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2016-17 CU Buffs Basketball Primer

Jake Shapiro Avatar
November 8, 2016

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A quick breakdown of everything you need to know about Tad Boyle’s 2016-17 basketball squad.

The Colorado Buffaloes are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in program history. In 2015-16 they finished with 22-10 record, good for an NCAA Tournament appearance and a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12. They tied the school’s record for most regular season wins and played in the postseason for the sixth straight year under Boyle.

Departures

Josh Scott: Ending his collegiate career as one of the best athletes to take the court for CU, Scott was terrific last season. Both a monster on the glass and in the paint scoring. He also gave the Buffs the luxury of a solid free throw shooter from the front court.

His loss will be felt and it’ll be one of the biggest narratives for this team all year. Not only how can they make up for his production but the bigger question of who steps up as the unquestioned leader of this squad. There are many options and potential answers to both of these questions.

Xavier Talton: One of the Buffs more consistent backcourt options, Talton finally started coming into his own last year, providing a spark off the bench or a reliable hand in the starting five. His graduation leaves more minutes available for a bevy of younger backcourt ballers.

Tre’Shaun Fletcher: Transferring away from Colorado, “Fletch” got lost in the wing shuffle at times between several really solid players. His athleticism would flash at times and take over games but his shooting took a major step back and left a lot to be desired. His role will likely be filled easily by this year’s team as he was almost forced out by how many good options Boyle looks to have.

Eli Stalzer, Kenan Guzonjic and Brett Brady

Arrivals

Derrick White: A 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard from Legend High School in Parker, White joins the team as a transfer from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. In his career he became the first UCCS player to be so honored by the NABC, being named as a second team D-II All-American his junior season. He averaged 25.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists leading the Mountain Lions to their first RMAC Tournament championship and to the second round of the 2015 NCAA Division II National Tournament. White is a three level scorer from the wing.

Xavier Johnson: The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward from Los Angeles missed the entire season last year after he tore his left Achilles tendon during off-season workouts in June of 2015. He enters this, his senior season with 990 points, 515 rebounds over his career 95 games played at Colorado. His three-year average is 10.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, he’s added six double-doubles and eight 20-point scoring games. Johnson will most likely shift from a three to a four this season.

Bryce Peters: A 6-foot-4, 195-pound freshman from La Puente, Calif., Peters will have an immediate impact. He led his high school to the quarterfinals of the 2016 CIF Open Division championship in his senior season, averaging 22 points and five assists per game. Helping them to a 25-6 record. Peters is an athletic combo guard.

Deleon Brown: A 6-foot-4, 170-pound freshman from Grand Rapids, Mich., he graduated high school in 2015. A 2015 Mr. Michigan Basketball Top 10 candidate, Brown averaged 18.8 points his senior season and 20.3 his junior year. Brown is Peters is disciplined combo guard.

Lucas Siewert: Originally from Brazil, the 6-foot-10, 221-pound freshman is a 2016 graduate of Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. Ranked as the No. 150 player in the nation in the class of 2016 according to Rivals.com, he averaged 23 points, 8 rebounds and nearly two assists per game as a senior in high school. Siewert is a classic stretch four.

Dallas Walton: At 7-foot-flat, 222-pounds Walton is a young, slim, center from Arvada West in Aurora. He averaging 16.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots as senior after missing his junior season with a torn left ACL. He tore that ligament in his knee twice, each within two months of each other. He’s young, raw and most likely should be redshirted but the Buffs have a lack of size on the interior. Walton could be a shot-blocking-fiend on the inside.

Projected Starters

Dominique Collier: He started in 33 of the Buffs’ 34 games last season. Averaging 7.5 points 2.7 assists and 1.1 steals, Collier improved his all-around game as the season progressed and notably his shooting was much better. This season he’s the easy option for Boyle to pencil in at the point guard position, he will need to step up as a leader and in his production. Collier’s two keys for the season will be improving his defense and limiting turnovers.

Derrick White: For over a year now White has been one of the best players in practice, he adds the ability to score from anywhere over the half court line. Both his shooting ability and skill in finishing around the hoop are superb. He’s an active player maker and will most likely be the Buffs star this season.

