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BOULDER, Colo. – There was a time — five years ago, to be precise — when winning on a consistent basis at Colorado appeared almost improbable and getting fans to regularly attend downright difficult.
Then in stepped coach Tad Boyle, who has the program reaching heights that were once hard to imagine.
A quick timeout for trivia: Name the only Pac-12 team to make the NCAA tournament each season since the league expanded in 2011.
Arizona? Good guess, but no. UCLA or California? Nope and nope.
That would be, of course, Colorado, which has gone to a school-record three straight tournaments. Since taking over in April 2010, Boyle's teams have compiled a 92-50 mark.
What's more, Colorado joins Arizona as the only two schools in the conference to sell out their season-ticket base last season and again this year.
This season, Boyle brings back yet another strong ensemble, even with Spencer Dinwiddie's departure to the NBA.
"What I love about our team is we have good versatility," said Boyle, who's 60-9 at home since arriving in Boulder. "We have a lot of guys that can guard a lot of positions, play multiple positions."
He will lean heavily on his only senior starter, guard Askia Booker, who spent last season learning under Dinwiddie and picked up the slack when Dinwiddie tore his left ACL on Jan. 12 at Washington.
Now, it's Booker's team and his voice they'll hear on the court. That's why he doesn't chirp at practice or scream things such as, 'Let's Go!' because, "none of that means anything," Booker said.
Instead, Booker barks out more direct orders, just like he learned going through a Special Forces program with his teammates.
"I tried to be more efficient with my words, say specific names, call out certain plays, try to get my team going," he said. "Whatever I have to say to get them to do that I have to do."
His play speaks volumes, too. Booker started all 35 games and led the team in assists (116) and steals (45). He also was second on the team in points (13.7).
Booker is surrounded by a cast that includes big man Josh Scott and athletic forward Xavier Johnson. Wesley Gordon and Xavier Talton are primed for a breakout season as well.
"We know what Askia brings to the table. We know what Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson bring to the table," Boyle said. "It's some of the other guys ... if those guys can make big jumps in their game, be able to do it on a consistent basis, our team will be really deep."
Some things to know heading into Boyle's fifth season at Colorado:
TRAVELING: Johnson spent time in August playing for the Pac-12 Conference All-Stars, which went 3-0 against Chinese squads in Shanghai. Johnson averaged seven points and four rebounds per game. He wasn't the only one to do some sightseeing this summer, with sophomore Tre'Shaun Fletcher traveling to Lithuania to suit up for Athletes in Action. The team was run by Colorado assistant coach Mike Rohn.
HOME COOKIN: The Buffaloes have six players from the state of Colorado, their most since the 1978-79 season. Scott is from Colorado Springs and chose the Buffaloes because Boyle had them on the right path. The 6-foot-10 forward is coming off a season in which he averaged 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds.
RESPECT: Colorado was selected to finish third in the Pac-12 poll, behind Arizona and Utah. That road to Colorado and Utah will definitely be lung-searing for opponents, something Boyle is counting on. "When you're on that Colorado/Utah swing, it's a tougher environment to play in," Boyle said. "We play at altitude, which makes it hard to begin with."
CLOSING IN: For his career, Booker has 68 wins. He needs 25 more this season to become Colorado's all-time wins leader, breaking the mark held by Ben Mills. He's definitely aiming for that, too, because that would also be a school record, breaking the mark of 24 set by the 2010-11 and 2011-12 teams.
NBA TALENT: Colorado has had three players drafted under Boyle: Alec Burks (Utah), Andre Roberson (Oklahoma City) and Dinwiddie (Detroit). Stay, though, and a player is nearly guaranteed to graduate. Boyle is 13 for 13 when students have gone through their senior season.