BOULDER - College basketball openers can be dicey to begin with, but if you're a head coach overseeing a roster teeming with freshmen, the dicey-ness climbs to about rim-high.
Not that Colorado shouldn't handle Wofford College Friday night in the 2012-13 season opener for both teams, but CU coach Tad Boyle isn't so much agonizing over what the Terriers will bring to the Coors Events Center as he is about the acceleration of his young Buffaloes.
"As a coach you've got a lot more nervousness in your stomach," Boyle said earlier this week. "You don't know what you're going to get."
To try and uncomplicate that unknown, this was Boyle's plan as the opener approached: Go simple and let his babies take those kinds of steps before expecting/demanding that they man up.
If all goes accordingly with this gifted, six-member freshman class, that kind of bold stepping out will come in January, maybe before, when the Buffs stroll into their Pac-12 Conference schedule. "By January," noted Boyle, "some of these freshmen shouldn't be freshmen anymore in terms of the minutes they're going to play."
But for now, in preparation for the opener anyway, Boyle and his staff had scheduled "two or three things on offense and two or three things on defense that we want them dialed into," he said. A couple of those things are half-court offense/defense and transition offense/defense, and Boyle noted, "If we can be that simple and still be good in those areas, I'll be happy."
Something else that would make him happy: A full house on Friday. Since taking the CU job, Boyle has held fast to the philosophy of not being satisfied until the Buffs sell out the CEC on their own merit. That appears on the verge of happening - for the opener at least. And if it happens in the first game, history would be made. CU has sold out a pair of NIT games (both in 1991), but never a non-conference game and never an opener.
"I've said this before: until we've sold every ticket in this building before the first tip off, we've got work to do," Boyle said. "We're making strides in that direction; our fans have been terrific. We're playing Wofford from a totally different part of the country. (Fans) are coming to see the Buffaloes and some of these new freshmen."
Situated in Spartanburg, S.C., Wofford finished 19-14 overall last season and 12-6 in the Southern Conference. In a poll of the league's coaches and media, the Terriers were picked to finish fourth this season in the six-team South Division, above Furman and The Citadel and below (in order) Davidson, College of Charleston and Georgia Southern.
That polling matters about as much to Boyle and his players as what's for dinner tonight at Buckingham Palace. Their first order of business is taking care of their own biz Friday night, then build on that next week when they trip to the East Coast for the Charleston (S.C.) Classic.
Without the benefit of extensive (maybe any) tape prep, Boyle knows this about the Terriers: They're a much different team this year than last - as is his. "They lost players, we lost players," he said. "But in that first game you're dialed into what your guys are doing. Hopefully, we'll have some sort of feel (for Wofford). The thing you have to be prepared for is them coming in and playing zone, they might 'junk defense' you . . . you have to be prepared for everything, not knowing exactly what you're going to get. But the focus is on us, not on them."
Much of that internal focus will be on the Buffs' on-court operation under Spencer Dinwiddie, who saw some point guard duty last winter but not nearly as much as he will in his sophomore season. The point is Dinwiddie's natural position and he's eager to make an all-out jump back into it.
"It's fun," he said. "I love being back at the point . . . I missed it."
Dinwiddie knows as much about directing the show as he does about being thrown into the fire as a freshman. Last season, with senior Nate Tomlinson at point guard, Dinwiddie was needed more as a wing scorer than a floor director. In 27.4 minutes a game, he averaged 10.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
"It's something I knew was coming; coach had told me we needed firepower," he said of his first-year role. "This year, it was 'we need you to do this, but be ready to come back to point.' Even with Xavier (Talton) and Eli (Stalzer) I pretty much knew I would be back at the point." (Talton and Stalzer are freshmen.)
Dinwiddie's "new" role will make him "a little more selfless in the sense I have to watch out for everything and everyone at all times," he said. "You'll definitely see a lot more passing. It's just a different type of progression; instead of attack to score, I've got to look for opportunities to pass instead of score.
"I want to do whatever helps the team win, obviously. If the team's flowing you'll probably see more passing, if it's not flowing you'll probably see more scoring. That's just how I'll play and I'll play it by ear . . . it's going to be a game-by-game type deal."
The CU team Dinwiddie joined last year was well-stocked with senior leadership (four). The team he will direct this year features one senior - Sabatino Chen. The differences in overall makeup, Dinwiddie said, will become obvious: "We're a little more immature, (but) a little more talented. We play with a higher intensity and a higher speed. I think sometimes we might get a little out of control - even though it's my job to stop that. We play at a much faster pace.
"I think some of that comes with the territory of being a little bit young. But I also think we're executing coach's philosophy fairly well, especially rebounding and getting up the floor."
Boyle is big on not allowing outside expectations to seep into his locker room, believing he has the bar set high enough and if his players measure up to that, what's going on in the outside world is irrelevant. His players have bought into that.
"We have high expectations for ourselves," Dinwiddie said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves because of that. I think in a lot of cases, high expectations outside are even lower than what we want to do. We think we're a lot more talented than a lot of people give us credit for. We're going out to prove that.
"It's not like they gave us a No. 1 ranking we have to live up to. We're still ranked sixth (in the Pac-12 preseason media poll), we're still not Top 25, we're like a fringe NCAA Tournament team. We want to prove we're better than sixth, we're maybe a Top 25 team and we're a solid tournament team.
"Our best basketball is ahead of us and I think you'll see that on Friday - glimpses of great basketball, but also stretches of where we're probably not playing our best. But as long as we get better and don't have bad losses early in the season, we'll be fine. And we'll be ready for the tournament."
First, there's Wofford . . . then the trip to Charleston . . . then the remainder of a difficult non-conference schedule that precedes Pac-12 play. The Buffs will have plenty of chances to prove they're NCAA-ready - but you can bet that isn't showing up on Boyle's November to-do list.