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What's next for Tad Boyle and Colorado men's basketball?

Jake Schwanitz Avatar
March 28, 2024

The 2023-2024 season was an all-timer for Tad Boyle and Colorado men’s basketball. The Buffs’ late-season eight-game winning streak took them to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship Game and secured an NCAA Tournament birth for the first time since 2021. Colorado’s 26 wins set a program record, their two NCAA Tournament wins were the most since 1955 and their 16-1 record at home tied for a team record.

However, just days after Colorado’s season ended in the Round of 32 vs. Marquette, Buff Nation was hit with the harsh reality of the impending offseason as Luke O’Brien, J’Vonne Hadley and Eddie Lampkin entered the transfer portal. Many more decisions will be made before we have a clue how the 2024-2025 Buffs will look on the floor but there are reasons for CU fans to believe in what Tad Boyle and company have built.

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Jan 13, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle talks to center Eddie Lampkin Jr. (44) and forward Cody Williams (10) and forward Tristan da Silva (23) and guard KJ Simpson (2) in the second half at the CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a significant chance that Coach Boyle and the Buffs could field an entirely new starting five for the ’24-’25 season. Tristan da Silva tested the NBA Draft waters last offseason before announcing his return to Colorado on March 31st, 2023. Da Silva will make the jump to the Association this offseason after cementing himself as a first-round prospect down the stretch last season.

This offseason it will be KJ Simpson who will have to decide which level he will play at next season after becoming one of the Pac-12’s best players this season. Simpson’s decision whether or not to return to Colorado will be a crucial factor in determining the Buffs’ ceiling next season. The latest NBA mock drafts from USA Today, ESPN and Bleacher Report have Simpson as a second-round draft pick and in similar territory to da Silva’s draft stock this time last offseason.

Cody Williams’ decision to declare for the NBA Draft doesn’t seem as clear as it was in January. Williams is still widely seen as a lottery pick despite missing 13 games due to injury and coming off the bench as Colorado started their post-season run. Williams mentioned Colorado’s Director of Strength and Conditioning, Steve Englehart, as one of the main reasons why he committed to Colorado last summer and Williams could benefit from another offseason under Englehart to further develop his body for the NBA. However, it’s doubtful that Williams would return for a sophomore season in Boulder.

While the top six in Colorado’s ’23-’24 rotation could be playing elsewhere, there is a solid young foundation in place on the roster. Forwards Bangot Dak and Assane Diop and a trio of guards in Julian Hammond III, Javon Ruffin and RJ Smith all proved that they could supply good minutes throughout last season. Tad Boyle also assembled the 23rd-best 2024 recruiting class in the country with four-star guard Andrew Crawford, three-star forward Sebastian Rancik and three-star guard Felix Kossaras.

The Big 12 Awaits

Feb 10, 2024; Boulder, Colorado, USA; Colorado Buffaloes guard KJ Simpson (2) controls the ball against Arizona Wildcats forward Keshad Johnson (16) in the second half at CU Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing Boyle and Colorado next season will be their step up in competition as the Buffs re-enter the Big 12. This season the Big 12 was tied with the SEC with 8 bids for the NCAA Tournament. Factor in Arizona and Utah along with Colorado and Arizona State’s arrival and the Big 12 should cement itself as the strongest basketball conference in the country next season.

Since the Big 12 opened their doors to expansion in 2022, eight new schools will have joined the conference since Texas and Oklahoma announced their departure. New members Houston and Arizona will immediately compete at the top of the conference and find themselves in conversations for the best overall team in the country. Newcomers Utah, BYU and Colorado should provide consistently hard outs in the middle of the conference and will be hostile environments for any team on the road.

College basketball powers Houston, Arizona, Kansas and Baylor should improve Colorado’s standing in multiple analytic rankings and will provide Colorado with a measuring stick to see where they match up against the nation’s best teams. However, raising the level of competition could make seasons like next year’s when a completely new team has to come together much more difficult.

Moving back to the Big 12 could make next season difficult for Buff Nation, but the University of Colorado and Tad Boyle have made steps in the right direction to generate hope. Boyle has been able to deliver top-25 recruiting classes in three of the last four years and has shown a willingness to adapt to the transfer portal era of college basketball. While transfer portal activity is just starting to heat up, Boyle will have another shot to bring in proven contributors like Eddie Lampkin again this spring and summer. Securing Lampkin’s commitment was crucial last offseason but the transfer portal could have turned Colorado into a Final Four contender if Coach Boyle had his way.

Blue-chip transfers Dalton Knecht and Chance McMillian visited Boulder last offseason but Boyle failed to sign either player due to NIL factors. On Monday, Colorado’s NIL collectives, the 5430 Foundation and Buffs4Life, announced they would combine forces to streamline the university’s NIL funding as the 5430 Alliance. The 5430 Foundation was successful in getting Coach Prime and Colorado football’s NIL efforts to a respectable level, now all other sports including basketball will have the same chance to build an NIL war chest.

The foundation is there for Colorado basketball to continue its upward trajectory and become a force in the Big 12. Despite rumblings from the fan base earlier in the year about Coach Boyle’s job status, Colorado has the NIL structure, opportunity and track record of developing NBA talent to attract players to Boulder to pick up where the 2023-2024 team left off.


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