BUFFS

CU Buffs men’s basketball got two stamps of big-time expectations

Apr 4, 2023, 11:31 AM

On Tad Boyle’s watch, the CU men’s basketball team has qualified for five of the last 11 NCAA Tournaments. They have just one losing season in Boyle’s 13 years as head coach. Not bad considering that the Buffs had five losing seasons in the six years before Boyle took the job.

But the Buffs have just one NCAA trip in the last six tournaments — which would have probably been two in seven had COVID-19 not wiped out the 2020 edition of March Madness.

But the Buffs have momentum — even though a second-round NIT loss to Utah Valley sapped it a bit. The Buffs welcome their first McDonald’s All-America since 2001 when Cody Williams steps on campus. TCU transfer Eddie Lampkin Jr. committed to CU over the weekend.

And in the hours after the national-championship game concluded, the Buffs received two bits of news that reveal elevated status and expectations in Boulder.

First is a No. 13 spot in ESPN’s “Way-Too-Early” Top 25 for the 2023-24 season. Consider for a moment that the Buffaloes have not been ranked higher than 15th in the AP poll since the 1969-70 season — one year after the school’s last trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

Writes ESPN’s Jeff Borzello:

We are all the way in on the Buffs’ bandwagon. They would have been in the top 25 even before Sunday’s commitment from TCU transfer Eddie Lampkin Jr. KJ Simpson and Tristan da Silva, if both return, give Tad Boyle two All-Pac-12 players to lead the way, and he’s adding potential lottery pick Cody Williams, a top-10 recruit. There’s a slew of role players also heading back to Boulder.

Second is a spot in the prestigious Maui Invitational. Now, the Buffs won’t play in this early-season tournament until November 2024. But when they do, some of the sport’s blue bloods will surround them: current national champion UConn, perennial power Michigan State and six-time national champion North Carolina. The other schools rounding out the field are no slouches: Auburn, Dayton, Memphis and former Big XII rival Iowa State.

It will be the Buffs’ first trip to Maui since 2009. That year, they finished seventh, with the only win coming over host Chaminade.

The pieces are in place for a Buffs breakthrough on the big stage. And the recent Final Four — which included three first-timers — shows that in today’s men’s college-basketball landscape, parity is king and the party is open to more schools than ever.

Now, it’s up to Boyle and his Buffs to take advantage. The goal is simple: Go where no CU team has gone since the salad days of Sox Walseth.

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CU Buffs men’s basketball got two stamps of big-time expectations