The 2022-2023 season has come to a close for both the CU Buffs’ men and women, but although this season might not have ended quite as well as many had hoped, it’s impossible to deny just how bright the futures are for both programs.

What are the primary factors fueling this tremendous optimism for the Colorado Buffaloes, and what are the biggest concerns as we enter the offseason? Let’s look.

Stock Up for the CU Buffs

CU Buffs Women’s Basketball & JR Payne

Everyone knows how bright the future looks for Tad Boyle and the men’s team, considering they’re returning most of their key contributors, are getting some stars back from injury, and are adding one of the 10 best high school talents in the nation to their roster, but not enough people know the women are set up in a similarly idyllic manner.

As a result, head coach JR Payne just received a five-year contract extension — which she earned by becoming just the second basketball coach in the history of the university to lead their team to the Sweet 16.

There is still speculation as to whether or not team MVP Jaylyn Sherrod will return for her fifth season, as she weighs the decision of either leaving school or coming back to pursue her second Masters degree and an Elite-Eight appearance.

“I have a couple of options,” Jaylyn Sherrod said, in regard to her future, during the tournament. “I haven’t decided yet.”

However, while Sherrod’s future is still up in the air, Quay Miller — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder — has announced that she will be returning for another season. That’s huge for the CU Buffs, as it keeps their remarkably talented pairing of bigs Miller and Aaronette Vonleh intact for the impending campaign.

The team is set to lose starter Tayanna Jones, which will definitely sting, but in her wake, they’re bringing in two of ESPN’s top-80 high school players — Ruthie Loomis-Goltl and Kennedy Sanders.

Loomis-Goltl graduates from Bridgeport High School in Nebraska as the school’s all-time leader in points and blocks, making her a very desirable pairing for JR Payne. Meanwhile, Sanders will be a name to watch if Sherrod leaves, as she’s a gifted playmaker from the point guard position with desirable shooting range.

As a result, ESPN ranked the CU Buffs as the 20th-best team in the nation, in their ‘way-too-early’ rankings.

“The top four scorers — Quay Miller, Aaronette Vonleh, Frida Formann and Jaylyn Sherrod — are expected to be back next season,” ESPN’s Charlie Creme wrote. “This season marked the second time in 27 years Colorado had won as many as 25 games, and the third-place finish in the Pac-12 was the program’s best since joining the conference in 2011.

Assane Diop, Joe Hurlburt & Luke O’Brien

This one is pretty clear-cut.

Lawson Lovering was the only player listed as a center on CU’s roster and the only player taller than 6-foot-9 to play a single minute of basketball for the Buffs this past season. He’s now headed to the rival Utah Utes, and although he never lived up to his recruiting hype, that exit still opens up a massive void in Tad Boyle’s frontcourt.

As it stands now, Joe Hurlburt (a 3-Star with a 0.932 composite score, who was the highest-ranked member of a recruiting class that also featured contributors J’Vonne Hadley, Jalen Gabbidon and Ethan Wright) and Assane Diop (a highly touted 4-Star recruit with a 0.959 composite score, who is the eighth-highest-rated men’s basketball recruit in the history of the program) are the obvious candidates to fill that vacancy, and as a result, will be major contributors on a contending team in the Pac-12.

Now, the recent commitment of TCU center transfer Eddie Lampkin Jr. — who has been a far more productive collegiate star than Lovering — changes things a little, but Hurlburt and Diop are still now in line for a more inflated role.

The CU Buffs were always going to look to add more size this offseason, and if Lovering was still in play, that would’ve meant, between him and Lampkin, that there wouldn’t be many minutes available to give to Hurlburt and Diop. It’s much easier to see their path to playing time now.

The same will also now apply to Luke O’Brien, who will no longer have to compete with Quincy Allen and Nique Clifford — two other players that have decided to transfer out of Colorado — for guard or forward minutes.

It is likely Coach Boyle looks to supplement both these positions via the transfer portal, but no additions are guaranteed there, leaving the aforementioned players in a relatively strong position.

Stock Down for the CU Buffs

Quay Miller

Quay Miller was a rebounding and scoring ace for the Colorado Buffaloes this season, her clutch performance against the Duke Blue Devils was critical to CU reaching their first Sweet 16 in two decades, and her return to the program fuels a lot of excitement about what could be accomplished next year.

That said, her overall postseason performance was fairly dreadful, and a large part of why the Buffs’ Pac-12 and NCAA runs ultimately ended.

Over the final three games of the regular season and the five postseason games the CU Buffs appeared in, Quay Miller shot a combined 23-for-80 from the field (28.8%) and 4-for-28 from three-point range (14.3%). She also shot a ton during that cold stretch.

Only Jaylyn Sherrod attempted more shots than Miller over that eight-game span, though she shot at a 35.6% clip, and only Frida Formann shot more threes, though again, she hit 35.2% of the time. Aaronette Vonleh also attempted exactly 80 shots, but whereas Miller only connected on 23 attempts, Vonleh went 48-for-80 (60.0%).

Miller also had serious turnover issues during this cold streak, as she averaged 2.8 giveaways per game, on her own, including a six-turnover performance in Colorado’s upset loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Now, don’t get it twisted. Miller is an amazing player and her contributions to this past magical season were tremendous. She’s an elite rebounder, and the fact she’s returning for another season upgrades the expectations by several degrees.

That said, one hopes that as the CU Buffs enter next year’s campaign, with their sights set even higher, JR Payne and Co. will rely a little less on her scoring production when they have so many talented potential solutions on offense.

The hype for 2023-2024 CU Buffs Men’s Basketball

As discussed in stock up, the men’s team suddenly and surprisingly lost three major contributors, damaging their stock and their outlook for the upcoming season.

Much of the pitch championing next year’s team was predicated on the fact that this past season was a building year. You would see this squad struggle, but ultimately, grow together, and then you would add three top-100 freshmen, including one ranked in the top 10, without suffering any major losses.

That last qualifier has now been thrown out the window.

Now, it’s true that Quincy Allen had played himself out of Coach Boyle’s favor, and wasn’t even able to find minutes in the rotation until injuries set in, but the flashes of talent were still obvious, and losing him hurts CU’s depth. Much of the same can be said for Nique Clifford, who struggled to be reliably productive in his minutes but was also a player the Buffaloes heavily relied on down the stretch, as the team succumbed to injury.

The biggest loss though, without a doubt, is Lawson Lovering.

Much of his tenure with the Buffaloes was maddening, but he closed the season by showcasing the potential that made him a coveted recruit.

He improved mightily from his underwhelming season-long averages of 4.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game, to average 8.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game over the season’s last eight contests.

His exit raises some massive doubts about next year’s CU Buffs team, and prior to the mass exodus, those were hard to come by.

Fortunately, adding Eddie Lampkin Jr. eases some of those concerns and can at least provide an immediate answer at center while Colorado’s young bigs continue to develop.