Pac 12 Basketball Tournament - First Round

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 19 Colorado Buffaloes


All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 21-12, 10-8 (5th Pac-12); Lost in the Round of 64 to Illinois

Head Coach: Tad Boyle (4th season at Colorado: 69-37 overall, 29-23 Big 12/Pac-12)

Key Losses: Andre Roberson, Sabatino Chen, Jeremy Adams

Newcomers: Jaron Hopkins, Tre’shaun Fletcher, Wesley Gordon, Chris Jenkins, Dustin Thomas, George King

Projected Lineup

G: Spencer Dinwiddie, Jr.
G: Askia Booker, Jr.
F: Xavier Johnson, So.
F: Wesley Gordon, Fr.
C: Josh Scott, So.
Bench: Jaron Hopkins, Fr.; Chris Jenkins, Fr.; Xavier Talton, So.; Eli Stalzer, So.; Dustin Thomas, Fr.

They’ll be good because …: If all goes according to plan, Tad Boyle will have one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country. Spencer Dinwiddie is no longer a secret. The 6-foot-6 point guard is one of the most versatile players in the country, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. If he avoids his bouts of inconsistency, he’s got a shot at being a first round pick in June. Josh Scott put on 20 pounds of muscle, which should allow him to a) better get position in the paint and b) be more durable when it comes to lasting through the entire season. Throw in Xavier Johnson, who should thrive with Andre Roberson off to the NBA, and the Buffs could end up with three all-Pac-12 performers on the roster.

Colorado will also have a roster that will be able to give a number of different looks this season. If they need to go big, they can play Johnson at the three and put one of their big guards at the two. If Boyle wants to use a smaller lineup, Johnson can slide over and play the four, allowing Dinwiddie to share the perimeter with two of Colorado’s smaller guards. Tad Boyle will be able to create mismatches next season.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: There is quite a bit of youth on this roster. The two veterans are Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, who are both juniors. Scott and Johnson are the elder statesmen because they are sophomores. Experience can be overrated in a sport dominated by one-and-done players, but Colorado’s freshmen aren’t exactly Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle. There is a learning curve here, and it may take a season or two for some of these guys to become capable of contributing at this level.

Along those same lines, Colorado’s lack of front court depth could be a problem if there is an injury or foul trouble. We know about Scott and Johnson, and 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Wesley Gordon should slide in quite effectively as the four-man. But outside of those three, there isn’t much on this roster that is proven up front. Ben Mills has scored 40 points in three seasons. Dustin Thomas is a freshman that’s known more for his perimeter stroke than his physicality around the rim.

Outlook: There are two things that signify a quality basketball program: the ability to identify and develop talent that others don’t recognize, and being able to continue to grow as a team despite losing that talent earlier that expected. Twice in the last three years, Colorado has lost a player to early entry (Alec Burks and Roberson) that was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. And while Boyle didn’t recruit either of them, he was the one that put together this entire roster, one that has been built on under-the-radar talent and will head into this season as a top 25 team.

Can the Buffaloes win the Pac-12? Well, that’s a tough task considering that a) Arizona has a chance to be awesome this season and b) the conference will be as deep as it has been since Kevin Love and James Harden had normal facial hair. This is going to be one of those years where sixth place in the Pac-12 is two games behind first place, but anything short of at least one win in the NCAA tournament should be thought of as a disappointing year for these Buffaloes.

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.