LYNCHBURG, Va. — Last year, the Colorado men's basketball team generally utilized a lineup that featured four fifth-year seniors and a fourth-year junior.
This year, the Buffaloes' active roster includes four true freshmen, two redshirt freshman, and a junior who owns ample big-game experience, yet who nonetheless is coming off major foot surgery. Through three games, it hasn't been uncommon to see three freshmen on the floor at the same time.
So which group would be less likely to buckle under pressure? The youngsters, naturally.
One of the biggest takeaways from one of the most stirring comebacks in the program's history Friday night against Quinnipiac was the glaring difference between the composure displayed by this year's new-look Buffs compared to the frequent late-game dysfunction that was all too common for CU during the 2016-17 season.
Those veterans last year faltered late in nonconference losses against Colorado State and BYU, and it got even worse during an 0-7 start in the Pac-12 Conference. That run included a pair of overtime losses, a one-point loss at Arizona State, and a three-point loss at home against USC. In several of those contests, the Buffs held leads in the final minute but still failed to secure victories.
On Friday in the first round of the Paradise Jam, the Buffs trailed by 13 against Quinnipiac with under four minutes remaining and faced an eight-point deficit with 1 minute, 33 seconds to go. Sure, there were plenty of lessons to be learned by CU for getting into that position in the first place, but the fact they turned up the intensity instead of folding late, giving freshman guard McKinley Wright a chance at his winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, should incite confidence as the schedule grows more demanding in the coming weeks.
Another lesson: Experience matters. But it perhaps can be overrated.
"It's not a game we win last year," CU head coach Tad Boyle admitted. "It gets back to the spirit, toughness, resiliency, grit...whatever you want to call it. I don't know if I have the right word so I use a bunch of them. They have a will about them and a lot of it starts with McKinley Wright. It doesn't end with McKinley, but it starts with McKinley. He has 100 percent confidence in himself, and his teammates have confidence in him."