The University of Colorado Boulder men’s basketball team kicked off their 2023-24 season on Nov. 6 with a 75-57 win against Towson University. In a year in which the Buffaloes see the return of previous years’ stars and the addition of top ranked prospects, they looked to be in strong form.
Though the Buffaloes got out to an early 13-point-lead in the first half, Towson hung around and only found themselves down 28-24 at halftime. Through the first 20 minutes, Colorado still appeared to be playing off the offseason rust, as they had eight turnovers and missed all of their three-point attempts.
Coming out of the locker room, however, the Buffs showed new life, and made five three-pointers and started the second half on a 17-1 run. With each basket, the team’s confidence grew, and they went on to outscore Towson by 14 points in the second half and roll to the victory. As a team, Colorado shot 52% in the game and had 22 assists on their 26 made shots, as well as out-rebounding Towson by 12.
“Good first win,” CU Boulder head coach Tad Boyle said after the game. “A tale of two halves, I thought we fought the adversity in the first half we had offensively, and came out in the second half and figured things out.”
Though Colorado played two very different halves of basketball against Towson, their new and improved team showed talent throughout, with a skilled mix of returning veterans and new recruits. Returners Tristan da Silva, KJ Simpson and J’Vonne Hadley were the stars of the show for Colorado, the three combining for 48 of the Buffs’ 75 points, and collecting 14 of the team’s 38 rebounds.
Though the first half saw CU Boulder get up to a 13-point-lead and then drop to only four by halftime, Colorado’s opening second half effort showed the type of talent and skill this team has. By coming out of the break on a 17-1 run, the Buffs showed that they can move on from their shortcomings and play like a top ranked team in the nation. With multiple scoring options on offense and moving the ball for 22 assists in the Towson game, passing and finding the open man will be one of the biggest sticking points for Boyle and his team this year.
“We had some breakdowns a little bit here and there, but I was really happy with his team’s defensive and rebounding, which is something I stress every day and every game,” Boyle said. “Offensively, 22 assists on 26 baskets is fantastic. I mean, that’s as good as it gets. Sharing the ball, moving the ball is critical.”
Tristan da Silva
Coming into his senior season for Colorado, da Silva has consistently improved in each of his previous three seasons of college basketball at CU Boulder. Last season leading the Buffaloes, da Silva averaged nearly 16 points a game, up from 2.7 and 9.4 points per game in his freshman and sophomore seasons. In his final year for the Buffs, the senior from Germany has been a highly touted player, with many expecting him to be taken in next year’s NBA draft. In the first game of the season, da Silva finished with 13 points, four assists, two rebounds and two blocks. He made five of six shots, his only miss was on his lone first half shot. Most recently, da Silva was named on the all Pac-12 preseason team and the Naismith preseason watch list. The Naismith award is presented yearly to the top player in the country.
“Tristan is a confident player, he knows this is his team. He knows that he needs to be more aggressive for this team to be as good as it needs to be,” Boyle said in preseason media availability. “He’s going to be critical to this team this year, both offensively and defensively.”
Simpson continues to be the heartbeat and pace-setter in his third season for the Buffaloes. Like da Silva, Simpson’s responsibilities and play have only increased over time in Boulder. Last year he nearly matched da Silva’s stats with 15.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists a game. Against Towson, Simpson led the game in scoring with 22 points, three rebounds and three assists, controlling the tempo of the game for CU Boulder on the offensive end. As a player who prefers to score himself, Simpson’s efficiency and passing will be an important variable for the Buffs this year as they lean on their experienced point guard. Along with da Silva, Simpson was named to the all Pac-12 conference preseason team.
“I mean, I love this group,” Simpson said postgame. “I feel like we have a lot of talent, but we have a lot of unselfish guys as well – that’s really the dangerous part of our team. Anyone can score the ball – I don’t think anyone really cares who does it.”
Cody Williams was the first five star recruit in Buffaloes history, and finished with four points, four rebounds and three assists in his first collegiate action. Williams’ arrival in Boulder has been widely discussed as the team adds a top prospect to their team with already high expectations. In his senior season in high school, Williams averaged 18 points and over six rebounds a game, leading his team to a 30-1 record. His brother, Jalen Williams, currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the 6-foot-8-inch freshman from Gilbert, Arizona is currently projected to join his brother professionally and be a top pick in next year’s NBA draft. Williams was named an honorable mention on the all Pac-12 conference preseason team, before playing a single collegiate game.
