With a strong returning core, the University of Colorado men’s basketball team is coming into the season facing high expectations. ESPN’s expert panel of Jeff Borzello, Myron Medcalf and John Gasaway predict the Buffs will finish second in the Pac-12, a sharp rise from their placement at ninth in the preseason power rankings last year. CU appears poised to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.
The Buffs surpassed expectations last year, finishing fourth in the Pac-12 and reaching the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, eventually falling to Washington. While this year’s expectations are loftier, they are by no means empty. Nearly the entire team will return this year. The new addition of junior guard/forward Maddox Daniels and the return of junior forward/center Dallas Walton, who missed last year due to injury, bring fresh legs to the team.
“This is a team where we can take off where we left off,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “If we do that and use that as a starting point and continue to get better from there, that is where the excitement comes.”
Raised expectations, however, can also bring along pressure.
“The bar is high for us of course,” said junior guard McKinley Wright IV. “A lot of people expect big things out of us, and we are going to do our best to give these CU fans what they deserve. I have a former teammate, George King, who would always tell me that there is no such thing as pressure when you’re prepared. I feel no pressure, and we are excited.”
Of course, expectations don’t just stem from outside sources. Boyle always heads into the season with a high expectation level and there’s no doubt that those expectations have gone up this season. In just his first two seasons – now eight years ago – Boyle became the most winning post-season coach in CU history. However, CU hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2016, something the Buffs hope to change.
“A lot of people expect big things out of us, and we are going to do our best to give these CU fans what they deserve.”
McKinley Wright IV, CU men’s basketball junior guard
“I would say that our main goal is to advance in the tournament,” said junior guard D’Shawn Schwartz. “That’s what we really want to do, but first we have to make it there. I think that would mean a lot to all of the guys, especially our seniors, for them to leave with something to add on to their accomplishments.”
Both Wright and junior guard/forward Tyler Bey were named to the preseason Pac-12 All-Conference first team. Bey is proud but is also staying focused on the court.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Bey said. “But for me, I just look at it as something I need to keep working on. If I just go hoop this season I’ll be proud of myself.”
Boyle believes that ESPN predictions and all-conference honors hold little weight in determining what happens when the team hits the court.
“I call it noise, and we have to not listen to that noise,” Boyle said. “I think it’s important that our players understand that,” Boyle said. “The outside stuff doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t. What matters is what we do between those lines. The biggest challenge we have as coaches today is to get that noise out of their head.”
The Buffs have an exciting opportunity ahead with their upcoming trip to China as part of the Pac-12 China Game, co-hosted by the Federation of University Sports of China. This will be the fifth annual Pac-12 China Game, part of the Pac-12 Global initiative, connecting the conference internationally and supporting athletics in different countries and cultures. CU will face Arizona State University in Shanghai on Friday, Nov. 8 at 8:30 p.m. MST.
“It is a great opportunity for our university and certainly our basketball program to showcase what we are all about in a foreign country and to experience a city like Shanghai and a culture like China,” Boyle said.
Before the trip to China, the Buffs will open their season at the CU Events Center against Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer George Hakala at firstname.lastname@example.org.