The dust has only just begun to settle on the Colorado Buffaloes' season. Yet Dom Collier already knows he is on the clock.
In many ways, the sophomore point guard's first season as the primary ball-handler and director of the CU attack mirrored the team's season overall, with more than a few signs of promise and growth balanced by shortcomings that never were truly overcome.
At times, Collier sparked the Buffs with his vastly improved shooting. At others, a penchant for committing turnovers in bunches thwarted the Buffs in close games. And ultimately, Collier's defensive limitations led to foul trouble that prevented him from making any sort of significant impact in the Buffs' three postseason games.
Heading into a critical offseason for the program, perhaps no returning player will require more ironing of the kinks in his game than Collier.
"I learned why we go on scoring droughts, and why we do it," Collier said. "I've got to learn when we have those scoring droughts how we can get a bucket and get back into the flow of it."
Collier played only a total of 27 minutes last week in CU's two games in the Pac-12 Conference tournament due to early foul trouble. The same problem struck again Thursday in the Buffs' loss against UConn, as Collier sat the final 15 minutes, 40 seconds of the first half after picking up two quick fouls along the defensive perimeter.
The most frustrating aspect of those performances is that in at least two of them Collier showed signs of being on track for big games. Against Washington State in the conference tournament opener, he connected on an early 3-point attempt and recorded a rebound, two assists and two steals in nine minutes before two fouls cast him to the bench.
Against UConn in his tournament debut, Collier got to the rim for a nifty layup on his first shot attempt and also notched an assist, but once again two quick fouls forced an early exit. Collier finished with eight points, three assists, one steal and one turnover in 19 minutes before fouling out in the game's waning seconds.
"(Thursday) it was my fault," Collier said. "Dumb decisions on my part, trying to guard out there like that."
Collier worked diligently throughout last offseason to improve his shooting prowess, and in that regard his sophomore campaign was a success. His overall field goal percentage jumped from .345 to .385 and he made an even more impressive improvement from 3-point range, going from .269 as a freshman to .444 this year.
But his overall assist total of 2.7 per game was underwhelming, as was a 1.32 assist-to-turnover ratio. With guards Deleon Brown and Bryce Peters joining the Buffs as freshmen next season, and current rookie Thomas Akyazili expected to improve, Collier understands there remains much work to be done if he hopes to evolve into the sort of floor general who can lead the Buffs back to the NCAA Tournament.
"The month of April is when we've really got to get to work," head coach Tad Boyle said. "When you go to the NCAA Tournament, your postseason really shrinks. We have three or four weeks to really get better in the weight room, on the court. We'll take advantage of that."