Our tour of the Northtards concludes with the hippie brigade in Boulder.
Just like last year, the Colorado Buffaloes entered the season as a semi-popular dark-horse pick by some in the media.
And just like last year, they already have four losses before the new year, can't win away from home and are overly reliant on two outstanding players who get little to no help in the post. But unlike last year, they have a new head coach.
For a breakdown of Buffie basketball, hit the jump. For more information, visit The Ralphie Report.
The Story So Far
Colorado's only quality win was in overtime against Colorado State, a team with an RPI of 84 that just won the Cancun Governor's Cup. The Buffs' other wins came against RPI No. 196 Indiana, and sub-200 teams Alcorn State, The Citadel, Idaho State, Longwood, Oregon State and UTPA (and three of those are below 300).
Balance that weak schedule against the four head-scratching losses away from home — at Georgia, at RPI No. 193 San Francisco, at Harvard and versus New Mexico in Las Vegas — and it's pretty clear that Colorado is far from a contender. If you can't win road games against those opponents, good luck doing it at all in the Big 12.
Current Colorado RPI: 156
Current Colorado SOS: 265
Note: All stats for current players are updated through the most recent game this season, unless otherwise noted.
8-4 (0-0) at Colorado
Trent Beckley (2.0 minutes per game | 1.0 point per game | 0.0 rebounds per game)
- Casey Crawford (13.8 minutes per game | 4.6 points per game | 2.0 rebound per game)
- Keegan Hornbuckle (11.4 minutes per game | 2.4 points per game | 1.6 rebounds per game)
- Dwight Thorne II (21.0 minutes per game | 7.5 point per game | 2.1 rebounds per game)
#10 Alec Burks
29.2 minutes per game | 19.3 points per game | 4.1 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: Panjandrum
#14 Javon Coney
5.4 minutes per game | 1.0 point per game | 0.5 rebound per game
#33 Austin Dufault
22.6 minutes per game | 8.2 points per game | 4.6 rebounds per game
#55 Trey Eckloff
5.0 minutes per game | 1.6 points per game | 1.0 rebound per game
#15 Shane Harris-Tunks
11.7* minutes per game | 1.8* points per game | 1.6* rebounds per game
#11 Cory Higgins
31.5 minutes per game | 16.9 points per game | 3.6 rebounds per game
FANTASY OWNER: TB
#24 Levi Knutson
23.6 minutes per game | 11.8 points per game | 3.3 rebounds per game
#5 Marcus Relphorde
27.6 minutes per game | 11.9 points per game | 4.1 rebounds per game
#1 Nate Tomlinson
23.4 minutes per game | 3.5 points per game | 2.0 rebounds per game
#2 Shannon Sharpe
16.2 minutes per game | 2.0 points per game | 1.3 rebounds per game
#30 Carlon Brown
28.7* minutes per game | 12.6* points per game | 4.1* rebounds per game
*at Utah in 2009-10
#23 Sabatino Chen
12.5* minutes per game | 2.7* points per game | 1.2* rebounds per game
*at Denver in 2009-10
#32 Ben Mills
4.7 minutes per game | 2.2 points per game | 0.8 rebound per game
#21 Andre Roberson
19.3 points per game | 6.4 rebounds per game | 7.1 blocks per game
#35 Hassan Safieddine
7.5* minutes per game | 0.9* point per game | 2.4* rebounds per game
*at Flagler College in 2008-09
My thanks to the Colorado sports information department for the photos.
What makes Colorado's struggles on the road difficult to understand is that the Buffaloes are an extremely veteran group that returned all five starters from last year's team.
The top-scoring trio of Cory Higgins, Alec Burks and Marcus Relphorde returns intact, although Burks surely must have been tempted by the NBA draft, especially after Jeff Bzdelik left unexpectedly for Wake Forest.
Nate Tomlinson, who replaced Dwight Thorne II as the team's primary point guard midway through last season, provides continuity at that position, while Austin Dufault is the Buffs' fifth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder from the only true post position in what essentially is four-guard/wing attack.
Of course, Colorado's problem isn't scoring — the Buffs have four double-digit scorers and have reached the 70s in three of their four losses. No, it's defense and rebounding.
Each loss resulted from an opponent scoring at least 82 points, while true freshman Andre Roberson is the only player pulling down more than five rebounds per game.
The chief problem, as it was last year, is a lack of quality bigs. Six-foot-11 Shane Harris-Tunks saw some time last season backing up Dufault, but has not played a minute this year due to an ACL tear. That leaves the relief duties on the shoulders of 6-foot-10 junior Trey Eckloff and a true freshman 7-footer named Ben Mills.
Levi Knutson returns in his role as relief shooter off the bench and is fourth on the team in scoring. Redshirt freshman Shannon Sharpe started two games for Tomlinson and likely will function as the backup point guard this season after sitting out all of last season with a knee injury.
That's pretty much the rotation. The only other player to see time this season is Javon Coney, who's posted very few statistics in his 5.4 minutes per game. Of course, Eckloff and Mills don't play much more than that, either, exposing the problems the Buffaloes will have in the paint.
Looking ahead, Boyle brought in three transfers — Carlon Brown, Sabatino Chen and Hassan Safieddine — to help fill the void that inevitably will be left when Burks, Higgins and Relphorde depart after this year.
Brown was Utah's leading scorer last year, so he'll be pretty good in the Pac-12, but the other two haven't done much in college yet.
Projected Big 12 Starting Lineup
|Nate Tomlinson||Cory Higgins||Alec Burks||Marcus Relphorde||Austin Dufault|
Projected Top Big 12 Reserves
|Shannon Sharpe||Levi Knutson||André Roberson||Trey Eckloff||Ben Mills|
The Final Verdict
Burks and Higgins are really nice players who any team in the Big 12 would like to have. And Relphorde is a quality support guy who would see some time off the bench for most of them. But I don't think any other coach in the league, not even Doc Sadler, would trade his bigs for what Colorado's going to be fielding this year.
Maybe if Harris-Tunks was available, it would be a different story. But he's not, and Colorado will struggle all year against teams with a decent post game, just like the Buffs did last year.
It will be more of the same, only they won't have the edge provided by Bzdelik's coaching style to narrow the gap as they did against Kansas in Boulder last year.
All in all, it should be a pretty satisfying season for Big 12 fans who wouldn't mind Colorado and Nebraska enduring a little last bit of suffering on their way out the door to their new conferences.
Big 12 preseason prediction: 9th
My predicted finish: 10th
Best-case scenario: 8th
Against K-State?: Loss in Manhattan, loss in Boulder