Woelk: No More Rebuilding For Boyle's Buffs — Just Reloading
BOULDER — As is often the case, Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes will almost certainly be flying under the radar when the season begins.
No surprise. With all but one member of perhaps the most impactful recruiting class in Colorado history having now moved on — including one of the Buffaloes' all-time greats, McKinley Wright IV — it is understandable to wonder what's next for Boyle's Buffs.
But those who underestimate the Buffaloes — again — will quite likely wish they had paid a little more attention to what's happening at the CU Events Center as the season unfolds.
Boyle has patiently and steadily created a foundation at Colorado that is rock solid, and he is no longer in the position where he has to rebuild after a successful season.
He simply reloads — and this year's team, while no doubt young, is loaded with potential and talent.
Clearly the Buffs have some big holes to fill as they officially open practice Tuesday. Along with Wright, a perennial all-conference performer, CU must also replace departed starters D'Shawn Schwartz and Dallas Walton, as well as reserves Jeriah Horne and Maddox Daniels.
All played key roles last year as the Buffs produced a 23-9 record, a third-place finish in the Pac-12 regular season, a runner-up finish in the conference tournament and a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
But even with the substantial turnover, Boyle believes his 12th season in Boulder could very well produce the Buffs' sixth NCAA appearance in his tenure (a number that would be seven had the Covid pandemic not cut the 2019-20 season short).
Part of the optimism so pervasive in the CU Events Center hinges around a pair of returning starters, forward Evan Battey and Elijah Parquet, two veterans who will bring immediate leadership and stability to the court.
Other returnees include sophomore wing Jabari Walker, whose moments of brilliance last season portend bigger and better things, as well as guards Keeshawn Barthelemy, Nique Clifford and Luke O'Brien, and forward Tristan da Silva.
Barthelemy, who had a strong finish last year, is poised to step in and assume the reins at point guard. While it's unlikely the Buffs' game plan this year will be as point guard dependent as it was with Wright at the controls, Barthelemy still figures to be a central figure.
Walker has the potential to blossom into a Pac-12 force, da Silva should also be ready to take his game up a notch and Clifford and O'Brien should be ready to become regular contributors.
But the returnees are only part of the reason CU followers are quietly expecting big things from the Buffs.
One very big reason for the excitement around CU's program is an incoming freshman class regarded as one of the best in the nation. From guards KJ Simpson, Javon Ruffin and Julian Hammond III to forward Quincy Allen and center Lawson Lovering, it is a talented, deep and diverse bunch that brings firepower to every position on the floor.
Several could be significant contributors in a hurry, and they will no doubt add depth to the regular rotation.
But most importantly, the newest Buffs are a clear sign that Boyle must no longer rebuild after a successful season. Colorado is now a program that reloads every year, with the expectation of being a Pac-12 contender and NCAA Tournament team built into the framework.
There will no doubt be growing pains as CU's newcomers adjust to the day-in, day-out rigors of the college game. There will be learning moments and lessons along the way.
But they will improve. If there is one overarching, consistent theme of Boyle's tenure in Boulder, it is this:
His players get better. They come to Boulder, they learn, they grow, they absorb the environment Boyle and his staff have created and they improve.
That is yet another part of the foundation Boyle has built — a foundation upon which big expectations have become part of the norm, not the exception.