Boyle’s Buffs were chosen to finish 10th in the Pac-12 Conference this season in the preseason coaches’ poll. Instead, they exceeded expectations and made a mark on the national stage. After capturing the inaugural Pac-12 Conference Championship title, Colorado went on to defeat the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first NCAA Tournament win for the Buffs since the 1996-97 season.
Even after achieving a school-record two 24-win seasons in his first two years as head coach, Boyle said is he reluctant to set specific expectations for the upcoming year.
“I don’t go into any season with … preconceived notions,” Boyle said, “We want to come back with the same grit and determination.”
The Buffs will go into the 2012-13 season with arguably their best freshman recruiting class in school history, including Josh Scott of Lewis-Palmer High School near Colorado Springs and Xavier Johnson of Mater Dei High School in Orange County, Calif. Both are national top-100 prospects. Boyle said he hopes to get the incoming freshmen some valuable playing time during a preseason tournament in France.
“I told [the freshmen], ‘I love you, I’m glad you’re here, but what you did in high school doesn’t mean squat now,’” Boyle said. “You’ve got to play them to establish your depth.”
Even the most skilled freshman class can’t succeed without strong leadership from older teammates. Boyle said it will be tough to fill the shoes of graduating seniors Nate Tomlinson, Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Trey Eckloff.
“This year’s seniors led by example and were also very vocal,” Boyle said. “[Next season] we’ll have one senior, Sabatino Chen, and in terms of leading by example he does a great job … [but] we’ve got some quiet guys that need to get their vocal chords ready.”
After their tournament abroad, the Buffs go into a non-conference schedule that includes road games against University of Wyoming and Fresno State University and home match-ups against in-state rivals Colorado State University and Air Force Academy. Another preseason tournament in Charleston is set for the week before Thanksgiving.
As for his own future, Boyle said he remains loyal to Colorado and has no plans to leave despite recruiting efforts from schools like the University of Nebraska.
“I said when I got this job that this is my dream job,” Boyle said. “I’m a Colorado guy, I’m committed to this place … All I know is this is where I want to be.”
The Buffs players have had some time to unwind after all the NCAA Tournament excitement, but Boyle said that for him, the season’s success is just beginning to sink in.
“We haven’t had a chance to celebrate,” Boyle said. “We were dialed into the NCAA Tournament, then I hit the road for recruiting. People are patting me on the back more now and that’s nice, but I think it’s going to take some time to sink in.”
Boyle said he hopes his team can take the heart they had at the end of the season and carry it into 2012-13.
“The thing I’ve loved about this team is the toughness they put out on the court. Our guys were really resilient … Our last home win was big, the way our guys turned around and came out against Cal,” Boyle said. “I couldn’t be more excited about the future.”
For now, the only task that remains for the 2011-12 team is coming up with a design for their Pac-12 Championship rings.
“Knowing my taste in jewelry, I’ll have zero input,” Boyle said. “I’m not very creative.”
Whether or not he has any say in the design, Boyle will surely wear his ring with Colorado pride.
Photo credit: (CU Independent/Andrew Kaczmarek)
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Caryn Maconi at Caryn.email@example.com.