Colorado men’s basketball came into the 2023-24 season with high expectations, and they have lived up to them so far, dominating their first three contests and sneaking into the final spot in the AP top 25 in the second week of the rankings. The Buffs came into 2023 with a very deep and talented roster with a great blend of veterans and young players who have come in and already made an impact from day one. The two stars of last year’s NIT team, point guard KJ Simpson and forward Tristan da Silva, are back, and both are off to a blazing start to the season.
It’s a small sample, but both are backing up their preseason hype, averaging 19 and 17 points per game while shooting above 60% from the floor. But it hasn’t just been a two man show for the Buffs. They have flashed the potential to be an elite team on both ends of the floor when they’re humming. The schedule has been relatively soft, but the Buffs have taken care of business, winning their first three contests by 77 combined points.
Photo Cred: CU
One of the bright spots from their most recent win, a 106-79 beatdown of Milwaukee, was highly regarded freshman Cody Williams, the highest rated recruit that Colorado has ever had in the Tad Boyle era. Williams, a potential one-and-done candidate, flashed his versatile skill set in the win on Tuesday night in Boulder. The Arizona native knocked down a three, made a few finishes at the rim, was disruptive on defense, and had a highlight dunk in transition. He also flashed an ability to be a secondary playmaker and make the right decisions with the ball in his hands, whether he’s getting it on the second side or attacking the fastbreak.
Williams isn’t the only freshman who’s making an immediate impact for the Buffs. Guard RJ Smith and forward Assane Diop have earned enough of Boyle’s trust to garner rotation minutes off the bench. Diop has shown a high motor and a great basketball IQ for someone who picked the game up late in his development and will be active on both ends. Smith can run the offense and play off the ball, allowing him to play with or without both Simpson and Julian Hammond, deepening the Buffs’ lineup flexibility.
The icing on the cake for the Buffs was a much needed big man in Eddie Lampkin Jr., a transfer from TCU, to give the Buffs a more physical, bully-ball element. Lampkin has unlimited energy, “the best energy in the country” according to the man himself, and really gives CU a lift in the paint. He’s still finding his rhythm returning from an injury that hampered his preseason preparations, but Lampkin sets the tone for a Buffs group that can really fly around and bother opposing teams.
Photo Cred: USA Today
The fairest criticism of the Buffs’ start is that they haven’t been tested. However, we will find out a lot about this team soon enough. After Thanksgiving, they will head to Fort Collins for a rivalry clash with the undefeated Colorado State Rams and star guard Isaiah Stevens. The biggest test of the non-conference for the Buffs will come on December 10 in Brooklyn when CU takes on Miami, currently ranked No. 12, in the NACB Brooklyn Showcase. The Buffs guards will be tested, especially on the defensive against Nigel Pack, Wooga Poplar, and company.
That will gear Colorado up for Pac-12 play, a league that is sure to be deep once again in their final year before most everyone goes their separate ways. Arizona projects to be very good again and picked up a marquee win over Duke on the road. USC has arguably the top freshman in the country Isaiah Collier, and he forms a formidable backcourt tandem with the return of Boogie Ellis. UCLA and Oregon should have competitive squads as well. Only time will tell what heights this Colorado squad can reach, and we will learn more about just how good they are soon enough. But for now, all the signs of a potentially elite team are there.