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Pac-12 Previews: Colorado

Ezra Shaw

This season, the Colorado Buffaloes have already done something that no other Buffs team has done before: they have sold out season tickets.

It is really a testament to Tad Boyle, and the job that he has done in turning around the Buffs program. He has made it to the NCAA Tournament each of the last two years. The Buffs have won at least 2 games in each of the past three seasons.

Before Boyle took over, Colorado had made the Big Dance twice since 1970. Once in 1997 and again in 2003. They look primed to make it three straight appearances this season.

What happened last season?

Tad Boyle did not get fired. Tad Boyle earned a raise. That means that the Buffs did well. Actually, the Buffs did well. Better than a lot of teams.

The Buffs went to the NCAA Tournament last season on the back of a 21-12 regular season that included a 10-8 record inside of the Pac-12. While they may have made it as an at-large bid by making the final game of the conference tournament, Colorado earned an at-large bid after they lost to Arizona, another at-large bid, in the second round.

Colorado didn't win their first game of the Tournament, falling to Illinois in the "Second Round."

Who left?

Arguably their best player last season, Andre Roberson left following his true junior season to enter himself into the NBA Draft. He was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 26th pick in the first round, but was subsequently traded to Oklahoma City. Roberson is getting paid less than a draft pick in his position would normally get, because the luxury tax in the NBA is weird.

The biggest thing that CU will be missing with Roberson, is his rebounding. His 11.2 RPG average was first in the Pac-12, and second in the nation. Offensively, beyond getting offensive rebounds and putting the ball back up following those rebounds, Roberson was limited offensively. He had a below-average jump shot that will probably need to be re-tooled in the NBA, and scored almost all of his points off of putbacks and cuts in the post, unable to create his own shot with any consistency.

Regardless, Roberson was a first-round pick for a reason. He was a very, very good player for Colorado and will be missed.

Sabatino Chen played a reserve role on the perimeter, rebounding well for a guard and providing a little bit of scoring when he was out there, but wasn't much of a threat on his own.

Who returns?

Most of the team returns. Led by junior guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker, Colorado has one of the deepest teams in the Pac-12.

Dinwiddie led the team in minutes, scoring and assists last season. This year, he is looking to take more of a leadership role ($) on the team, after deferring to Roberson for that much of the season.

He often gets the Buffs situated into their offense, but aside from that, he doesn't run much of a traditional point guard role of creating for others. His best ability is creating a shot in isolation or off of a pick n roll, where he is deadly with the use of his mid-range jumper or wide array of floaters, leaners and other moves when getting near the rim.

Nobody in the Pac-12 (and only three in the entire country) scored a higher percentage of his points from the free throw line (39.2%).

Dinwiddie is a projected late first-round draft pick.

Booker was Dinwiddie's backcourt-mate for last season, and it wasn't the best season for Booker. Like Chen, he is a good rebounder for a guard - he is only 6-1.

While he was a solid role player for the Buffs in his freshman season, he was relied upon to do a lot more scoring his sophomore year. He was able to do that, but not very efficiently. He essentially slumped for the entire season en route to shooting 36.4 percent from the field, and 31.2 percent from behind the line.

He has missed quite a bit of practice time (almost two weeks) this camp due to a virus he contracted earlier this month, but has since returned to practices. He used the time to talk with the coaches about certain things he needed to work on, and things he needed to do for the team when he did return.

Sophomore forward Josh Scott started in every game he played except for one. At 6-10, he spends most of his time inside, and scored 10.3 points per game using his back-to-the-basket game. He suffered a concussion in February against Arizona State, which caused him to miss two games, and after that he struggled, relative to a very hot start to begin the season.

Scott added about 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason to help him better finish through traffic and rebound. With the loss of Roberson someone will need to be cleaning up the glass, and Scott will look to be that guy.

Xavier Johnson played quite a bit last season for the Buffs as a freshman. At 6-7, he looks the part of a small forward. He operates a lot in the high post, getting the ball on cuts and while on the move. He does have the ability to hit long-range shots, shooting 44 percent from downtown. Interestingly enough, he shot 55% from the free throw line, so it will be interesting to see which number changes dramatically this season.

Who's new?

Colorado has a lot of guys who either didn't make an impact last season who could make some noise this year, or are freshmen with the chance to make an impact.

One of the redshirts last season was Wesley Gordon. Gordon is a 6-8 post with a high motor. He isn't exceptionally skilled on the block but can get it done. His best attribute is his rebounding, something that will get him minutes.

The other redshirt was Chris Jenkins... I have no information on him other than he has a decent three-point stroke.

Incoming freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher is a 4-star recruit who could make an impact. He stands at 6-6 with skills like a point guard. Out of Tacoma, Wash., he has the chance to make an impact given his ability to take a man off of the dribble and hit the mid-range jumper in addition to having great vision for a 6-6 forward. He is left-handed as well.

Colorado is a team with the ability to vie for the conference title. What do you see happening for them? Personally, I see them finishing in the top-three in the Pac-12 and getting an at-large bid to the Dance.

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