Change abounds in Pac-12 basketball while CU Buffs bide time

Sanctions, injury, and recruiting coups alter Buffs’ rivals

Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle is encouraged by a club that returns two All-Pac-12 performers in McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey alongside the entire cast of players that led the Buffs to a 12-4 finish and a berth in the NIT quarterfinals.

Although football is in the air and basketball typically is in a brief state of hibernation in mid-August, it has been an unusually busy week in college basketball.

Particularly in the Pac-12 Conference.

Since the start of last week, one Pac-12 squad was slapped with NCAA sanctions (Utah) while another suffered the injury loss of a key player for the entire 2019-20 season (Brandon Williams of Arizona). Big news for Colorado’s league rivals continued this week, with five-star center prospect N’Faly Dante announcing his commitment to Oregon.

Dante is reclassifying to begin his collegiate career this fall with the Ducks, and his commitment capped a rebuilding-on-the-fly effort this summer by Oregon coach Dana Altman to put his program back in position to defend its Pac-12 tournament title despite significant losses from this spring’s Sweet 16 team.

Though wildly unrelated, all three bits of news will make significant impacts in a 2019-20 conference race coach Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes expect to be part of.

The situation at Utah was perhaps most curious for CU, as the two schools entered the Pac-12 together before the 2011-12 basketball season. Along the way both basketball programs have enjoyed similar ups and downs in the annual quest to compete against established league stalwarts like Arizona and UCLA. Utah received a two-year probation from the NCAA due to a what ultimately was deemed an illegal official visit from a local junior college prospect.

Utah was handed recruiting sanctions while associate head coach Tommy Connor was given a show-cause penalty. Unlike the still-unsanctioned Pac-12 programs at USC and Arizona whose turmoil has played out in public since the FBI college basketball corruption probe broke nearly two years ago, Boyle did not want to comment on a situation at Utah that unfolded in the background.

“I don’t know what went on behind the scenes, so it’s hard for me to comment publicly,” Boyle said. “I know at Colorado the infrastructure is in place to protect us a little bit more as coaches. I don’t know what that’s like at Utah. There’s a lot of communication and interaction between our coaching staff and our compliance office before a visit occurs.

“I feel bad for Larry (Krystkowiak) and his staff. I’ve never felt like Utah has been outside the boundaries and the rules when we’ve recruited against them.”

The Buffs, meanwhile, completed summer workouts with Boyle further encouraged by a club that returns two All-Pac-12 performers in McKinley Wright and Tyler Bey alongside the entire cast of players that led the Buffs to a 12-4 finish and a berth in the NIT quarterfinals.

Wright (shoulder surgery) and 7-footer Dallas Walton, who missed last season due to a knee injury, didn’t participate in full-contact drills over the summer but still are expected to be fully cleared by the time preseason workouts begin in October.

“Obviously we would have loved to have McKinley and Dallas in the mix with the contact, but due to their injuries they are on the shelf through August,” Boyle said. “I thought overall, a very good summer. I thought there were a couple guys that had great summers. Obviously that will come out through the wash in the fall and into next season, but I thought as a team we had a very good summer.

“I thought D’Shawn Schwartz had a stellar summer. I thought Daylen Kountz did some good things. I think Elijah Parquet, his jump shot continues to come along and get better. I’m really pleased with some of the young guys.”