Colorado coach Ricardo Patton promises you this: Plodding will not describe the Buffaloes this season. Running, free-flowing, in constant motion, versatile -- all of those, he said, will be the new buzzwords for CU basketball.
But there is one word that can't be forgotten either -- new. Colorado will suit up seven newcomers and a redshirt freshman this season. Four starters are gone, and the point guard position was never settled last year, meaning it is going to be open season for the five starting positions.
"I don't think that there's one guy that's a lock to be a starter," Patton said. "That creates some healthy competition amongst the players. All of them feel good, and they're working hard to step up and step in."
FRONTCOURTWith just two returning frontcourt players, Colorado is faced with critical questions. How is it going to rebound? How well will it defend in the post? How will the Buffs replace a first-round draft pick, 7-foot-0 center David Harrison?
Juniors Chris Copeland and Glean Eddy return, but neither was strong on the boards. The Buffs will lean heavily on junior college transfer Lamont Arrington, a 7-0 center, to lead its rebounding efforts. Another junior college transfer, 6-9 forward Julius Ashby, will be asked to provide toughness in the paint. Colorado dueled with Indiana to earn Ashby's services.
Andy Osborn, a local product who transferred to CU from Loyola Marymount, gives the Buffs a different kind of threat. At 6-9, Osborn isn't known for his ability to crash the boards or play with his back to the basket. His claim to fame is a soft touch from the 3-point line. "Andy is probably one of the best 3-point shooters we've seen in a long time, particularly for a guy his size," Patton said. "He knows how to play, understands the game. Sitting out and practicing all year long helped him."
Adding depth is the addition of prep standout Marcus King-Stockton, who put up solid numbers at Colorado Academy as a senior. He'll need to add weight in order to be most effective.
BACKCOURTEven with three players returning, Colorado's situation at point guard is as muddled as ever.
Patton had hoped to solidify it with the talented Michel Lasme, who transferred to CU in the spring of '03 from Massachusetts. But Lasme unexpectedly left Colorado and was believed to be in search of a contract to play in Europe.
So juniors Antoine McGee and Jayson Obazuaye and sophomore Marcus Hall will compete for the starting nod. All were in a constant rotation last season -- none took the reins of the team.
Richard Roby, a 6-7 swingman, is the plum of the incoming class of recruits. "I can tell you this," Patton said, "Roby is not a typical freshman."
Patton also heaps praise on Martane Freeman, a little-known swingman who transferred to CU from junior college. "It would not surprise me if he ended up leading us in scoring," Patton said. "He's a small forward that plays extremely hard. He's long, athletic and quick off the floor. He can get to the basket and knows how to finish."
Keith Smith, a 6-6 guard, will finally get to play this season. The Oklahoma City native redshirted last season to allow his surgically repaired left foot to heal.
The challenge will be replacing the leadership and scoring lost with the graduation of Michel Morandais and Blair Wilson, a duo that accounted for 28.4 points per game last season.
FINAL ANALYSISPatton admits Colorado will be young, but he expects this team to have great of chemistry. The Buffs will show up with chips on their shoulders, and they'll need them. In the rough-and-tumble Big 12, inexperienced teams often get trampled. To wit: Even a CU team comprised of four seniors and four returning starters was only able to make the NIT last season.
Colorado's success depends on how quickly its newcomers get acclimated. Replacing Harrison, Wilson, Morandais and Lamar Harris won't be easy, but then the challenge of making CU basketball competitive is not new for Patton.