preseason No. 17 team.

Athlon’s Overview of Colorado:

“The Buffaloes have the talent an depth to compete for a Pac-12 title. It’s not a team without flaws, however. To make a serious run at Arizona — the overwhelming favorite to win the league — Colorado must identify a primary point guard and improve its shooting from the perimeter”.

The University of Colorado has been playing basketball for over 100 years. In only eight of those seasons have the Buffs posted 20 or more victories.

Tad Boyle has been the coach for four of those eight seasons.

Boyle has re-written the CU record books, with his 92 victories already fourth on the all-time list in Boulder. Colorado has been to the post-season four straight seasons, and to the NCAA tournament three straight seasons, both new records at Colorado.

Now, the Buffs are not only expected to make the post-season, not only expected to make the NCAA tournament, but make some noise once they get there.

“The expectation of this program has risen”, said Boyle.

Indeed it has.

Let the games begin …


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *