INDIANAPOLIS — It has been an impressive run for the Colorado men’s basketball team since McKinley Wright IV and D’Shawn Schwartz first set foot on campus.
Over the past four seasons that duo has been part of 84 wins. Wright has rewritten the Buffaloes’ record book, and Schwartz joined the 1,000-point club during the NCAA Tournament. They helped lead the Buffs back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and would have enjoyed two appearances if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancellation of the 2020 tournament.
This postseason the Buffs achieved two things that hadn’t happened since 2012 — reaching the Pac-12 Conference title game and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament.
Alas, in college basketball, nothing lasts forever. And when the Buffs and their fans turn the page on a memorable 2020-21 season, they will see coach Tad Boyle’s program is well-positioned to remain competitive within the Pac-12 and for berths in the NCAA tourney.
“The example (the seniors) set is they got better every single year,” Boyle said. “They took some lumps as freshmen and sophomores. But D’Shawn Schwartz got better. He became a 1,000-point scorer in this tournament. We’re going to have four 1,000-point scorers in that (2017) class before it’s all said and done, because Evan (Battey) was a piece of that class but he redshirted his freshman year.
“The example they set this year was a very high bar, and the leadership that they showed through tough times. They’ve given us so much. And if our young guys can learn one thing from this class, it’s constant improvement and leadership. Because that’s what it’s going to take as this program moves forward.”
CU is set to return at least two starters in Pac-12 first team All-Defense guard Eli Parquet as well as Battey. The frontcourt should be a strength next season with a year of experience under the belts of freshmen forwards Jabari Walker, who enjoyed several explosive performances as a rookie, and Tristan da Silva.
CU also had two talented freshmen wings that were unable to crack the rotation in native Coloradoans Luke O’Brien and Nique Clifford, both of whom should figure more prominently in the Buffs’ fortunes next season. CU also has a ready-in-waiting replacement for Wright in redshirt freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy.
Seniors Alex Strating and Maddox Daniels both told BuffZone last month they at least will consider their options after the season given the eligibility relief granted by the NCAA for the pandemic season. Even if they return, however, Strating would likely remain the last scholarship player off the bench, while Daniels would find more competition for playing time on the wing from O’Brien, Clifford, and incoming freshmen Quincy Allen, Javon Ruffin, and Julian Hammond.
The biggest question mark surrounding next season’s projected roster is 7-footer Dallas Walton. In previous years, Walton said he would apply for a sixth season of eligibility after redshirting as a true freshman and then missing the 2018-19 season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. Walton no longer has to go through that process and also said he would consider his options following the season, yet after the Buffs’ loss against Florida State on Monday, Walton sent out a tweet that read like a farewell message, writing:
“Thank you for everything Buff Nation! Your support and love fueled me to persevere through it all. From early mornings, long days, and extra hours of rehab. I fulfilled a lifelong dream coming to Boulder and repping CO!”
If Walton does opt to move on, the Buffs also have an heir apparent in the paint in incoming 7-footer Lawson Lovering out of Wyoming. As it stands, Boyle still has an open scholarship to work with this spring, as well.
“It’s in good shape,” Boyle said of his program. “We’ve got good young players and we’ll add a piece or two to the mix. We’ve got a good class coming in next year. But the bar has been set pretty high. We didn’t get to the Sweet 16 this year. We’re going to get there. And hopefully beyond. That’s something I’m committed to as long as I’m the coach at Colorado.”