Inexperienced players, resignation of coach contribute to one of the worst seasons in CU history
While play begins this week for 65 teams dreaming of a national championship, the CU men’s basketball team is attempting to rid itself of the nightmares it collected from this past season.
Faced with the difficult task of performing with eight freshmen and a lame-duck head coach, the Buffs (7-20, 3-13 Big 12) struggled all season to build any type of consistency or chemistry. On its way to one of the worst years in program history, CU quickly bowed out of the Big 12 Conference Championship after a first round loss to Texas Tech.
While many factors could be blamed for the team’s struggles, freshman Dwight Thorne left little doubt as to what the main factor was in the team’s struggles this season.
“I think the biggest factor (behind our struggles) was the youth,” Thorne said. “We had two players with Big 12 experience and only one had significant experience.”
The two upper-classmen that Thorne referred to were senior Dominique Coleman and junior Richard Roby. After Roby and Coleman, the Buffs were starved for experience and leadership.
The team’s eight freshmen were the most ever in the history of CU men’s basketball. Thorne joined fellow freshman Kal Bay, Jeremy Williams and Xavier Silas as the four freshmen on the team that averaged more than 10 minutes per game this season. No other team in the Big 12 was as reliant on its freshmen than CU, and it showed.
The Buffs did not have a winning non-conference portion of the schedule for the first time since 1988-99. The team’s non-conference struggles were just an indicator of what life in the Big 12 would be like. The Buffs went 3-13 in the conference and had three separate losing streaks of three games or more, including a season-long six game losing streak.
Adding to the difficult task of having to adjust to the college game, Thorne and his fellow freshmen also had to face the fact that there head coach was not going to be around after their first year. Despite Head Coach Ricardo Patton’s decision to not return, Thorne did not say he felt like the team was at a disadvantage this season.
“I felt like it was something we just had to deal with as a team and get better from it. I never felt like we were starting off behind the eight ball or anything like that,” Thorne said.
Whether dealing with Patton’s impending exit was an issue for the Buffs or not, there is no denying that the team’s defense, or lack thereof, certainly was. CU ranked dead-last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, giving up an average of over 80 points per game.
Thorne said there were guys on the team who felt defense was of secondary importance.
“I think defense is just mostly desire and being demanded by everyone. I just think sometimes guys took breaks on defense and allowed people to score. I felt that our team thought we could outscore everybody and that defense wasn’t a very big priority,” Thorne said.
Thorne added that he felt like the team’s youth was a big factor in why things like the defense never got corrected.
“When something needs to be said, we didn’t always have people saying it. That’s one problem we did have, which is people not speaking their minds enough,” he said.
The lack of leadership for the Buffs has carried over into the off-season with Patton cleaning out his office. Thorne said that a meeting the players had with Athletic Director Mike Bohn on Monday was productive and provided them with the opportunity to talk about where they believe the program is right now.
Throne did not go into specifics about what the players and Bohn discussed, but he did say the athletic department hopes to have a new head coach in place by the end of next week.
When asked if he felt all of the young guys would be back at CU next season, Thorne sounded positive on the prospects of that happening.
“I think everybody’s coming back. There has been talk about people leaving, and while guys are certainly disappointed about the season we’ve had, I don’t think anyone’s upset to the extent where they don’t see things getting better here at Colorado,” Thorne said.
Contact Campus Press staff writer Stirling Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.