Step forward

It's been a tough few years around the Colorado athletic department, but the men's basketball team finally gave CU fans something to get excited about this season. The future looks bright in basketball as the Buffs look toward the offseason and the start of construction on a new basketball practice facility.


At first glimpse, a 15-16 overall record and a 6-10 mark in the Big 12 doesn't sound like much. But to a program that has struggled as much as Colorado's of late, it represents progress.

Colorado's No. 8 seed in the Big 12 tournament was its highest since being seeded No. 5 in the 2005-06 tournament. Granted, the Buffaloes lost on Wednesday to Texas Tech in the opening round, but not being seeded in the 10 to 12 range is an improvement.

The Buffaloes began the season 8-4, knocked off Baylor on Jan. 12 and took top-ranked Kansas to overtime on Feb. 3, but they could rarely string much together in the way of consistent play and were routinely beaten down in the rebounding department, which is a major flaw the Buffaloes will have to amend by way of recruiting.

If the NBA doesn't attract junior Cory Higgins or freshman Alec Burks away from college life in Boulder, Colorado will boast arguably one of the better guard tandems in the country next season.

Higgins poured in 19 points per game this season and is as tough as they come. Burks averaged 16.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in a sensational first season. Both shot better than 50 percent from the field on the season and were impressive from the line as well.

Of the Buffaloes' top nine players, only sharp-shooting G Dwight Thorne II is a senior, which bodes well for the future if Higgins and Burks stay in school.


--A move to the Pac-10 in 2012, when that conference begins its next television contract, is possible for Colorado. However, the move would cost an estimated $9 million because of the Big 12's stipulation that any team that leaves the league would forfeit 50 percent of its revenue distribution the last two years it is a member. Some consider Colorado a better fit for the Pac-10, which covets the Denver market. CU, which has a much larger alumni base in the Pac-10 region than the Big 12, has not yet been contacted by another conference, said athletic director Mike Bohn.

--The 36-game losing streak on the road in the Big 12, which Colorado snapped with an 81-68 victory at Nebraska on March 2, was the longest such skid in conference history. The win also snapped a 28-game road losing streak against Division I opponents.

ON THE SPOT: The lack of an inside presence is something that must be addressed in recruiting. Colorado was outrebounded 38-4 collectively by Iowa State and Nebraska, yet won both games before outlasting Texas Tech in spite of a 14-4 disadvantage on the offensive glass. Crisp execution on offense, where Colorado leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage, is how it makes up for its failures to secure defensive rebounds.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Alec (Burks) is a very talented player. Him coupled with Cory (Higgins), I've heard people refer to them as one of the best wing tandems in the nation. And they certainly are." -- Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik.


SEASON RECAP: Colorado carried a three-game win streak into the Big 12 tournament, its longest conference string since the 2005-06 squad won five straight. The Buffaloes capitalized on home-court advantage, going 13-3 in the Coors Events Center, falling just short of the CU record for home wins (14) set in 2002-03 and 2005-06.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Casey Crawford, G Marcus Relphorde, G Alec Burks, G Cory Higgins, G Nate Tomlinson. Key Subs -- G Dwight Thorne, G Levi Knutson, G Austin Dufault, F Keegan Hornbuckle.

POSTSEASON OUTLOOK: At 15-16 overall and just 6-10 in the Big 12, the chances of the Buffaloes making an appearance in the postseason are slim. A three-game winning streak to cap the regular season helped restore a little confidence, but Colorado's road struggles and inability to keep its opponents off the boards were major factors as to why the Buffaloes figure to be staying home again this postseason.


--Sophomore G Nate Tomlinson scored just 18 points in the final six games of the year. Twice he was shut out of the scoring column altogether.

--Only two Colorado players, G Alec Burks (4.8) and F Marcus Relphorde (4.1), averaged better than four rebounds on the season.

--On his way to a 19-point average, junior G Cory Higgins scored 20 or more points 13 times this season and went for 30 or better on three occasions.

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