“We had a good year,” Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle said in an interview with BuffZone shortly after the 2019-20 season reached its disappointing and abrupt end. “We can’t say we had a great year because of the way it finished. But we had a good year and we did some good things.”
Those good things likely will be lost in the aftermath of a season-ending five-game losing streak that dropped the Buffaloes from a contender for the Pac-12 Conference crown eyeing a top-five seed at the NCAA Tournament to one that would have limped into a tourney as a lower seed coming off the first first-round loss in a league tournament in Boyle’s 10-year tenure.
That shot at redemption, however fleeting it seemed given the way the Buffs played from late February through March, was erased when the NCAA Tournament was cancelled amid the widening nationwide concerns regarding the spread of COVID-19.
For a team that could enter the 2020-21 season as a Pac-12 favorite, the Buffs still will have much to prove after the late swoon of 2019-20. Yet Boyle was correct — the Buffs did accomplish some feats that rank among the best in program history.
CU was ranked in the weekly AP top 25 for 13 weeks, eclipsing the previous program record of eight held by the Chauncey Billups-led 1996-97 team. The Buffs’ 21 regular-season wins tied for the most in program history.
One area in which the Buffs made a concerted effort to improve leading into the 2019-20 campaign was at the 3-point arc. That effort was a success, as CU finished with a .351 mark after posting a 3-point percentage of .323 a year ago. While it was a solid improvement, the Buffs were on a historic pace prior to the year-end five-game losing streak. Before the slide, CU was shooting a league-best .375 from 3-point range, a mark that would have ranked third in team history. However, after going 27-for-117 (.231) during the final five games, CU’s season percentage dipped all the way to .351, a mark that fell out of the program’s all-time top 10.
The Buffs did finish with a .736 percentage at the free throw line, which ranked as the sixth-best single-season total in team history. In two categories Boyle values — rebounding margin and defensive field goal percentage — the Buffs turned in mixed results. In rebounding margin, the Buffs ranked second overall in the Pac-12 (plus-5.2) and second in league games (plus-3.5), but CU didn’t outrebound its opponent in the final three games. The Buffs also ranked sixth overall (.414) and in league games (.427) in defensive field goal percentage.
Individually, the Buffs enjoyed a number of solid performances. Junior point guard McKinley Wright IV recorded 159 assists, a total that ranks eighth all-time. Wright now owns three of the top eight single-season assist totals in CU history. Tyler Bey’s 9.0 rebounds per game was the top overall total in the Pac-12.
Shot of the year: This is a no-brainer. In their best all-around game of the season, the Buffs defeated Dayton, a team that might have received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by D’Shawn Schwartz in overtime.
Moment of the year: Also a no-brainer. When Stanford’s Oscar da Silva was helped off the CU Events Center floor with a bleeding scalp after a violent collision with CU forward Evan Battey on Feb. 8, both teams were visibly shaken. Yet before play resumed the teams and head coaches huddled near mid-court, Buffs and Cardinal linked arm-and-arm, for a prayer and pep talk to help get back to business after the jarring injury.
Odd stat of the year: Seniors Lucas Siewert and Shane Gatling finished with identical 32-for-38 marks from the free throw line.