In a Pac-12 Conference already undergoing an offseason basketball facelift, the Colorado Buffaloes will likely transform from a team on the young side to one of the most experienced squads in the league.
Failing to take advantage of that opportunity would be a significant step backward for coach Tad Boyle's program.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, Washington entered the fray as the Pac-12 team with the biggest percentage of its previous year's production returning. CU is likely to be that team next year.
A glance around at the other potential Pac-12 contenders shows rosters in flux. The Huskies, who used that experience to win the regular season title, reach the Pac-12 title game, and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, loses a key senior core of David Crisp, Noah Dickerson, and Martisse Thybulle while sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, might bolt for the NBA. (However, UW will welcome a top-five recruit to Seattle in forward Isaiah Stewart).
If UCLA's roster returns intact the Bruins still will be as talented as any team in the league. But as of Saturday afternoon UCLA has yet to hire a new coach while other league rivals have filled their coaching voids, and in that transition the Bruins are almost certain to lose some of that talent to transfers or the NBA.
Oregon, fresh off its Sweet 16 appearance, loses steady glue senior Paul White, while freshman Louis King and sophomore Kenny Wooten also are candidates for early departures. The ongoing soap operas at Arizona and USC hasn't hurt either program's fortunes on the recruiting trail, with 247Sports.com ranking UA's 2019 recruiting class as the top in the nation while USC checks in at No. 4. Arizona's situation bears monitoring as the latest FBI corruption trial slated for next month, for which Wildcats coach Sean Miller reportedly has been subpoenaed, could finally dent the Teflon that has coated Miller since the FBI corruption probe first came to light two seasons ago. As for USC, the only thing the Trojans have been consistent with in recent seasons has been failing to match potential with production.
Much like Oregon, Arizona State loses a glue senior in Zylan Cheatham, but coach Bobby Hurley should still welcome back a solid core of returnees even if freshman Luguentz Dort goes pro. Of course an entire season can't be road-mapped based on one game, but ASU's season-opening date in November against the Buffaloes in the Pac-12's annual game in China should feature a world of intrigue. Beyond that, Pac-12 bottom feeders Washington State (Kyle Smith) and Cal (Mark Fox) welcome new coaches with little expectation of an immediate surge in the standings.
As for the Buffs, everyone is set to return with other pieces joining the mix. CU will feature the league's best rebounder in Tyler Bey and one of the best point guards in McKinley Wright, both of whom continue to improve as individual defenders. Native Coloradoans D'Shawn Schwartz and Daylen Kountz both progressed steadily throughout the season and are developing into dependable scorers. Forward Evan Battey should improve after his first season of Division I basketball (following a two-year layoff, as well) and 7-footer Dallas Walton, sidelined all season by a torn ACL, will add length to the back end of CU's defense. Walton's return will allow Bey and the foul-prone Battey to be called upon to guard bigger opponents far less frequently. And head coach Tad Boyle still has the potential to add immediate help with the open scholarship set to be awarded this spring.
As the offseason begins following a late run of 12 wins in 15 games that ended Wednesday in the NIT quarterfinals at Texas, it's not too soon for Buffs fans to look at the pending roster, as well as an improved schedule that still isn't finalized, and harbor hope the Big Dance awaits for the first time since 2016. Washington turned experience into a conference championship this season. The Buffs will be challenged to do the same next year.