2015-16 Colorado Basketball Preview: Happier Buffs

Let’s cut straight to the criticisms: few players have made marked improvements in the Tad Boyle program. There have been some – even three NBA draft picks – but with regards to making an individual “leap,” we qualitatively and quantitatively haven’t seen much. It’s concerning and it draws my attention to Dom Collier. It wasn’t the glamorous freshman campaign we might’ve expected. So unglamorous that Xavier Talton ticked big minutes at the point guard spot despite an 83.4 ORtg. That’s bad. So combine this with a team that already wasn’t overwhelmingly talented and the loss of arguably CU’s most dynamic player, Xavier Johnson (achilles), and I’m not high on CU hoops. But I’m an optimist. Not Rothstein-ian, but when examining rosters in the fall, the spirit ought be hopeful. Josh Scott is healthy and the Buffs have called a spade a spade: last season was a nightmare. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. The Buffs know it. Now what they do about it – or what they’ve done about it, rather – should manifest on and off the court. Maybe the season’s future isn’t bright, but this season should have a lot more external (as opposed to internal) fight.

Why I love them

Attitude adjustments. Last season was a tumultuous and ineffective internal struggle. There were reports of fights, clicks, and islands. At Media Day, Scott was candid about this, “Looking at last year, I think me and my teammates kind of had to evaluate where we went wrong as a group, and in looking at it, we were afraid to call each other out.” If it’s broke, fix it. The Buffs have recognized the fault in their ways and are addressing them head on. They’ll introduce George King along with Josh Fortune – a sound 6’5” now-Junior guard from Providence – and Collier to shore up an experienced back court. Scott has always been the type of player I’d take on my squad and, cohesively, there’s enough to defend the way Tad would like. Optimism. I’d also like to note Tre’Schaun Fletcher who – if getting more minutes – could be the dynamic athlete with a jumper (46% from distance on 45 attempts) needed to help make the floor bigger. He had the team’s fourth highest ORtg last year (101) which generally projects towards good things.


Why I hate them

Attitude adjustments. In 2013-14 Johnny Dawkins returned an identical Cardinal roster that had just gone 19-15, a consensus under-achievement. At that Media Day I asked about it and he told me,, “We’re thinking about things differently.” STFU. That team effectively went 19-11 before a nice Pac-12 tournament run, a surprise invite to the NCAA tournament, and a “validating” win over Kansas before a “validating” loss to Dayton. Thinking differently doesn’t often change much and I don’t know who’s gotten so much better that this team drastically improves. Last season – when playing – 53% of Scott’s rim conversions were assisted. Who on this team is getting him that ball now? More critically, who’s spacing the court for him by hitting threes? Not Xavier Johnson. And not Dom Collier (26% 3FG last season). Can Josh Fortune feed his fellow Josh Scott? Fletcher? Maybe. But as we noted at the top of this page, players haven’t often made big improvements in this program. The hope is that Fortune serves as something of a truer combo-guard than Booker while letting Collier play the point (I imagine). However, if you look at Fortune’s comparables the last season he played (2014 with Providence), he most closely resembles…Xavier Talton. But Adam! What about recruiting!? Limited. Thomas Akyazili and Kenan Guzonjic and if you’ve heard of either please let me know so I can catch up.

Stat you must know: 51st

Average national rank of defensive FT rate for the Buffs since 2012. This is good and something to track. As noted, defense is the staple of Boyle success and a component of that is not fouling. In 2013 and ‘14, the Buffs ranked 6th and 14th, respectively, in defensive FTrate. Consequently, two of their most successful campaigns. Now why is this particularly relevant, you might be asking? Well because the re-emphasis on freedom of movement will most certainly increase the number of whistles blown this year. If the Buffs can keep teams off the FT line, they’ll have an improved opportunity to limit easier buckets. Defense! 

Speaking of defense, I created this graph which examines Colorado’s defensive efficiency, its national rank, their team wins, and the perceived joy levels surrounding the program.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 11.34.30 PM

The takeaway? Defense = happiness.

What I learned at Media Day

Rock top (best case scenario)

They’re the 2015 Broncos. The defense is outstanding and the offense, while miserable to watch and floundering, is enough to outscore what they allow. Fortune is a leader and Josh Scott is healthy…and the conference POY! PFM. The Buffs finish fifth in the conference, don’t make the NCAA tournament, but manage a commitment from Trevor Stanback while Collier makes his strides and Xavier Johnson is an active participant in his forthcoming senior season. The future is once again bright in Boulder. Joy!

Rock bottom (worst case scenario)

Just because you know you have chemistry issues, doesn’t mean you can make them any better. The ‘teammates’ think hero-ball is the way out; but playing basketball turns out to be these heroes’ kryptonite. Scott’s back still isn’t better, Xavier Johnson elects to go to Europe, foregoing his senior year, and everything sucks. Sorrow.

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