George King: Coming off a year in which he won Pac-12’s Most Improved Player, King is poised to have a big follow-up season. His three-point shooting ability stretched the floor while his talent driving inside provided the Buffs more options. He also improved as a rebounder as the season went along, averaging 13.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He also lead the conference in 3-point shooting at 45.6 percent. This season he needs to add to his totals on the glass and very badly needs to step up defensively as Boyle was reluctant to play him during stretches last season because of that. He noticeably became a bit of a leader later on in the year and he could help fill Scott’s vacant role.

Xavier Johnson: The question with XJ is how he will play in his new part? Even practice hasn’t completely answered this and it will likely remain a point of inquiry until conference play. He still is working on his lateral quickness in the recovery of his Achilles injury but all signs point towards Johnson being able to play big minutes and having a similar impact to that of which he had before his injury.

Wes GordonPerhaps the biggest name on the team that’s returning, both in stature and in profile, Gordon is going to make a play this year to be the conference’s best big man. Last season he averaged career bests 7.2 points, 7.6 rebound and 2.0 blocks per game. He was an honorable mention on the Pac-12 All-Defensive team. Over his years at Colorado’s he has sometimes looked better without Scott on the court and it’ll be essential for him to be a presence inside to open up the perimeter for Colorado’s shooters.

Key Subs

Thomas Akyazili: A candidate to steal Collier’s role as the starting point guard, Akyazili has looked great in practice. Last season he went from unknown to fan favorite with his ability to make big plays and spark momentum. He didn’t play more than 15 minutes in a game often but he improved as the season went a long. Although not there yet, as the season progresses he’ll knock harder on Collier’s door.

Tory Miller: He’s got his body and better shape and he looks good in practice. Last year he averaged 5.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He looked very solid in a few games Scott was hurt for, Miller has also looked good when in conjunction with Gordon while on the court. He might start at times depending on how small Boyle decides to play.

Josh Fortune: Most teams would kill for a guy like Fortune in their starting lineup, the Buffs, on the other hand, are happy with this guy on their bench. Similar to a role JR Smith plays most of what Fortune will be asked to do is to shoot. He averaged 1o.3 points, 2.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds a game. The Buffs are lucky to have this guy come off the bench and will most likely rotate in and out of the starting lineup at wing much like Boyle did last year.

Bryce Peters, Deleon Brown, Lucas Siewert: Peters offers athleticism to the Buffs backcourt in which they don’t have and that will likely force Boyle into playing a little bit. Brown might be the Buffs best backcourt defender which of course is what Boyle loves. Siewert offers size that the Buffs desperately need and he’s more skilled at this point than Walton.

Although normally Boyle only uses around eight players once the conference season rolls around, it’s likely he’ll use this trio before New Years.

Overall

Some questions remain in general, how will new assistant Bill Grier change the dynamic after Rodney Billups took the job at Denver, as well as who will step up to be the leader of this team, and can they really shoot as efficiently from the three point line for a second straight year.

Obviously, these questions aren’t monumental, it’s clear what the 2016-17 Buffs are going to be. An offensive firepower with a coach who will be driven mad about their priorities at times. Boyle who preaches defense and rebounding will have to control a team that will only want to ball. Will this happen? Most likely. The foundation for Boyle’s success have been defense and rebounding, he’s adapted to many different styles of players and teams will keeping his fundamental.

Boyle in his seventh year has the exact group of players he wants in an ideal situation. Gordon surrounded by versatile wings has the coach licking his chops, as you should be too. The depth of this team is real, the upper-echelon talent real, the experience real, the only thing that can get in the way of this team is themselves.

Led by four fifth-year seniors they should be able to carry themselves through slumps and poor play. The talented freshman should come along nicely in structure with so much experience. All of these things should happen, as should the Buffs going deep into March.

They are poised to possibly have their best season in program history. Truthfully, this team has the same potential that the 2013-14 team had. There is every reason to believe that Boyle can lead this year’s team to a Sweet 16, in fact, that should be the goal. Another obtainable goal for this team is finishing in the top four of the Pac-12 which would give them a bye not the first day of the Pac-12 Tournament.

Whatever lofty goals you’ve given the Buffs this year, you’re justified. Although Boyle himself tried to cool the hype, he knows as well as anyone who has seen this team, that the exceptions are all warranted.

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