Colorado Still A Work In Progress, But The Future Is BrightPosted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2012
Coming into the weekend, Colorado had won just one road game this season: a three-point overtime win over an Air Force team that, let’s face it, isn’t very good. The good news for the Buffaloes is that this weekend in Los Angeles, they doubled their number of road wins; the bad news is, that one road victory came against a USC team that would be an underdog even against Air Force.
On Saturday, when the Buffs faced a physical UCLA team at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, they were again exposed as a team that doesn’t quite yet have what it takes to beat good teams on the road.
“To win on the road against good teams, we have to be tougher and we have to execute better,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “I thought we had great focus against USC and played well enough to win, but they’re struggling right now and everybody knows that. But UCLA, they’re as good as anybody in our league, talent-wise and coaching-wise.”
Colorado came to play early, racing out to a 12-4 lead and getting out on the break on a regular basis throughout the first half. But in the second half, Colorado’s defense, which came into the game as the best field goal percentage defense in the conference, was unable to slow the Bruins, allowing them to shoot 61.5% from the field. After the game, Boyle listed any number of defensive breakdowns (ball screen defense, post defense, guarding the ball, fighting through screens) that contributed to his team’s poor defensive performance. And their inability to keep the Bruins from scoring helped to limit the Buffaloes’ offensive game. “We couldn’t get stops,” he said. “We were getting stops early, and when you get stops you can run. But when you’re not getting stops, it is hard to run when you’re taking the ball out of the net.”
With conference play half over, the Buffs still sit just one game back of the leaders in the loss column, quite an accomplishment for a young team that was expected prior to the season to finish near the back of the Pac-12. But for Colorado to make up any ground in the second half of the year, they will need to prove their mettle on the road, with trips to the Arizona and Oregon schools, as well as Utah, still on tap.
“We’ve got to win at home, and we have to learn how to be a good program on the road,” said Boyle. “If we do that, we’ll finish in the top half, and our program will continue to progress.” And, despite the setback on Saturday, he’s still got hope for the rest of the way. “I like our team. I like our demeanor,” he said. “Our guys expected to win today, and I like that, but we’ve got to keep getting better.”
Another sure sign of the program’s promised progression was in attendance Saturday, as 2012 signee Xavier Johnson watched his future team from the stands. Johnson, a 6’6” wing, is one of two four-star recruits in next year’s five-man recruiting class.
“He’ll bring a size and athleticism, and hopefully a physicality,” said Boyle. “Xavier is a big, strong, athletic body that will matchup against the likes of UCLA.”
The other key recruit is 6’10” center Josh Scott. With those guys coming in, and with sophomore Andre Roberson and a couple of freshmen guards – Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker – set to return, the Buffs should be among the more talented teams in the conference next year as well. Colorado is also starting to see steady signs of improvement from sophomore center Shane Harris-Tunks who is beginning to grow into his body and earn steady minutes in the rotation. And with Boyle’s history as a program-builder (look no further than his success in taking Northern Colorado from a 4-24 team to a 25-8 team in the span of four years), Buffalo fans have to be excited about the future.