A pretty deep herd.

That's how Tad Boyle views the Buffaloes entering the 2011-12 season.

Colorado opens the campaign Friday night against Fort Lewis at the Coors Events Center (8 p.m., no television).

Boyle said his second CU team could have a 10-man rotation as soon as all of the players on the roster are healthy and up to speed.

Jeremy Adams, a 6-foot-5 sophomore shooting guard, is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion during a closed-door scrimmage at Creighton two weeks ago.

Damiene Cain has rejoined the team after taking some time off to focus on academics. The 6-7 freshman forward doesn't expect to see any action for several weeks.

"It's the best decision for me. I needed to take a little break in the beginning. I got my break and now I'm back and I'm happy," Cain told the Camera when asked about returning to the program. "I needed time to adjust to college, to get acclimated to a different community and stuff like that. I'm good now."

The Buffs have a number of talented players eager to fill the void left by the graduation of five seniors and Alec Burks' decision to enter the NBA draft.

Seniors Nate Tomlinson (point guard) and Carlon Brown (wing) will provide a lot of experience in the backcourt. They will both start Friday, along with freshman wing Spencer Dinwiddie, rebounding machine Andre Roberson and senior forward Austin Dufault.


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Shane Harris-Tunks, a 6-11 center who missed last season with a knee injury, is Boyle's "sixth starter" and will provide some much-needed size and a strong defensive presence off the bench.

Explosive guards Askia Booker and Shannon Sharpe can push the pace and change the momentum when inserted into the game. Former Monarch High School star Sabatino Chen, who transferred from Denver last year, also could have a role in the regular rotation as a defensive cog.

"I'd like to be 10 deep eventually," Boyle said. "The easy rotation for a coach is eight. When you get into nine and 10, it gets a little more difficult and there are more decisions to be made."

Finding minutes for quality players is a good problem to have.

Senior forward Trey Eckloff (6-11) and sophomore center Ben Mills (7-0), who both had productive offseasons, could find themselves in the thick of games against Pac-12 opponents like UCLA that have big lineups.

Injuries and foul trouble are variables Boyle can't control that can change the rotation quickly at any point in the season.

"It can get ugly in a hurry," Boyle said while discussing what went through his mind when Roberson tweaked an ankle during Thursday's practice.

Mills isn't expected to redshirt due to a lack of experienced depth in the paint.

"With the uncertainty with Damiene and with our thin front line, it's probably not going to happen," Boyle said. "There are going to be times when we need Ben, I really believe that. If I didn't think that I'd say, 'Yeah, let's redshirt him.' "

Cain still is playing catch up with learning the systems and getting into shape. There is no question he has the physical tools to help the Buffs roam into the Pac-12.

"Hopefully, middle of the season," Cain said when asked about his timetable for playing. "I'm not really rushing it."

There is a much greater sense of urgency for the players who were in the shadow of Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson, Marcus Relphorde and Burks during last season's program record 24-win season.

"I've got a lot of adrenaline pumping," said Brown, a 6-5 senior who transferred from Utah last year. "We're definitely looking forward to showing the fans what this team is about. We've got a lot of new faces and pieces. A lot of people want to see if Colorado basketball is going to go down or what the changes are going to be. I'm looking forward to giving these fans what they're looking for."

CU men's hoops preview

FRIDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (0-0) host the Fort Lewis College Skyhawks (0-0) at 8 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio on KKZN (AM 760) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chris Lewis (color). No television.

STORYLINES: Coming off a CU record 24-win campaign that included a trip to the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden, Tad Boyle looks to retool a roster that loses 76 percent of its scoring from last season. ... Utah transfer Carlon Brown and talented freshmen Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie will make their CU debut. ... Shane Harris-Tunks returns for the Buffs after missing last season with a knee injury. ... Fort Lewis lost six seniors to graduation from last season. ... The Skyhawks are coached by Bob Hofman, a point guard at CU from 1970-74.

KEY STAT: The Buffs enter the season with a 24-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents (12-0 in 2010-11, 8-0 in 2009-10 and won last four at Coors Events Center in 2008-09).

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 24-14 entering his second season at CU. Bob Hofman is 285-151 in his 16th season at Fort Lewis.

PROBABLE STARTERS (2010-11 statistics): Colorado - G Nate Tomlinson, 6-3, Sr., 3.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg; F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 6.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg; F Austin Dufault, 6-9, Sr., 6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-5, Fr., 0.0 ppg; G Carlon Brown*, 6-5, Sr., 12.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg. Fort Lewis - F Torrey Udall, 6-9, Jr., 2.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg; G Matthew Mazarei, 5-10, Jr., 0.0 ppg; G Matt Billups, 6-0, Sr., 5.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg; G Mike Matthews, 6-0, So., 1.8 ppg, 0.5 rpg; C Matt Morris, 6-6, Sr., 11.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg.

*-Utah 2009-10

SERIES: CU leads 2-0 (99-76 on Dec. 18, 1976, and 84-68 on Nov. 23, 1985).

UP NEXT: Colorado opens the Puerto Rico Tip-Off against Wichita State on Nov. 17 (5:30 p.m., ESPNU).

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