LAS VEGAS — It will be a week of uncharted territory for Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle.
Barring a miracle invitation to the NIT on Sunday night, his team’s season is done. Rest assured, CU’s leader won’t be kicking up his feet at home. Not with inroads to be made on the recruiting trail and his end-of-season one-on-one meetings with his players filling his schedule.
Still, since Boyle arrived at CU eight years ago, this will be the first year in which his Buffaloes do not participate in a postseason tournament. That decision partially is by choice — Boyle reiterated following Thursday’s loss against Arizona that he has no intention of taking part in a third-tier tournament like the CBI, as the Buffs did in 2015 — yet it is a sign the Buffs’ brain trust is eager to get started on raising the expectations for a 2018-19 team that should be poised to compete for an NCAA Tournament berth.
“This unfortunately will be the first team in our era to not play in postseason play. If that’s not motivation for the offseason for these guys, I don’t know what is,” Boyle said. “Those year-end meetings will start Monday. They’ll start right away. We’ll find out where these guys’ minds are, heads are. I’ve got three days to let this sink in and find out where we’re at.”
Topping Boyle’s to-do list will be to clarify the status of forward Tory Miller-Stewart. The senior forward suffered a season-ending broken foot after just six games and remains eligible for a fifth season, but his window for making that decision is starting to close. Boyle still has a scholarship available for a 2018 freshman class that already includes two guards, Elijah Parquet and Denver East’s Daylen Kountz, and he previously said a big man would be targeted for that open spot.
Boyle also has said that big man will be Miller-Stewart if he opts to return, but that is far from a certainty. Given he is graduating in May he has other options available, from perhaps beginning a pro career overseas to moving on as a graduate transfer to a program where he might be a bigger fish in a smaller pond — a route that went well this season for former CU teammate Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year at Toledo.
If potential playing time is a factor for Miller-Stewart, his fate might be somewhat tied to the fate of freshman big man Evan Battey, whose future remains in limbo after he suffered a stroke-like medical emergency over the holidays. If Battey is cleared, a frontcourt that includes Battey, a Dallas Walton who turned in an encouraging freshman year, and a Lucas Siewert who emerged impressively down the stretch might be a little crowded for Miller-Stewart.
Regardless, the Buffs freshman class — Walton, McKinley Wright, Tyler Bey, D’Shawn Schwartz, and Lazar Nikolic — is eager to get to work in tackling the challenge of returning the Buffs to the NCAA Tournament picture.
“I just got to make sure my guys are ready for next year,” Wright said. “Staying confident, getting in the gym and working, working out and just improving our game and taking it to the next level. I’m very excited. We’ve come together as brothers and it will be fun to play with these guys again. We know how good we can be and how good this recruiting class is. So we’re looking forward to it.”