Some of the eight true freshmen on the CU roster have fancied calling themselves the Young Guns. When they host Texas Saturday at the Coors Events Center (2 p.m./ESPN Plus/Altitude), the Buffs will be facing a roster filled with Young Guns, as well.
Texas will likely put a starting lineup on the floor that includes four true freshmen and a sophomore. Playing mostly with that starting five, the Longhorns are 10-3 this season. It’s an excellent start for a youthful club that boasts wins over (then-No. 9) LSU, St. Johns and Arkansas). Losses have come to Gonzaga, Michigan State and Tennessee.
Four freshmen are expected to play big roles Saturday for the Buffs, who open Big 12 play at 4-6. With so much youth in its lineup, and the fact two CU players are facing the big university from their home state, and that the game set for broadcast on ESPN Plus, it may take a few minutes for the Buffs to settle down after tip off.
“It’s going to be an adrenaline rush. Lots of emotions flying,” said CU backup guard Dwight Thorne, who hails from Dallas. “But it’s going to come down to who wants it more.”
Head coach Ricardo Patton said there’s no way around the nerves some of his players will bring with them to their first Big 12 action.
“They’ve just got to go through it,” he said.
On the other hand, he added, most of the young players on the Colorado team are used to facing bigtime talented players through years of AAU basketball.
Thorne is familiar with three of the Longhorn players from summer basketball, as he played with freshmen starters Damion James and Justin Mason and backup center Dexter Pittman. James was the top-rated recruit out of the state of Texas last year.
Colorado guard Xavier Silas played high school ball in Austin and battled with current Longhorn sophomore A.J. Abrams for the city scoring record two seasons ago. (Abrams averaged 27 ppg, Silas, 23).
Abrams averages 16.6 points so far this season. He, Mason and D.J. Augustin form an explosive backcourt. It’s led the Longhorns to a conference-leading 85.2 points per game.
“Any time you have guards that push the ball …we’ve got to get back in transition,” Patton said.
Despite a guard-heavy starting lineup Texas has been strong on the boards. They average 44.6 rebounds a game, and a healthy +7.3 rebound margin.
"They get to the offensive glass really well," Silas said.
The toughest matchup for Colorado will probably be with freshman forward Kevin Durant. The 6-foot-9 Durant is averaging a double-double. He leads the Big 12 in rebounding with 10.3 per game, on top of scoring 21.3 points an outing. Speculation has Durant leaving for the NBA and finding himself a high lottery pick this summer.
Saturday, expect junior Richard Roby to draw the duty of guarding Durant, though Jermyl Jackson-Wilson could try and slow Durant, too. (Patton wouldn’t tip his hand on the matchup, saying it’ll take “all five” guys to guard Durant.)
Thorne said limiting Durant’s touches, pressuring him when he has the ball and help-side defense will be a key in slowing Durant.
CU’s 4-6 non-conference mark is its worst since 1988-89. …The Buffs have used seven different starting lineups in its first 10 games. …The Buffs are 77.4 percent from the foul line the past four games. …This is exposure time for the Colorado program as CU’s next 11 games are scheduled for television.
Kal Bay, G, 6-1, Fr., 8.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.8 apg
Xavier Silas, G, 6-5, Fr., 9.7, 3.5, 1.9
Richard Roby, G, 6-6, Jr., 17.9, 5.4, 2.1
Jermyl Jackson-Wilson, F, 6-6, So., 9.1, 7.7, 1.8
Marcus King-Stockton, F, 6-9, Jr., 4.3, 4.0, 1.1
A.J. Abrams, G, 5-10, So., 16.6, 2.5 rpg
D.J. Augustin, G, 5-11, Fr., 13.5, 6.4 apg
Justin Mason, G, 6-2, Fr., 9.8, 3.5 rpg
Kevin Durant, G/F, 6-9, Fr., 21.5, 10.3
Damion James, G/F, 6-7, Fr., 6.9, 8.2