It seems like only a few months have passed since Ricardo Patton was holding a press conference to announce the signing of a 7-foot kid from Nashville, Tenn., who had chosen Colorado over North Carolina, Duke and Vanderbilt.
Fifty-three wins, 37 losses, one NIT appearance and one NCAA berth later, the Colorado program forges ahead without the marquee player that anchored it the past three seasons.
Did Colorado reach as high as it could have during Harrison's three seasons in Boulder? That's a debate for another time. But there's no question that the Colorado program gained momentum in the past three years, thanks in large part to Harrison's presence.
David Harrison is in Indiana playing for the Pacers this year.
Photo by AP
Though this team will be hard-pressed to finish in the top half of the Big 12 conference, something they did the past two seasons, Colorado must avoid taking too many steps backwards, even though Harrison is playing for the Indiana Pacers this winter.
2) Wins and losses: What are realistic expectations?
In the Big 12, perhaps only Texas has lost as much firepower as CU from last season. This team will have at least five, possibly more, players who will impact the season, who have never played in a Colorado game prior to this month. It's conceivable that CU could start four newcomers — a combination of freshman Richard Roby and transfers Andy Osborn, Martane Freeman, Julius Ashby and Lamont Arrington — at the same time at some point during the season.
But what is most important to the team's success is that the players find their roles and accept them as quickly as possible, whether that's starting or coming off the bench, looking to score or finding their niche on the defensive end.
CU has a relatively difficult non-conference schedule. A possible matchup with Michigan in the Preseason NIT and games at home vs. Northwestern and Colorado State, and at Oregon State, California, Utah and Richmond loom as difficult wins for a CU team full of players learning how to play with each other.
Then things really get tough when Big 12 play begins. Kansas should be the preseason favorite, with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State close behind. Missouri returns some solid players, while Iowa State and Nebraska should be improved from last season. Texas will rely on some high-profile youngsters, as will Baylor. Texas A&M has a new coach and Texas Tech has an old, but cagey, one who will surely put together a solid team.
Patton publicly thinks CU can come up with more wins than losses in 2004-05. To do that, this team will have to gel and find some confidence and toughness early.
3) How long before the fans warm to this team filled with newcomers?
Every Colorado team under Patton has featured a player who becomes a fan favorite. It's human nature for fans to need someone they can admire, favor, identify with and root for. Someone with that extra bit of charisma. It may come in the form of a timely trey, a nasty rebound that sends an opponent to the floor, or a dive on the floor for a loose ball.
In order to keep fan interest at the level it's been the past two seasons, a couple fan favorites need to emerge.
4) Can Colorado score from the perimeter?
Even with sharpshooter Blair Wilson and the streaky Michel Morandais on board last season, CU was not always a good scoring team from the outside. Teams knew that and put a lot of bodies on Harrison in the post, daring the Buffs to throw the ball into a clogged area or try and hit the outside shot. Often it turned out to be an effective tactic.
Going into November, the best candidates to find accuracy from beyond the arc are 6-foot-9 forward Osborn and freshman swingman Richard Roby. Roby shot 48 percent from 3-point range at the ABCD Camp in the summer of 2003, and averaged 23 points a game his last two years of high school at Lawrence Academy in Groton, Mass. He was the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year last season.
Freshman Richard Roby was a scorer at Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts. Can he fill that role for the Buffs?
Photo by Buffalo Sports News
"He could possibly break all the 3-point shooting stats (before he's done)," Patton said of Roby.
But what CU really needs is a point guard who can pose an outside scoring threat. Sophomore Marcus Hall, who has put on 25 pounds this offseason, can hit the outside shot, but it looks like he will be playing at two guard. Juniors Jayson Obazuaye and Antoine McGhee will vie for starting duties at point, and neither has shown consistency from the perimeter. Obazuaye is a slasher who can get to the lane and draw fouls, while McGhee is a pass-first point guard.
5) What's the identity of this team?
On paper, this team looks athletic. Among the newcomers, Ashby (6-foot-9), Arrington (6-11 ) and Freeman (6-9 ) get up and down the floor well for their size.
Pushing the tempo and running the break shouldn't be a problem. But Patton's Buffs will need to return to the days when they could create offense off of their scrappy defense.
This group has the opportunity to do that because heading into November, it looks like Patton has at least 10 players who can compete at a high level. With that many bodies running in and out of the lineup, the group has the potential to sell out on the defensive end, create turnovers, push the ball and run their opponents. It may be Colorado's best chance at having a winning season.