An analysis of the 2023 men’s basketball season

Head coach Tad Boyle watches from the sidelines during the men’s basketball game against CSU at the CU Event Center December 8, 2022. (Kara Wagenknecht/CU Independent)

As of February 1, 2023, the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team is 12-11 overall and is currently ninth in the Pac-12 with a 4-8 record in conference games. With eight games remaining in their season, the odds of making the NCAA tournament are slim, and even a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) bid is far from secure.

Before the season, the Buffaloes looked like a team that could upset any opponent on any given night. After losing to Grambling State in the second game of the season, Colorado beat the top-25 ranked teams of Tennessee and Texas A&M in no time. But while they could face off against the top teams in the country, the Buffs also had significant problems with the lower-tier teams they played against, losing to Grambling State, UMass and Boise State, all games where a win was expected.

After their 68-55 loss to Boise State on Nov. 20 when they were 3-3, the Buffs had to sharpen their gameplay and be prepared for anything their opponents might throw their way.

“We’re always going back and forth, win-loss, win-loss,” said junior forward Nique Clifford. “We’ll just have to get back to the drawing board when we come back. [We have to] Practice hard and find out what we’re doing wrong.”

Their loss to Boise State appeared to be a turning point for Colorado as the Buffs won eight of their next 11 games. They averaged 73 points per game during that span, many of which came from the Buffs’ top offensive players KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva. During this period, both Simpson and da Silva earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors by averaging more than 23 points per game for consecutive weeks.

Though many of their victories in this stretch game secured against smaller schools like North Alabama and Southern Utah, CU secured one of their most important wins of the season, destroying rival Colorado State 93-65 on Dec. 8.

“I would know [this] would be a work-in-progress team, I knew there would be growing pains, I said after a few losses I’ll say it after wins,” head coach Ted Boyle said after the game. “I just want our guys to play with energy and commitment and play together on offense and share the ball. If we do that, we can beat anyone.”

On Jan. 8, the Colorado Buffaloes were 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the Pac-12 game. Despite a rocky start to the season, they were able to string together a string of victories and were starting to look like they were getting their act together. After their 62-42 win over Oregon State on Jan. 7, the Buffs looked ahead to their most brutal phase of the season.

“It gets harder and harder to win games when conference play goes on and you take to the streets,” Boyle said. “You play in the upper half of the league. We didn’t play in the top half of the league. So we let that come down the street.”

Since that win, however, Colorado has won just one of its last six games. They fell to USC and UCLA, as well as Washington and the two Oregon schools, with their only win over Washington State narrowly edging them 58-55. After a great middle stretch of the season, Colorado seems to be slowly losing momentum and has been on the losing streak more often than not in recent weeks. With a little over a month left in the season, the 12-11 (4-8 in Pac-12) Buffaloes are looking to win as many of their remaining eight games as possible.

“I wish I had the answers now,” Boyle said. “I don’t, but it’s my job. It’s nobody’s fault but me and I have to do a better job with this basketball team.”

Although many people have described the season as an unsuccessful one in terms of the team’s win-loss record, there are many positives to this young and relatively inexperienced Buffaloes team.

So far this year, KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva have played the best basketball of their college careers. Across 23 games, Simpson is averaging 16.3 points per game, with da Silva right behind him at 16 per game, putting both in the top 10 in the Pac-12 standings. Simpson averages the seventh most assists per game in the Pac-12, averaging 3.7, while Da Silva also tops the Pac-12 chart in other categories, currently top-10 in field goals, three-pointers and steals The duo were the main anchors on the CU offense all season, and combined for the second most points in the Pac-12 of two players on the same team.

The buffs have had great success with their other players as well. Junior J’Vonne Hadley is third on the team at 8.3 points per game and currently ranks 13th in rebounds per game in the Pac-12, averaging more than six per contest. Guards Julian Hammond, Jalen Gabbidon and Javon Ruffin came off the bench efficiently, averaging more than five points and two rebounds per game.

Despite above-par performance on the bench, turnover and lack of consistency on offense have prevented the Buffs from stringing together multiple wins. Achieving consistent performances has plagued Colorado, and these next eight games need to be just that to make a difference in March.

The Colorado Buffaloes currently have eight games left for the 2022-23 season, finishing with the Pac-12 tournament starting March 8. Their next game is against the University of California, which will be held at the CU Events Center on Thursday, February 2nd at 8pm MST. They will be hosting Stanford in Boulder on Sunday, February 5 at 5:00 p.m. MST.

Contact CU independent contributor Eli Gregorski at [email protected]

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