Now, probably more than ever, the future of the Colorado basketball program is in the best state it has ever been in before.
Coming off of their third consecutive 20-win season, their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and a season in which they boasted two first-team Pac 12 players including the conference’s defensive player of the year how can things not be trending up for Colorado?
If star defensive player Andre Roberson forgoes the NBA for one more season in Boulder, Colorado may have the best team they have ever had. They will only be losing two players from this past year’s team, Sabatino Chen to graduation and Shane Harris-Tunks who decided to move on even with one more year of eligibility remaining, with those two being role players at best.
Here’s what their possible starting five would look like if everyone who could return does come back: Guards: Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie. Forwards: Xavier Johnson and Andre Roberson. Center: Josh Scott.
Basically that is their starting five for the majority of last season so there wouldn’t really be any turn over at all in that sense. All of the players would have another offseason under their belts to get better and stronger and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the Pac 12. If everything goes according to plan, and all their players return, it would be hard not to consider Colorado as one of the early favorites to win the Pac 12 in 2013-2014.
However, head coach Tad Boyle wants his players to know that just because they are coming back they can’t just think their success will just be handed to them.
“Just because we’re going to be a year older next year does not mean we’re going to be a year better” Boyle remarked after their opening round loss to Illinois on Friday. “Our players need to understand that. Our freshman need to understand that this is where you get better, in the offseason, in the weight room, working on the deficiencies that are in your game. Whether you’re a freshman, whether you’re a sophomore or whether or you’re a junior.”
There is plenty of reason for optimism beyond just the returning starters for Colorado. Two players who red-shirted in 2012 will now be on the active roster and that will add even more depth and athleticism to Colorado’s lineup. Wesley Gordon and Chris Jenkins will join the Buffs next season and both guys will bring an immense set of skills to the court. From watching them in practice this past year I think that Gordon will have the biggest impact right away and impress fans the most. He is a version of Roberson, as far as athleticism and size goes, but he has a better offensive game at his disposal.
On top of those players joining the active roster the Buffs will be adding the 27th best recruiting class to the mix, highlighted by Tre’Shaun Fletcher and Dustin Thomas. Jaron Hopkins rounds out the three man recruiting class but it will be interesting to see which players, if any, Boyle asks to red-shirt next season. There’s plenty of talent to work with regardless of whomever sits out a season and that’s never a bad thing to have to deal with.
Boyle knows that the future of Colorado basketball is something to look forward to and that’s something that hasn’t really been said many times before in the history of the program.
“Colorado basketball, the future of it is in great shape” Boyle said. “We got a lot of good young players in our program. We got a lot of good young players coming into our program and we’re going to be back here (NCAA Tournament). We will be back.”
David LaRose is a College Basketball writer for Rant Sports covering the Pac 12 and the University of Colorado. He’s also a member of the USBWA. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Facebook page.