I admit that I missed the boat on the Colorado Buffaloes last season when I predicted them to struggle in their inaugural year in the Pac-12. Instead, Tad Boyle's team earned the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and will push for a return trip again this year.
The key cog for Colorado is versatile forward Andre Roberson. The 6-7 high flyer averaged a double-double last season, finishing fourth in the nation with 11.1 rebounds per game. Roberson continues to improve his outside shooting and being even more dependable from 15 feet and out will help him take his game to an even higher level.
Having graduated Austin Dufault, the Buffaloes need either Shane Harris-Tunks or freshman Josh Scott to step into the starting center spot. Scott was one of the top-10 center recruits in the 2012 class and should make an immediate impact from the start of the season. He is more skilled and athletic, but not as physical as Harris-Tunks. The duo should be a solid complement to Roberson inside while seven-footer Ben Mills and newcomer Wesley Johnson will try to add some depth off the bench.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Colorado's success last season was the instant impact made by Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker. With Carlon Brown and Nate Tomlinson finishing their collegiate careers, the sophomore duo will take on a larger role this season. Both Dinwiddie and Booker are capable of running the point or playing off the ball which makes them rather interchangeable in the lineup.
Either Jeremy Adams or Sabatino Chen will have to emerge from a role player to starting wing. Adams is the more offensive of the two, while Chen makes his biggest impact on the defensive end. A quartet of freshmen will compete for playing time as well, led by small forward Xavier Johnson, who could eventually work his way into the starting five due to his versatility on both ends. Xavier Talton figures to see immediate court time as well, backing up Booker at the point though Dinwiddie is certainly capable of being the primary ball-handler as well.
The young core of Roberson, Dinwiddie, and Booker will drive the Buffaloes, which figure to be among the handful of Pac-12 teams vying for an at-large bid. For Colorado to make it back to the tourney, the surrounding talent must do their part as well in hopes that someone makes an unexpected impact similar to what Dinwiddie and Booker were able to do during their freshman campaigns.
Player to Watch: Spencer Dinwiddie, G
Roberson will be the most hyped Buffalo this season, but Colorado needs Dinwiddie to emerge as a No. 1 scoring option. A Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection last year, he has the handles to break down defenders, is awesome in transition, and can stroke it from deep which makes him a pretty versatile threat.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/15 vs. Dayton (Charleston Classic)
11/16 vs. Baylor/Boston College (Charleston Classic)
11/18 vs. St. John's/Charleston/Murray State/Auburn (Charleston Classic)