“There’s no doubt he’s a big part of this team and is gonna be a big part of the rotation,” Boyle said about Williams. “He’s gonna be a big part and defensively that is the big thing for a freshman. I always say that he’s not just a capable defender, but he’s a willing defender.”
In the postgame press conference, Hadley was called the most underrated player on this year’s team. After transferring from Indian Hills Community College last year, Hadley played 22 games and averaged eight points, almost six rebounds and a steal per game, despite multiple injuries throughout the season. The 6-foot-6-inch Hadley plays much larger than his size, unafraid to fight for rebounds in the paint and body up against the opposing team’s seven-foot-tall centers. In the win against Towson, Hadley finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists, playing the third most minutes on the team behind only da Silva and Simpson.
“You want a guy like that on the team,” Simpson said of Hadley. “When stuff’s not going as it should or we’re kind of playing slow and the energy isn’t there…he just wants to see this team win.”
Other returning CU Boulder players
Also returning for Colorado are Luke O’Brien and Julian Hammond III, both of whom continue to have an understated role for the Buffs. O’Brien has continuously improved coming into his senior season for CU Boulder, as last year he started a third of the games and averaged 6.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and an assist per game. Starting on Nov. 6, O’Brien finished with seven points, seven rebounds, an assist, block and two steals as he continues to improve and be an impactful player for Colorado. Hammond is currently the backup point guard for CU Boulder behind Simpson, but continues to show himself as a valuable player – coming off the bench and providing energy and consistency. In the game against Towson, Hammond had seven points, four assists and two rebounds, matching his season statistics from last year.
Eddie Lampkin Jr.
Eddie Lampkin Jr. transferred from Texas Christian University over the summer, and has already become a fan favorite before the season opener. In the past two seasons with the Horned Frogs, Lampkin averaged about six points and rebounds a game, playing only an average of 21 minutes per game in that span. Lampkin is also one of the tallest playerson this year’s team, at 6 feet, 11 inches tall, he hopes to be a defensive force in the paint and use his size to help get easy, close-range buckets. In the opening night win, Lampkin had four points, five rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes as he continues to work back from an offseason injury.
Three star recruits
Besides Williams, Boyle and his staff were also able to land two three-star recruits, in the form of Assane Diop and Bangot Dak. Diop, a 6-foot-8-inch big man from Dakar, Senegal, played for Accelerated Schools in Denver, and was a top 100 recruit according to ESPN last year. In the 11 minutes Diop played on Nov.6, he made his two free throws and grabbed one rebound, as he looks to gain his footing in Boulder. Bangot Dak was a three-star recruit who averaged 11.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game in his senior season at Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska. The 6-foot-11-inch center only played four minutes in the season opener, but like Diop, made both of his free throws and grabbed a steal near the end of the game.
Head Coach Tad Boyle
Coach Boyle is currently in his 14th season with CU Boulder, and has a total record of 272 wins and 172 losses in that span. Boyle is the school’s all-time leader in men’s basketball coaching wins and led the Buffs to five NCAA tournament appearances and the 2012 Pac-12 Championship. He has led Colorado to a winning record in all but one of his 13 years in Boulder, and has seen nine of his players make it to the NBA.
The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team won their second and third game against Grambling State University and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee respectively. Expectations are high for this year’s team, and are expected to make a push in the March Madness tournament. With a cast of returning stars and top recruits, head coach Boyle’s team and Colorado basketball fans are in for an exciting season.
“The ceiling for this team is as high as any team I’ve been a part of at Colorado,” Boyle in the pregame video played at the CU Events Center on Nov. 6. “When I look back on this season I want to have no regrets.”
The CU Boulder men’s basketball schedule continues until March, with Pac-12 conference play starting in late December. After a quick 3-0 start to the season, the Buffs are currently ranked No. 25 on the AP Poll. Their season will continue as Colorado heads down to Daytona Beach for the Sunshine Slam, playing the University of Richmond Spiders at 6 p.m. MST on Nov. 20. The game will be live on CBS Sports.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Eli Gregorski at email@example.com