Cannon Fodder: Colorado basketball will make the NCAA tournament this year

Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Cannon Casey at cannon.casey@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @cannon_casey.

The University of Colorado basketball team is going to make it to the dance in 2016. They last made it in 2014, but that appearance didn’t last long thanks to a 77-48 loss to Pittsburgh in the first round.

First off, let’s go through their schedule and predict the record for 2016. Based on matchups and my gut feeling, the Buffs lose to Iowa State and BYU in non-conference play. In conference, losses against Stanford, UCLA, USC, Oregon, No. 16 Utah twice, No. 14 Cal twice and No. 12 Arizona twice would put them at 18-12. That, coupled with a couple wins in the Pac-12 tournament, should be enough to vault the Buffaloes into the bracket.

With Providence transfer Josh Fortune able to play, George King back and the additions of foreign players Thomas Akyazili and Kenan Guzonjic, the Buffs have enough firepower to make it this year.

Also, let’s not forget that Colorado will be returning three of their top four scorers from last season: Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson and Wes Gordon. Johnson is currently out with a torn Achilles’ tendon, but I fully believe he can return this season.

Look for Dom Collier to develop into something special this year, and if you throw all that together — you have a solid team.

Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas, who transferred to Fresno State and Arkansas, respectively, won’t be missed enough to make a difference in Colorado’s play. First of all, the two didn’t make much of an impact, and the Buffs have done a good job replacing the holes with recruiting.

Moving into conference play, the Buffs should get Johnson back if he recovers as fast as he thinks he can. The Pac-12 is going to be tough this year. The conference has three teams in the top 25 (Zona, Cal, Utah), and two other teams receiving votes (Oregon, UCLA). It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Pac-12 ends up with five to six tournament teams.

If the Buffs finish how I think they will, look for them as a possible 11 seed this season. Last year’s 11 seeds: Texas (20-13) Dayton (26-8), UCLA (20-13), Mississippi (21-12).

For Colorado to get back to its success, this team has to get better on the defensive side. The Buffs ranked 220th in opponent’s points per game last season. For some perspective, that ranking came in just ahead of North Texas and just behind North Florida.

Defense wins championships, and that defense isn’t good enough to win even an NIT championship or the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) that Colorado played in last year. For reference: NCAA Tournament > NIT > CBI. So, the Buffs have some work to do this year, but I think that they are up to the challenge.

Colorado will take on Iowa State on Friday, Nov. 13 in the Sanford Pentagon at Sioux Falls, South Dakota at 5 p.m. (EST). The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Cannon Casey

Cannon Casey is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Colorado and a Boulder native. He is a copy editor and sports writer for the CU Independent, a baseball coach for Fairview High School, and an intern at CHSAA.

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