Head coach Tad Boyle believes he has a Colorado Buffaloes basketball team that is markedly improved on offense since his squad last faced the Cal Golden Bears.
The Bears squad that takes the floor Sunday at the Coors Events Center also will feature a vastly different complexion thanks to an injury to senior guard Tyrone Wallace. A key component of the 79-65 drubbing Cal handed the Buffs on New Year's Day, Wallace suffered a broken hand early last week and will be sidelined at least another three to five weeks.
"(Wallace) is a player who really made it easy for those guys in terms of making plays," Boyle said. "He could make plays for himself, but he could also get the ball in the lane and kind of collapse the defense and get shots for (Jordan) Mathews and (Jabari) Bird and (Jaylen) Brown and those guys.
"They're going to miss him, and I'm sure they do miss him. Depth-wise it hurts them, but in terms of the five guys they have on the floor, it might be a step back but it's not a huge step back."
Cal's leading scorer at the time of his injury, Wallace was averaging 15.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while also leading the Golden Bears in assists at 4.6 per game — a figure that still ranks sixth in the Pac-12 Conference. Wallace, who recorded a line of 16 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds against the Buffs four weeks ago, has been replaced in the starting lineup by junior Sam Singer.
"Sam Singer is a very capable player," Boyle said. "They're still a good team but obviously not as deep."
Senior forward Xavier Johnson continues to improve and participate in more reps at practice as he attempts a comeback from a torn Achilles, but Boyle remains pessimistic about Johnson's chances of seeing the floor this season.
"I don't expect him to play this year, but nothing's official on that," Boyle said. "Every day he's trying to get a little bit better, a little bit stronger. The explosion isn't there. I don't expect him to play this year, but I'm not going to rule it out."