In this week’s installment of Coin Toss, the CU Independent’s Justin Guerriero and Jake Mauff debate whether the Colorado Buffaloes are capable of turning things around in the second half of the season.
Jake Mauff: Thank goodness the Buffs won on Thursday so we can even pretend to have this discussion. I may be pessimistic after covering last year’s football team, but the basketball team is not built to win right now. An easy non-conference schedule padded the win column to start off the season, but now that the real world has come crashing back in with some real competition, there’s no way this team suddenly starts to compete. This is a team that is lacking identity. We know head coach Tad Boyle likes to play traditional basketball. Heck, he can’t seem to coach anything other than two bigs grinding in the post. With the departure of Josh Scott, the team lost not only its best big, but its depth too. There is no one else currently on the roster that can play the nitty-gritty game Boyle wants. Senior forward Wesley Gordon is also not going to improve to a Josh Scott level of play overnight.
It’s not just the lack of depth in the post. The rest of the roster seems somewhat disjointed on what to do on offense. For several games, it appeared the offensive playbook was “fire at will.” Not only were shots abundant, but they were quick. This is the exact opposite of how Boyle develops his offense. Its intention isn’t just to drain the clock, it’s to get an easy shot. Whether that be a well fought battle in the post or a defensive collapse for more high percentage shots, the game Boyle wants is traditional basketball. Colorado seems more ready to mimic Golden State right now. The team will likely not match its 0-7 start in conference play; it’s certainly not going to be knocking on any doors come March.
Justin Guerriero: C’mon Jake, where is the optimism? There’s no way around the fact that an NCAA Tournament berth is a prospect that disappeared weeks ago for the Buffaloes. But Colorado’s last two weeks of play has reinvigorated my belief that this team is capable of a respectable turnaround.
The Buffs have played pretty good basketball over the last two weeks. Now, I am aware that in those last two weeks, the team has just one win (against OSU) compared to three losses, which includes two overtime losses, one of which saw the Buffs blow a 15-point halftime lead to the Washington Huskies. That said, in those three losses, the Buffaloes lost by a combined total of seven points. In three of Colorado’s last four games, the Buffs have seen at least four players score in double digits. The Buffs had three players score in double digits in their loss to USC.
Junior guard George King just put up 24 against Oregon State. Senior forward Wesley Gordon has scored in double digits in two of his last three games. Senior guards Derrick White and Xavier Johnson continue to be the go-to guys for this CU team. All I’m saying is that in the recent past, this team has shown evidence that it is capable of playing a more balanced and offensively efficient game. I expect to see some more Pac-12 wins pile up in the next few weeks.
JM: If by turnaround you mean “win more than one conference game,” then yes, this team will have a turnaround. But to consistently compete every night with the likes of UCLA, Arizona and Oregon, just in conference play, is not going to happen. I look forward to what the team can build in future seasons, but this season is lost in all but name. Yes, the Buffs lost two close games, but to teams that are a combined 5-11 in conference play. And the USC loss, while close, shows more how human the Trojans are rather than the might of Colorado.
Speaking of the stars you mentioned, it’s just a coincidence that the night Boyle decides to mess with the starting lineup by putting in three freshmen, the team suddenly wins a game? I’m not sure what the magic combination on this roster is, but with guys playing with a fire lit under them after losing their starting spots, the team clicks against a last place team. Tad said at the start of the year this team was overrated, and he was right. This team is not where people expected them to be, Boyle and the players included. I’m just being realistic right now, just like we had to be realistic last season about how poor the football team was. But let’s not forget, that story had a happy ending. The first Pac-12 division crown came after that down season. Next year, this team could go deep into March.
JG: Oh very funny, Jake. Kick the boys while they’re down. Well, sir, you and all the other naysayers will have a front row seat to this team’s efforts to salvage the rest of the season in the weeks to come. Boyle was right; for a team with four seniors and a fourth-year junior, I think the Buffaloes have underperformed this year. That much isn’t up for debate. On the note of the roster mix-up, I almost got the feeling that Boyle was pulling a Spring Training-esque move by starting a bunch of freshmen against a seemingly lesser opponent. But the Beavers fought hard and didn’t lose by much. A win’s a win, especially in a Pac-12 game.
The Buffs have to take on No. 10 Oregon at home this Saturday, followed by Stanford, and then rematches with Washington and Wazzu. I don’t care what anyone says and I don’t care how good the Ducks supposedly are. This Colorado Buffaloes team has proved that when it wants to, it can compete with great teams. Especially in regards to the Washington and Wazzu rematches, I’m looking forward to watching the Buffs, who are hopefully more determined and sound as a team. Boyle and players on this team understand that they’ve struggled. But I think they are owning their failures and shortcomings. The Buffaloes have ten conference games remaining; I say they’ll finish at least .500 in those contests. One can only wait and see.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Jake Mauff at firstname.lastname@example.org.