One of the more interesting teams in next year’s Pac 12 figures to be the Colorado Buffaloes. Though the Buffaloes were far from an elite team last season as they finished with just a 16-18 overall record, they are set to bring back plenty of experience and talent from last season and could be one of the more dangerous teams in the conference.
If things go right, sophomore guard Dominique Collier could end leading the charge.
An improvement from last season would certainly be welcome in Boulder, which has experienced a great deal of success under head coach Tad Boyle. Since Boyle took over, the Buffaloes have an overall record of 108-67, a conference record of 46-42, and have been to the NCAA Tournament in three of Boyle’s five seasons with the program.
It’s worth nothing that Colorado has only been to the NCAA Tournament a total of 13 times in its entire history, and had never qualified for the field in three straight years before hiring Boyle, who has had an outstanding tenure.
This season, Colorado must find a way to rebound from a 16-win season that included wins over conference foes UCLA and Stanford. Instead of returning to March Madness, the Buffaloes hit the CBI, leaving fans frustrated and underwhelmed.
There are reasons to believe a tournament appearance is in the cards for this season. But there just as many questions.
Chief among these questions will be how Colorado attempts to overcome the losses of Askia Booker, Jaron Hopkins, and Dustin Thomas. Players such as Wesley Gordon and Josh Scott return to the frontcout. But thee departures are set to hit the backcourt particularly hard and could really thin out the bench.
A weak two-deep may at least have partially been the cause of some of Colorado’s issues last season, but another part of it was simply a relatively young unit that had playmakers, but struggled to show the consistency needed to be a great team. In fact, the Buffaloes finished at #242 overall in KenPom’s experience rating last season and with underclassmen players such as Collier, Jaron Hopkins, and Tre-Shaun Fletcher all contributing in the backcourt, this might have been the most effected area on the team by this inexperience.
Of this group, one player that could be set to emerge next season is Dominique Collier. He didn’t quite live up to his 4-star status as a freshman. He played just 42% of the team’s minutes and only scored double-digits in three games, his growth was pretty impressive and the majority of his best performances came during the latter part of the season. In fact, of the 10 games where Collier had an offensive rating of 100 or higher, six came in the final seven games. Just take a look at how he progressed over the course of the season.
2014-15 Dominique Collier Offensive Rating Running Average:
(Stats via KenPom).
Though Collier was far from perfect, this kind of growth says a lot about his potential for next season and beyond with Colorado. In fact, when one ignores a few of those first games since the data is a little skewed there, the improvement was substantial. He was a great prospect when he arrived in Boulder and though he played a good hunk, his improvement says a lot about what a larger role could do for him next season, especially considering that his usage trailed beyond many of the most used players on Colorado’s roster last season. Just take a look at how it compared.
2014-15 Colorado Usage Stats:
(Stats via KenPom).
With improvement and a larger role, Collier has the potential to be a dynamic piece in Colorado’s backcourt next season. If he can do this, it would address many of the biggest questions about the Buffaloes for next season and beyond. The frontcourt looks to be in decent shape and if they can find a good to great player in Collier, they have a lineup that could do some serious damage in the Pac 12 next season.
It’s hard to think that Colorado can compete with teams like Arizona and Oregon at the top of the Pac 12, but if Collier and a few players can step up, there’s no reason why the Buffaloes can’t be in contention for the NCAA Tournament and a decent postseason run.