The most beautiful thing about youth is that is just doesn’t know any better.
It doesn’t know, or care, that it’s not supposed to “be this,” not supposed to “do that.” Youth just does what it does, and whatever unpredictably happens, well, just happens.
Tad Boyle’s basketball team this season is young. Really young. And it’s a beautiful thing.
On the eve of this campaign, Boyle’s eighth at CU, the projections were mixed. Yes, Boyle had a nice recruiting class — some truly bright spots — but the pressure was also on. After all, the Buffs haven’t been dancing since the 2015-16 season (a forgettable one-and-done) after going for three straight years from 2012 to 2014. The bar Boyle himself has set seemingly looms high — almost out of reach.
Especially with such a young team.
While the Buffs’ faithful could legitimately be excited about the future of the program given Boyle’s most recent group of freshmen, the enthusiasm was justifiably tempered. One might even say there’s an uneasy restlessness waiting for that next invite to March Madness. But realistically, this team really couldn’t be expected to achieve much, not just yet. Some even looked at the season as a “rebuild” of sorts, even though seniors George King, Dom Collier and Tory Miller-Stewart were poised to play key roles. King and Collier have certainly had solid seasons, while Miller-Stewart was lost to injury before conference play began.
But at 10-6 (2-2 in Pac-12 play), the team’s expectations are growing almost as rapidly as the Buffs themselves. Coming off back-to-back wins against No. 4 Arizona State and No. 14 Arizona, both in Boulder, the young Buffs would appear to be well ahead of schedule. While both Collier and King have played extremely well of late, it’s been a cast of freshman stepping up in a big way.
McKinley Wright IV, Dallas Walton, Tyler Bey, Lazar Nikolic and D’Shawn Schwartz — all freshmen — have all made major contributions. Wright, specifically, has been arguably the Buffs’ best player the season; he leads the entire roster in minutes played (33.1 per game), points (16.2), assists (5.25) and steals (1.19). Walton was a force in the win over Arizona, pitching in 15 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and offering a smothering defensive performance against DeAndre Ayton, one of the nation’s top players. Bey was key against Arizona State, adding eight point and eight rebounds. Swartz had a season-high 10 points against Arizona.
And none of them knew, or cared, that both the Sun Devils and Wildcats were supposed to leave Boulder unscathed.
In college basketball, youth on the upswing is a wonderful thing – unless, of course, you’re the opponent. In a sport where maturation rarely occurs “in time,” Boyle has time. With 14 games remaining on the schedule, half of them at home, there’s a chance the Buffs could tally enough wins to catch the attention of the selection committee. There’s an even better chance that this young cast matures enough to make real noise in the Pac-12 Tournament.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, the Buffs must learn to win on the road. Currently, they’re 0-4 away from Coors Events Center (they most certainly have played a home-heavy schedule). That’s a tall task for — again — a young team.
There’s something about this team, though. Something about the way Boyle talks about them. Something about how they’ve seemingly been sold on the idea that defense can take them places. Something about how they play an egoless brand of basketball, a trait several Buffs teams of the past have not possessed. Something about how fearless Wright goes to the basket – all 6-(generous)-feet of him.
Something is brewing in Boulder, and its most certainly worth watching. It might be a stretch to suggest that Boyle’s Buffs are going dancing. Then again, it would have unquestionably been a stretch to suggest that Colorado would beat both Arizona State and Arizona in a three-day span.
Some of the best teams in college basketball history have grown up before our very eyes. And while it would be irresponsible to call this particular team “a best in history,” it would be fair to suggest that they have talent and have already grown leaps and bounds.
Keep an eye on Boulder. Tad Boyle’s Buffs are starting to ball.