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Column: Don’t sleep on Colorado basketball when you got up for Prime

Buffaloes have the makeup of a team that could make some noise in March
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle reacts during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Miami in the NABC Brooklyn Showcase, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Jones)

Let’s take a journey back three months ago. The Colorado Buffaloes football team had just beaten Colorado State 43-35 to improve to 3-0 after only winning one game the previous year.

The sports world could not get enough of first-year head coach Deion Sanders’ team. The media talked about which bowl games Colorado could appear in. Sanders was on 60 Minutes, and people talked about whether quarterback Shedeur Sanders was a Heisman candidate. ESPN Gameday went to Boulder and the Buffaloes were right in the middle of the zeitgeist.

But after the Colorado State game, the team fell into a sinkhole and couldn’t get out. Colorado went 1-8 the rest of the season, including a six-game losing streak the end 2023 and missing a bowl game that looked unfathomable in mid-September.

Colorado had stud skill players in Sanders and wide receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter, but it had no depth, and awful offensive and defensive lines.

There was turmoil on the coaching staff, as offensive coordinator Sean Lewis was demoted and stripped of his play-calling duties.

Safe to say there will be plenty of questions for Colorado and Sanders in 2024, as the Buffaloes leave the Pac-12 and move to the Big 12.

On the other hand, Colorado men’s basketball is flying under the radar, despite its great start to the season. Tad Boyle’s team has the ingredients for a great season.

The Buffaloes are 8-2 and are ranked 21st on kenpom.com, the premier college basketball analytics website. Colorado is ranked 23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 26th in adjusted defensive efficiency, which is a recipe for success in both the regular season and the postseason.

Colorado’s only two losses so far are to Florida State, ranked 90th on KenPom, on a neutral court in overtime and to 28th ranked Colorado State in an away game.

Last weekend, Colorado destroyed Miami, which was supposed to be one of the top teams in the ACC and the country, 90-63 at a neutral site. The striking part was that Colorado wasn’t ranked in the AP top 25, whereas Miami was, despite having very similar résumés, and later the same record after the game.

In defense of Colorado football, it was fun to watch. The Buffaloes put up a lot of points, and Sanders threw for a lot of yards and touchdowns, even in defeat.

But CU basketball is fun to watch, and they’re good!

Colorado averages over 84 points per game. Junior guard KJ Simpson averages 19.4 points per game, and the Buffaloes have four players who average double figures in scoring.

One of those players is freshman forward Cody Williams, who was a five-star recruit last year and is projected to be a lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft.

Colorado has all the makings of a great regular-season team and an NCAA tournament team. It has great experience with three senior starters, a junior and a stud freshman.

Historically, if a team wants to have success in March, they need experienced guards, be good on both sides of the floor, and feature an NBA first-round pick. Colorado checks all these boxes.

Still not convinced? Look at the analytics.

KenPom projects Colorado to finish 22-9 overall and second in the Pac-12 at 13-7. All of those projected losses are within five points except to Arizona, which is ranked No. 1 in the country in the AP poll and No. 2 by KenPom.

Sanders brought a ton of new energy, passion and bravado to Colorado and college football, but results matter.

Colorado football wasn’t good last year. Colorado basketball is, and Boyle’s experience as a coach, plus the experience and talent he has on his roster, should warrant watching and paying attention to if you’re a fan of sports, basketball, Colorado sports, or if you feel a little let down by Coach Prime.

bkelly@durangoherald.com



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