Unlike the postgame reviews after several nonconference games last year, Colorado head basketball coach Tad Boyle didn't expound on how many games Drake has a chance of winning this year.
With a first-year head coach and a cluster of transfers, the Bulldogs aren't a very good team right now, a point underscored by the Buffaloes' 100-71 win in their season opener Tuesday night. Nevertheless, it was a performance as complete and dominant as anything CU produced during nonconference play a year ago.
As the Buffs start turning the page to Friday's home date against Omaha (7 p.m., Pac-12 Mountain), the confidence boost they received from routing Drake is balanced with the knowledge that there remains room for plenty of improvement.
"We've obviously made significant progress since our two tests that we had with the SMU scrimmage...and then obviously the Mines game 10 days ago," Boyle said. "I had two things on the board I wanted them to do, which was play really hard for 40 minutes. Which I think they did. I loved our effort. And play with confidence. That's something you can't teach, you can't coach, but you want your players to have a little bit of swagger in terms of how they feel about themselves when they step on the floor."
"Overall, I was pleased with the first game."
The Buffs certainly didn't lack for swagger, whether it was newcomer Shane Gatling's intense glare after blocking a Drake 3-point attempt or redshirt freshman Evan Battey, playing his first competitive game in over two years, letting out a euphoric bellow after drawing an offensive foul on Drake.
Despite a ho-hum start CU finished with a .589 percentage from the floor, the Buffs' best mark since posting a .592 at home against Arizona State on March 1, 2015. The Buffs' rebounding edge of plus-15 was a mark they hit only three times last year, and a solid ratio of 15 assists against 12 turnovers would have been even more impressive if not for two turnovers in the final two minutes when all three CU walk-ons were on the floor.
"We're going to hang our hat on defense this year," point guard McKinley Wright said. "Scoring isn't a problem. We've got a lot of scorers on this team. We just have to guard."
Led by senior Namon Wright (a CU career-best 25 points), four Buffs scored in double figures, while sophomore forward Tyler Bey grabbed a career-best 14 rebounds.
Although CU probably can't expect 25 points a night from Namon Wright, but the Buffs played without two other regulars in D'Shawn Schwartz and Deleon Brown, while other players like Battey can be expected to deliver a little more.
Battey, declared ineligible by the NCAA last season after also sitting out his senior year of high school, battled foul trouble early and grabbed only one rebound, though he did eventually finish 3-for-6 with eight points and no turnovers in 20-plus minutes.
"When I had my individual meeting with Evan, we talked about finishing at the rim," Boyle said. "He's still getting in the swing of things. He hasn't played in a legitimate college basketball game ever. He's making the jump from high school to college, but he hasn't played even for the last two years. There's going to be a transition period for Evan. I think his teammates understand that.
"But we see what he does in practice every day. Now it's just a matter of getting the jitters out."