#92 Colorado: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #92
Conference Rank: #9 Big 12 Conference
2009-10: 15-16, 6-10
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Tad Boyle (First year at Colorado, 54-62 overall)
New Colorado coach Tad Boyle proved he could pretty much build a program from scratch during his four seasons at Northern Colorado. A well traveled assistant before taking the job at UNC, Boyle is ready to take the next step in his coaching career. However, this time around he will not have to build from nothing. This is a Buffaloes team that loses only one key player and did amazingly well in conference play last season.
Key Losses: F Casey Crawford, F Keegan Hornbuckle, G Dwight Thorne II
The lack of a true big man was apparent on the glass all of the 2009-2010 campaign, but this class will not likely help that problem immediately. Seven foot freshman Ben Mills at least adds some size and depth to the frontcourt, but he lacks the strength to be a force in the Big 12 as a freshman. The only other incoming freshman is 6-7 wing Andre Roberson. However, the best newcomer of all is Shannon Sharpe, who missed his entire freshman campaign with an injury. The 6-1 point guard will immediately look for a starting role.
The inconsistent play of Nate Tomlinson leaves the door open for Sharpe. Tomlinson is a decent ball handler and a capable enough outside shooter to keep the opposing defense honest. However, he is not much a scorer and some games he would do more to hurt his team than to help. Tomlinson did get better as the season progressed, but that does not mean his job is safe. Whether he starts or not, Tomlinson will at least make a very good, and experienced, backup point guard. But the true strength of the perimeter, and the entire Colorado team, lies on the wings.
The lone bright spot in the frontcourt last season was Marcus Relphorde. The 6-7 senior averaged 11.0 points and 4.1 rebounds last season. The problem is he is not a back to the basket scorer and his rebounding is not very strong. And nobody else can fill that void either. The lack of rebounding is just part of the problem since none of the big guys can block shots either and that makes the Buffaloes defense very easy to crack. Shane Harris-Tunks has the size to develop into that player, but the 6-11 sophomore only started three games a year ago and failed to live up to expectations. He is still a young player with potential, but Austin Dufault, a 6-9, 230 pound junior, won the starting job. Dufault is pretty much a slightly taller version of Relphorde and will not block too many shots, grab too many rebounds or score too many points. They are both power forwards, but Dufault, due to his size, is stuck at the five spot most of the time.
Who to Watch:
As long as Cory Higgins and Alec Burks are around, Colorado can beat just about anybody in the conference. Higgins continued his impressive career by averaging 18.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals during his junior campaign. With the same group around him this year, Higgins should be just as effective. Burks was more of a surprise. The 6-6 sophomore is not much a shooter, but he does a great job scoring around the basket and averaged 17.1 points and a team high 5.0 rebounds as a freshman. Add experienced bench player Levi Knutson to the mix and Colorado has plenty of big time scorers.
This team can only go so far without a post player. Higgins and Burks can outscore some opponents, but the Buffaloes will get beat in the paint consistently on both ends of the floor. That led to a 15-16 campaign a year ago. A year older and a year wiser, not to mention the addition of Sharpe, and Colorado should be able to win a few more games here and there. That will be enough to get them into the postseason, but unless Harris-Tunks has a breakout sophomore season, this group’s trip to the postseason will not be in the NCAA Tournament or the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Nate Tomlinson, Junior, Guard, 5.3 ppg
Cory Higgins, Senior, Guard, 18.9 ppg
Alec Burks, Sophomore, Guard, 17.1 ppg
Marcus Relphorde, Senior, Forward, 11.0 ppg
Austin Dufault, Junior, Forward, 5.5 ppg
Next Top 144 Teams