Yes, I understand that we are currently in Buffs Football season mode. But with CU’s non-conference basketball schedule released last week, it is only appropriate to break down how the Buffs will looking coming off a volatile 2013-14 season. Coming into this season, CU will be without their star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, as he chose to opt our of his senior year for the NBA. The Buffs now look to senior Askia Booker, juniors Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, and Xavier Talton to lead the way this season. Colorado also returns underclassmen Wesley Gordon, Tre’Shaun Fletcher, Dustin Thomas, and Jaron Hopkins to strengthen the roster as well. Not to mention the Buffs are bringing on powerful young bloods including homegrown high school all-star Dominique Collier, and promising big man Tory Miller. Although CU loses incredible talent in Dinwiddie, they’ve had the entire offseason to adjust to life without him. The Buffs should be able to deliver another promising year under head coach Tad Boyle. Looking at the Buffs non-conference schedule, Colorado should be able to find themselves in good position with a solid winning record going into the 2015 Pac-12 season, which only grows more and more competitive every season.
Here is who the Buffs will face in non-conference play:
CU has nine games before they fly to Hawaii and play in the Diamond Head Classic Open against a solid field including Wichita State, George Washington, and historic rival Nebraska.
Game By Game Breakdown:
Game 1: vs. Drexel
Thoughts: If they Buffs somehow lost this game to the Drexel Dragons, honestly I wouldn’t be totally shocked. Drexel is one of the more underrated teams in the NCAA. Last year, they were on track to an amazing season before their star guard went down with injury. Drexel almost beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion, and was beating Arizona by 20 before their star, Damion Lee, went down with a torn ACL. While, Lee returns for the Dragons, they graduated their three best players, and now are overloaded with underclassmen. Not to mention, they lost their big man in the offseason with a knee injury. As long as CU can contain Lee and their other star, forward Tavon Allen, Colorado will be able to hold off coach James “Bruiser” Flint and the Dragons.
Prediction: CU comes out to a slow start but gets it together to pull out the win.
CU 72-Drexel 65
Game 2: vs. Auburn
Thoughts: This game is part of ESPN’s 24 Hour Tip-Off and the game will start at 11:00 PM MST. This will definitely throw all the players off on both teams. With another game at home, CU will have the advantage, though, with a rocks, ESPN crazed C-Unit behind them. Auburn finished 14-16 last year, but have added Antoine Mason, who was second in points per game last year, and and strong big man Cinmeon Bowers. Besides that, the Tigers bring quite a lot of height from their other players as well. This game will be an interesting and challenging match-up for the Buffaloes.
Prediction: The starting time will affect Auburn more than CU since the Buffs are at home. CU will find their flow a little quicker and hold of a good Auburn squad for a close win.
CU 56-Auburn 53
Game 3: at Wyoming
Thoughts: CU has always struggled in Wyoming, regardless of the team they take to Laramie. Wyoming is coming on strong this year with some very good player. Seniors Larry Nance Jr. and Boulder’s own Riley Grabau lead Wyoming this season. Before Nance went down with a knee injury last year, he was putting on an all-star performance almost every game, and Grabau can still shoot the lights out from deep. The Cowboys also bring the explosive junior Josh Adams as well. Just like the Buffaloes, Wyoming seems to be on their way up as well.
Prediction: Nobody can contain Nance, Grabau destroys the Buffs from 3-point range. Buffs make it close, but not enough.
Wyoming 68-CU 63
Game 4: vs. Air Force
Thoughts: Air Force brings back almost the exact starters the Buffs played last year and CU handled them 81-57. The Falcons did though, lose their leading scorer in Tre’ Coggins. However, Air Force brings on 11 freshman this year, which will give an element of uncertainty. But, none of the freshman were incredibly notable. Air Force will be good in the coming years, but probably not this year, as they are weighed down by inexperience.
Prediction: Same teams, same outcome. CU wins this one at home considerably.
CU 77-Air Force 62
Game 5: vs. Lipscomb
Thoughts: After doing some research, Lipscomb is poised to be one of the breakout Mid-Major teams in the NCAA this upcoming year. The Bison will bring back four returning starts, all who averaged more than 13.0 points per game last season. So, improvement is most likely inevitable. However, Lipscomb only has two players over 6’6″, so the Buffs have the height advantage. Not to mention, the Buffs will be playing behind the C-Unit once again in the CEC. Still if CU does not take this team seriously, they will be in for a surprise.
Prediction: This game will be closer than many will expect. But, the Buff’s home court advantage is second to none.
CU 59-Lipscomb 55
Game 6: vs. San Francisco
Thoughts: San Francisco finished third in a competitive WWC last year with a record of 21-12. However, the team lost their two highest scoring players. Nevertheless, the Dons seems to have a promising line-up brining back three solid seniors as well as two good juniors. San Francisco also brings freshman Devin Watson, a three star standout recruit from the San Diego area. Still, the Dons lack dominant height and once again the Buffs play them at home.
Prediction: Unless Devin Watson puts on a show, the San Francisco big men rapidly improve, and the Buffs seriously over look this team, it should be an easy win for the Black and Gold.
