After beating Washington and losing to Washington State on the road, the CU Boulder men’s basketball team currently sits at 15-6 (6-4 Pac-12) and is tied for second in the Pac-12 conference. The Buffaloes are undefeated at home so far this season with a 12-0 record but have only one win in their five road games.
As of Monday, Jan 29, the Buffs are the eighth-best shooting team in the country at 49.9%, and the 37th-ranked offense in the country scoring an average of 81.3 points per game. The team also has five players averaging more than 10 points per game.
“I think the way they play, the way they share the ball, the way they move the ball. I think it really allowed our fans to enjoy it,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said in a postgame press conference. “It’s a combination of how we play, altitude and wearing people down, and the confidence they play with at home. Now, we must transfer that confidence to the road because it’s no different.”
It has been a two-sided story for Colorado this season as they have played near perfectly in games in Boulder, but have struggled immensely on the road. Through the first stretch of the season CU was playing well with only two losses to Colorado State University and Florida State, but they went on to lose three straight in an important road trip. Of those games included a 47-point demolishing by No 11. Arizona, followed by two close losses to Arizona State and California.
Coming off those losses, CU continued their unbeaten stretch at home with key wins against USC, Oregon and Oregon State. After proving their ability at home the Buffs were once again tested on another road trip. In those games, the team importantly picked up their first away win at Washington convincingly at 98-81, but couldn’t keep the momentum going and fell to Washington State 69-78. Colorado still has five away games remaining on their schedule and are going to need to find a way to win at least a few of those if they want to make the March Madness tournament. The team also has five more homes games in the regular season, hoping to keep their unbeaten streak in Boulder alive.
“Going on the road in this league — in any league — is not easy… Great teams come back and win on the road. We were a good team, we want to be a great team,” Boyle said in the press conference following their loss to WSU. “We’re halfway through (the Pac-12 season) and we’re not satisfied with where we are. We’d love to have this one back but it doesn’t work like that.”
Though there have been definite down points during the season, Colorado has seen a lot of success, specifically through their three stars, K.J. Simpson, Tristan da Silva and Cody Williams. The trio are the three highest scorers on the team and in recent mock drafts have all been projected to be first-round picks in the 2024 NBA Draft.
Simpson has been the Buffs point guard for the past three seasons, but has truly taken control of the team this year. The junior is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring at 19.2 points per game while also averaging 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and a third most in the conference 1.9 steals per game. Simpson is shooting over 50% for the season and has been Colorado’s go-to player on offense, all while gaining more national attention along the way.
“I think I’m just being a little a little bit smarter with my shot selection. Coach Boyle talked about that a lot last year and understanding to pick and choose your spots,” Simpson said in a statement after his career high 34 points against WSU in December. “I love basketball. This is what I grew up loving. Obviously, I take it seriously, and it’s a passion, but that’s always how I’ve been growing up… I enjoy being out there. I’m just ready at all times.”
Williams has been a much-needed valuable asset for Colorado this season, as the freshman is expected to take the jump to the NBA after this year. Though he has sat out eight of CU’s 21 games with a wrist injury, Williams is averaging 14.7 points on almost 58% shooting, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. With his 6’8” height and 7’+ wingspan, Williams has been crucial on both sides of the ball for the Buffs and has continuously looked more comfortable and confident as the season has progressed.
“We talked to Cody and one of the reasons he came here is he knew that we were going to expect him to be a big-time defender on the perimeter,” Coach Boyle said in a press conference after Williams 23-point return from injury. “He’s a good offensive player, we all know that he showed that tonight. Always has been his whole life. Very few of those guys really want to dig in on the defensive end – Cody does.”
Though still second on the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, da Silva has gone slightly under the radar for the Buffs this year. The senior from Germany is performing better than his previous season’s stats show, but Simpson and Williams have lead the headlines for the team. Da Silva has played consistently all season scoring at least 10 points in all but one contest, while also averaging 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this year.
Besides the three already mentioned, CU has also seen great play out of J’Vonne Hadley and Eddie Lampkin Jr. Hadley moved to play more of a guard role this season, but has still been very key for Colorado in the paint averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Lampkin Jr. transferred from Texas Christian University, to join the Buffs and has been a fan favorite both on and off the court. His explosive energy and 6’10” 265lb frame has been extremely beneficial for the team this year, providing them with a true big man willing to post up opponents and fight for rebounds. Lampkin Jr. is averaging 10.3 points per game and is fifth in the Pac-12 in rebounds at 7.4 per game.
Julian Hammond, Luke O’Brien and Assane Diop have also been important pieces for the Buffs this year. But the team has played with a limited lineup in most of their games resulting in the above mentioned starters playing a majority of the minutes. Though it’s been mainly a few players leading Colorado this year, many are expected to end their college careers after the season, leaving room open for more opportunities for returning players down the line.
The CU men’s basketball team has shown they can win, but need to prove they can do it on the road. They have talented players who have worked well together resulting in a top-ranked offensive output, but need to be able to do it in all arenas, not just the CU Events Center. The team currently has 10 games left on their 2023-24 schedule and will need to make the most of them to keep their postseason dreams alive. After a six day break, CU will go back on the road to play the Utah Utes at the John M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. The game will be at 3pm MST on Saturday, Feb 3, and live on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Eli Gregorski at firstname.lastname@example.org