The Buffs are back. It’s been four years since the University of Colorado men’s basketball team made a splash on the hardcourt, but now—led by head coach Tad Boyle, in his 10th season at the helm—CU is ranked 23rd in the country and has rattled off three consecutive wins to open the season.
In fact, the team’s early play is sparking belief that they’re actually a contender not just to compete in the PAC-12 conference, but to win it outright. The Buffs have never won the Pac-12 regular-season and only won the conference tournament once (in 2012), but if the first few games are any indication, they could go deep in the NCCA tournament—which they missed the past three years.
The last time CU was ranked nationally, during the 2013–14 season, they were led by current Brooklyn Nets’ guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who lit up the Buffs pre-conference schedule. Unfortunately, Dinwiddie tore his ACL and the season derailed (the Buffs were upset by the University of Pittsburgh in their first NCAA Tournament game).
The two stars for the Buffs this year are juniors McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey. Wright, a stellar six-foot-tall point guard, has developed into a steady player who does nearly everything well and controls the pace of the game. Fellow guard Bey might be the most athletic player of the Tad Boyle era. His highlight reel dunks hint at a what a force he is on the court when he’s dialed into the game.
The heart of the team is sophomore forward Evan Battey. During his redshirt freshman season, he suffered a stroke that put his basketball future in doubt. Luckily, Battey made a full recovery and became the life force of the Buffs last season for his energetic ability to connect with his teammates and the crowd.
Beyond those stars, the Buffs have several Colorado kids, too. After sitting out last year with an injury, Arvada West High School’s Dallas Walton adds his size to the center position, and Colorado Springs’ forward D’Shawn Schwartz of Sand Creek High School appears to have improved the most of any player in the offseason. East High School’s Daylen Kountz also looks to continue to develop as a guard in his sophomore year.
The Buffs have a schedule packed with highly anticipated matchups this season. First off, they travel to Las Vegas for a tournament beginning Sunday against a tough Wyoming opponent and will play either the Clemson Tigers or TCU Horned Frogs on Tuesday. Then in December, CU will play in Fort Collins against Colorado State and against the fourth-ranked Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas. The weekend before Christmas they will compete at the United Center in Chicago against the Dayton Flyers, and in PAC-12 play, the Buffs will face off against ranked opponents Oregon (11), Arizona (14), and Washington (25).
One of the best parts of the college game is how the momentum can be felt by fans. Crowd noise feels like it can turn the tide of a matchup—and the Buffs’ home court, the CU Events Center, is a prime example. The stadium of 11,064 is designed like a pit to hold in all the crowd noise, which gets rowdy when the CUnit (the CU student section) is fully engaged. Right now, the Buffs have early-season momentum and fans ought to be excited for a wild ride.