CU 62-San Francisco 56
Game 7: at Georgia
Thoughts: Georgia brings back three of the five starters from last year. They also retained big man Nemanja Djurisic, who scored 12 points, grabbed four boards and two steals against the Buffs this past season. The Bulldogs also bring in two three start recruits, 6’8″ Yante Martin, and 6’11” Fred Iduwe. Both look to have some strong potential. The Buffs beat Georgia last year, but CU went 26-26 from the charity stripe, not to mention the Buffs shot pretty well from three point land as well. I don’t think CU will shoot that well from the line this time. Take even a third of those free throws away and it’s a much different ball game.
Prediction: First road game for CU in a while will lead to some surprises. Buffs can’t get it done two years in a row.
Georgia 75-CU 69
Game 8: vs. CSU
Thoughts: I hate to say this, but I’m actually a little nervous for this game. For the past three years we got to watch The Mayor singlehandedly destroy CSU. But, we don’t have him this year. The Rams also bring back their two leading scorers and have brought on some considerable freshman talent in 6’10” Toby Van Ry and 6’3″ guard Jeremiah Page. But, Van Ry will be too skinny to match up with Scott or Gordon. We will see about Page. CSU also has explosive wing man Carlton Hurst, it will be interesting to see how much he has improved this offseason. If the Buffs had to go to Fort Collins for this one, I would be very nervous. But, thankfully we play at the CEC and the C-Unit will bring the noise.
Prediction: CSU makes it a close one, but the C-Unit once again makes Coors Event Center one of the toughest places to win on the road. Buffs escape with a close one.
CU 67-CSU 64
Game 9: Northern Colorado
Thoughts: Northern Colorado brings back three starters from last year and also gained CSU transfer Dwight Smith. But, UNC lost their two most prolific players, and there seem to be holes on this team. The incoming freshman class are tall, but not the strongest. Also Smith didn’t even have a major impact for CSU, so the Buffs have little to worry about there.
Prediction: This game is at home, and the Buffs are the much better and bigger team. CU gets an easy win before heading to Hawaii.
CU 80-Northern Colorado 66
Games 10-12: Diamond Head Classic Tournament
Here is the bracket for the 2014 Diamond Head Classic:
The field features some very solid teams such as George Washington, Nebraska, and Wichita State, as well as some not so solid teams like DePaul, and Loyola Marymount. For this I will also make predictions for who I think CU will play, as Games 11 and 12 are still TBD.
Game 10: vs. DePaul
Thoughts: DePaul had a disappointing season last year, going 12-21. They have some very solid players, including the Big East Rookie of the Year Billy Garrett Jr. But, they do not seem to play well together, emphasized by ranking 305th in assists per game with 10.9. The Blue Demons lost their leading scorer, but still have a decent starting line-up. However, they lack in the height department. They do not have a decent big man.
Prediction: This game depends on the Buff big men stepping up, and shutting down Garrett Jr. This game is on neutral territory, so the C-Unit won’t be in full force. Still DePaul lacks chemistry and size, so CU moves up to the winners bracket.
Game 11: v.s George Washington (Note: Italics means my prediction)
Thoughts: GW is no joke. Playing in the A-10, they are legitimate competitors and will be the toughest competition for the Buffs yet. While George Washington did lose two of their best scorers, they kept three and added some very impressive recruits. Their big men are powerful, tall, and can rebound. Also, the Colonials can shoot well from deep. Not to mention they have a very strong team game. CU will have to bring their A game here if they want to advance to the finals.
Prediction: While CU tries to make it a close game, GW proves to be too much for the Buffaloes. CU has to settle for the third place game.
GW 73-CU 67
Game 12: vs. Nebraska
Thoughts: Here we go, old rivalry baby! But, Nebraska’s much better than last time we played them. Nebraska brings back almost all of their players from last year and has brought in two solid recruits. Most importantly 6’4″ Forward Terran Petteway returns to the Cornhuskers, who averaged 18.1 points per game, and 4.8 rebounds per game. Also, Nebraska can light it up from beyond the arc. This Nebraska team is hungry from last year’s loss to Baylor in the NCCA Tournament. They are a team to be taken very seriously.
Prediction: CU takes rivalry games very seriously. The one fact that I forgot to mention about Nebraska is that outside their starting five, they have pretty lackluster talent coming off the bench. Since CU has such a deep rotation, the subs will prove to be the difference for CU. Buffs pull out a close one to take third place at the Diamond Head Classic.
CU 73-Nebraska 71
Overall: 9-3 Non-Conference Record
Based of my predictions, the Buffs will enter the 2015 Pac-12 Season with a 9-3 record. If the Buffs go into the Pac-12 season beating Nebraska, they should be able to have the confidence to give a quality showing in conference. If Buffs figure out how to operate without Spencer Dinwiddie, this year looks to be another promising year with an NCAA Tournament birth waiting on the other side. But, that might be a very big “If”. Nevertheless, basketball season cannot arrive soon enough.
-Trevor Simmons (@CUBuffsBBall)
Agree, Disagree, or Want to add something? Let me know in the comments, I’m completely open to discussion.