A year ago, Tad Boyle, men’s basketball coach at the University of Colorado, entered his first season with the knowledge that his team was talented, but he knew little else about his Buffs.
This year, despite the loss of NBA lottery pick Alec Burks and the program’s all-time leading scorer, Cory Higgins, Boyle says he feels more comfortable as the month of November begins, meaning college basketball isn’t far behind.
“Having one year under our belt as a coaching staff, having some veterans coming back into our program who know what to expect, makes you feel a lot more comfortable as a coach,” Boyle said. “Last year there were so many unknowns. Still, this year there are many unknowns, but I feel very comfortable with the guys who are in our program.”
Boyle led the Buffs to a program record 24 wins and an NIT semifinal appearance in New York City in his first year, but the season didn’t come without growing pains.
CU struggled to adapt to its new coach in the first few weeks of the season, losing to Georgia, San Francisco and Harvard. Those losses came back to haunt the Buffs in March, as Colorado was excluded from the NCAA tournament.
On the eve of the new campaign, the Buffs are putting an emphasis on starting strong. Once again, it will be paramount to start strong, as CU competes in the Puerto Rico Tip-off, in San Juan. The field is chock full of strong programs, including Purdue, Alabama, Maryland and Alabama, whom the Buffs lost to in the NIT.
“Last year, a couple of the games that we lost in November and December came back to bite us,” said senior forward Austin Dufault. “We have got to show up and be prepared right from the beginning of the season this year.”
Boyle’s increased familiarity with the team and its players should allow the Buffs to start strong and hit the ground running instead of needing to spend time acclimating to a new system.
“I wish I was at this point with last year’s team, but I wasn’t,” said Boyle. “Our veterans understand that, hey, those games in November are just as important as the games in February and March. Our game in Puerto Rico against Wichita State is going to be looked at possibly in March [by the NCAA tournament committee], depending on the kind of season we have.”
Colorado will not only have to fill the void left by Burks and Higgins, but also compensate for the absence of Big 12 sixth man of the year Levi Knutson and consistent double-digit point recorder Marcus Relphorde.
Along to bolster the Buffs’ offense are Utah transfer Carlon Brown, who is eligible after sitting out last year per NCAA rules, freshmen Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, and junior college transfer Jeremy Adams, whom Boyle calls the “x factor” for the Buffs in 2011-12.
On the other side of the court, Colorado gets a boost with the return of Shane Harris-Tunks, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Harris- Tunks, who is 6 feet, 11 inches, is the Buffs’ most aware interior defender, matching up well with other post players, as well as providing excellent helpside defense.
The Buffs start play on Nov. 11 against Fort Lewis College. Notable non-conference matchups include Georgia, which comes to Boulder after making a trip to the NCAA tournament last season, and Colorado State, which is on the rise under coach Tim Miles, on the road.