Arizona has now played an exhibition game and the college basketball season is inching closer and closer! So, let's get to know yet another Pac-12 nemesis!
We've gone through, whom I believe will finish in the bottom five in the conference. We're getting to an interesting point in the conference, where the top half is full of NCAA tournament contenders. Next up is a team that could be a tourney contender and they're also a team that Arizona has built quite the rivalry with in their short time in the conference: The Colorado Buffaloes.
Tad Boyle is entering his sixth season at Colorado and his first four years were tremendously successful. He managed a 92-49 record at the school, never won less than 21 games in a season, and he took Colorado to the NCAA tournament in three-straight seasons, a first in program history. Boyle and the Buffs also fit right in to the conference, never finishing worse than 10-8 in conference play and collecting a Pac-12 tournament championship along the way.
Then...year five happened. Last year was an undisputed down year for Colorado. They finished below .500 in conference (7-11), and in general (16-18). They dealt with a ton of injuries a year ago but the biggest difference last season was, according to kenpom.com, their defense fell from 42nd in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2014 all the way to 119th in 2015. All things considered, Colorado's success under Boyle the first four years shouldn't be disregarded because of one down year. I believe last season, especially defensively, was an aberration, and that Tad Boyle will make sure we continue to see Colorado as an annual threat.
Entering his senior season, and fourth year as a starter, Colorado big man, Josh Scott, finds himself at the center of the offense for the first time. In years past, the offense had centered around guard play, with now Detroit Piston, Spencer Dinwiddie, and recently graduated Askia Booker. Now, it's all in Scott's hands and Colorado wouldn't want it any other way. In each of the last two seasons, he averaged over 14 points per game, over 8 rebounds per game and shot over 50% from the field. I look for all those numbers to continue to go up with him as the focal point of the offense.
Games versus Arizona...
Feb. 24 @ Coors Events Center
The Projected Starting Five...
F Josh Scott
F Wesley Gordon
G/F Tre'Shaun Fletcher
G Xavier Talton
G Dominique Collier
The big question mark heading into the season is the status of senior forward, Xavier Johnson. He suffered a torn achilles in June and clearly won't be ready for the start of the season. It's currently unknown if he'll play at all this season. If he doesn't redshirt to get a full senior season in next year, look for him to be immediately inserted into the starting lineup in late December or early January. Aforementioned Scott and junior, Gordon, combine to make a more than formidable frontcourt. Junior guard/forward, Fletcher and sophomore, Collier, will look to be the more consistent backcourt duo and try to replace Askia Booker's production from a year ago. Senior, Talton, should see the most spot starts for the season, as he has the most experience.
The Best Case Scenario...
The defense goes back to being stingy and everybody remains healthy. If those things happen, there's no reason Colorado can't get back to their winning ways. If Xavier Johnson is able to come back at 100%, this team will find themselves on the right side of the bubble on Selection Sunday.
I do think Colorado will be improved over last season but the conference is deeper than people realize this season. Josh Scott is a legit big man and can score inside but I worry about their guards offensively. I got 'em at 9-9 in the conference, 7th place, and just a little bit short of an NCAA tournament bid.