What should fans expect from Tad Boyle's third Colorado team?
That's a difficult question to answer considering the head coach views freshmen like a box of chocolates. Boyle never knows what he's going to get from 18-year-olds.
Next season will certainly be entertaining with the Buffs set to welcome six freshmen aboard when the heralded 2012 recruiting class arrives next month.
"From a coaching standpoint, it's almost a bonus when freshmen contribute and play well," Boyle said during a recent interview with the Daily Camera. "Psychologically, at least in my mind, I try not to count on freshmen. But we all know how important they were to our team this year. Whether I wanted to count them or not, we counted on them."
Boyle is referring to Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, who became the top scoring freshmen tandem in CU history. Both of the Los Angeles guards are perfect fits for the Buffs in the Pac-12.
Booker consistently sparked the team off the bench as Boyle's sixth man. The fleet guard led the Buffs in scoring seven times last season, including both of the NCAA Tournament games.
Dinwiddie started all 36 games and was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team after averaging 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.
Suddenly, these sophomores-to-be are elder statesmen in the program.
"We only have one senior next year. It's almost like all the returning players are seniors, including Spencer and I," Booker said before a recent workout. "We're probably going to have to take on a bigger role than normal sophomores. I think we're ready to take on that challenge to lead the team next year."
Former Monarch High School standout Sabatino Chen will be the only official senior in the program. Andre Roberson, a possible preseason Pac-12 player of the year pick, will be entering his junior year along with Jeremy Adams and Shane Harris-Tunks. Ben Mills and Shannon Sharpe, who also will be juniors, are currently in the process of deciding whether to return to CU or transfer to a school where more playing time might be available.
With the graduation of Nate Tomlinson, the 6-foot-5 Dinwiddie plans to run the offense as the point guard.
"It seems like I'm going to be moving back to the point where I'm the most comfortable," Dinwiddie said. "That's going to be fun playing in that position again."
With two top-75 recruits, Josh Scott (6-9 forward) and Xavier Johnson (6-7 wing), projected to join Roberson in the front court, the Buffs will have a very long and athletic lineup.
It will be important for Booker and Dinwiddie to take their play to a higher level as sophomores the way that Tomlinson, Carlon Brown and Austin Dufualt did as seniors.
"Leadership doesn't always have to come from your seniors. There's nothing that says it can't come from a sophomore," Boyle said. "There are responsibilities on Sabatino's shoulders that come with being the only senior. But guys like Spencer and Ski are going to be important in how they step their games up."
Dinwiddie, who was listed at 190 pounds last season, plans to add some muscle to his frame and wants to play at 200 pounds.
Booker wants to go from CU role player to a Pac-12 leading man. Boyle said it will be difficult to keep the versatile 6-1 shooting guard out of the starting lineup this season.
"We accomplished a lot last season. It was probably a lot more than what people thought," Booker said. "I'm just happy to be a part of it as a freshman. That was a great experience. ... One thing I learned is playing at this level is not so much the physical ability or the athletic ability, I think it's more of a mental challenge than anything.
"To be consistent every night and play all out every night is the biggest thing you can do. I'm not the biggest guy out there, so of course I'm not going to beat people physically all the time. But mentally if I'm ready for the challenge and ready to compete, it can make up for some stuff."
The Buffs are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years and first victory in the big bracket since Chauncey Billups was a sophomore.
For last year's seniors, getting to the Big Dance was a career goal realized. For Booker and Dinwiddie, it's the standard for how every season should end.
Even when there are six freshmen on the team.
"We'd like to think so," Dinwiddie said. "It's not like I'm going to come out here and declare that we're going to get to the Tournament every year. But I would think, like last year, that we'll have the pieces to win the (Pac-12) championship. We think we have the pieces to win, and that's where we want to end up every year."