Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie (25) drives around Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu during the second half of Friday’s NCAA Tournament game in Austin,
Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie (25) drives around Illinois' Nnanna Egwu during the second half of Friday's NCAA Tournament game in Austin, Texas. Dinwiddie struggled in the loss going 1-for-8 from the field. ( Eric Gay )

AUSTIN, Texas -- Tad Boyle doesn't go into any season with preconceived notions about his team.

Win totals and NCAA Tournament appearances are never guaranteed. Coaches can assemble talent, but they can't control intangibles like team chemistry or predict injuries to key players.

On paper, Boyle's 2013-14 Colorado roster could be the deepest and most talented in program history, especially if Andre Roberson returns for his senior season.

The Buffs -- coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in half a century -- did not have a senior in the starting lineup during the postseason.

Roberson was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year. The 6-7 junior is 10 rebounds away from breaking Stephane Pelle's career record at CU.

"Win the regular season of the conference," Roberson said when asked about the future of the program following Friday's 57-49 loss to Illinois in the East Regional at the Erwin Center. "We've won the (Pac-12) Tournament and been to NCAA Tournament. I think that's the next step."

Spencer Dinwiddie joined Roberson as an All-Pac-12 first team selection this season and is emerging as one of the best point guards in the country. The competitive sophomore will be driven by a disappointing performance against the Illini over the summer.

"I take away that we can be a very good team next year," said Dinwiddie, who was 1-for-8 from the field and limited to 25 minutes due to foul trouble against Illinois. "Everybody needs to assess the weaknesses in their game, work out very hard, and just continue to try to play as a group when we come back as improved players."

Askia Booker capped an up and down sophomore season with 14 points, including three 3-pointers during CU's 21-0 run in the second half. The fearless shooting guard was the most valuable player at the Charleston Classic in November before enduring an offensive slump during conference play.

"The future all depends on the individual guys in the offseason, how hard we work," Booker said. "The offseason is where everyone gets better."

Freshmen starters Josh Scott (6-11 forward) and Xavier Johnson (6-6 forward) showed flashes of brilliance this season and will benefit from significant playing time and an offseason in the weight room.

Bench contributors Jeremy Adams, Xavier Talton and Eli Stalzer also had their moments and will be pushed for playing time by another promising wave of incoming freshmen.

And two members of the nationally ranked 2012 class, Wesley Gordon and Chris Jenkins, are ready for duty after a thankless season practicing on the scout team while redshirting.

"Now we have got a lot of work that we need to do in terms of improvement and gaining some national respect," Boyle said. "And it's incumbent on every person in our basketball program, whether it's the head coach, assistant coaches or players, to give everything they have got in this offseason."

Despite an early exit from the NCAA Tournament, it was a long season for the Buffs.

CU went on a European tour in August before beginning the practice grind in mid-October.

After a 6-0 start that included neutral-court wins over Dayton, Baylor and Murray State, CU was ranked as high as No. 19 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.

The young lineup failed difficult non-conference road tests at Wyoming and Kansas, but also dominated a senior-led, NCAA Tournament-bound Colorado State squad in Boulder.

The Pac-12 schedule opened with a controversial loss at then-No. 3 Arizona. The hangover from having Sabatino Chen's game-winning 3-pointer taken away was a factor in the 1-4 start to the conference season.

CU ended up fifth in the Pac-12 during the regular season with a sweep of Oregon and quality home wins over Arizona and Cal.

Scott suffered a concussion during an overtime loss to Arizona State. Roberson missed the final two games of the regular season with Mononucleosis before returning to form in the postseason.

"This team could be very good," said Roberson, who will decide by April 28 if he's going to leave CU early and enter the NBA draft. "It's how much we take advantage of the offseason. We've got Wesley and Chris redshirted and some great freshmen coming in. This team could be a force."

The Buffs will host KU and Wyoming next season with road games at Air Force and CSU. Boyle said he still has to finish the non-conference schedule and that CU's success is making it difficult to find opponents willing to play in Boulder.

Chen, the only senior on this year's team, and graduating redshirt junior Shane Harris-Tunks have played their final game at CU.

If Roberson comes back to exhaust his eligibility, the coaching staff will have to free up one more scholarship before welcoming the three-man class of 6-5 forward Tre'shaun Fletcher, 6-5 guard Jaron Hopkins and 6-8 forward Dustin Thomas.

"Just because we're going to be a year older next year it doesn't mean we're going to be a year better," Boyle said. "Our players need to understand that. Our freshmen need to understand that this is where you get better, in the offseason, in the weight room, in working on your deficiencies that are in your game, whether you're a freshman, whether you're a sophomore, whether you're a junior."

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