Sometimes the numbers lie. That essentially was Tad Boyle's take on a few key statistics his Colorado men's basketball team compiled during its tour of Italy.
By any measure, however, Boyle reports it was a highly successful trip. With six players competing in the four overseas games that weren't on the active roster last year, the Buffs experimented freely with different player combinations, posted a 3-1 record, and enjoyed ample downtime between games to take in the sights.
Boyle gave big minutes to freshman point guard McKinley Wright and isn't stressing too much over the Buffs' overseas shooting woes. However, with only a little more than two months remaining before the 2017-18 season opener, he also cautions the Buffs have a long way to go before getting up to speed defensively.
"We learned a lot about our team," Boyle said. "We learned where our areas of improvement need to come. We did not shoot the ball very well over there. Namon Wright I think was pretty good. McKinley was pretty good in terms of putting the ball in the basket efficiently. But we did not shoot the ball well from three as a team.
"But defensively is where we have light years to improve. That was evident. We won three games and we lost one, the last one. And to me as a coach, it was fitting because we finally played a team that was good enough to pay for all the mistakes we'd been making defensively."
The final numbers the Buffs produced at the defensive end of the floor hardly spoke of glaring deficiencies. CU allowed just 60.5 points per game while holding their four opponents to a .355 field goal percentage.
But Boyle believes those numbers don't tell the whole story.
"We made mistakes the first (three) games, but we didn't always pay for it because the opponent wasn't capable of making us pay for it," Boyle said. "We were beating teams with our talent and our athleticism and our size, that sort of thing. Bu that fourth game, that team was very well-coached. We made mistakes, and they made us pay."
McKinley Wright was a bright spot for the Buffs, averaging a team-leading 25.8 minutes per game as he began staking his claim as CU's new point guard. Unlike the bulk of his teammates, McKinley Wright shot the ball well (19-for-34) while attempting just three 3-pointers. While Boyle wants his young guard to become a bigger threat from long range, McKinley Wright nonetheless has the look of an anomaly among young guards in today's game in that he is not necessarily enamored with haphazardly hoisting threes.
As Boyle predicted before his team left for Italy, the Buffs were stung by a number of traveling calls that probably wouldn't be called at home. That said, turning around McKinley Wright's 13 assists against 16 turnovers will be a priority as the season approaches.
"McKinley played extremely well in my mind," Boyle said. "He really ran the team. He attacked the basket. He took good shots. The thing that McKinley has is he has the ability to be unselfish, but yet he's a scoring threat. You look at the numbers offensively and he definitely was our most efficient offensive player.
"All the guys' turnover numbers were a little out of whack because of FIBA rules, as we knew would happen. Even given that, McKinley had too many turnovers relative to the number of assists he had. He knows that. He knows he has to get better, and he will."
In a good news-bad news update from CU's freshman class, forward Evan Battey did not compete in Italy trip due to a high ankle sprain he suffered just days before the trip. However, Serbian guard Lazar Nikolic finally received his NCAA clearance and arrived in Boulder over the weekend. He has started classes one week late but otherwise is free of administrative red tape heading toward the preseason.