(Sports Network) - Colorado native Tad Boyle begins his first season as head coach of the Buffaloes in the team's final season of playing out of the Big 12 Conference. Although Colorado's season-opener is a non-conference tilt against Idaho State, the team will enter 2010-11 with lofty expectations, one year prior to entering what will be known as the Pac-12.
Boyle, who comes from the University of Northern Colorado, takes over for the departed Jeff Bzdelik and is the 18th head coach in school history. Bzdelik led the Buffaloes to a 15-16 record in 2009-10, including a 6-10 mark in the Big 12.
This could be a rough season for the Bengals, who have been picked to finish eighth in the Big Sky by the coaches and media. Head coach Joe O'Brien enters his sixth year at the helm and will return just one starter from a team that struggled to a 7-22 mark last year.
Colorado has won both prior meetings in the series.
Senior Cory Higgins (18.9 ppg.) and sophomore Alec Burks (17.1 ppg.) make up a solid backcourt combination for the Buffaloes, who return all five starters from last year. Higgins has led the team in scoring each of the last two years and led the Big 12 in steals the last two seasons. Junior point guard Nate Tomlinson, who had one of the best in assist/turnover ratios in the Big 12 last season, is also back, as are forward Austin Dufault (7.0 ppg) and guard Marcus Relphorde (11.0 ppg). Senior guard Levi Knutson, an accurate three- point shooter, comes off the bench. On the downside, sophomore forward/center Shane Harris-Tunks, who expected to be a force in the low post, will miss the 2010-2011 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
The Bengals won just seven games last season and that includes a miserable 1-16 ledger on the road. In fact, Idaho State has lost its last 12 away contests. That lone returning starter is guard Broderick Gilchrest, who averaged 15.5 points a game in 35 minutes of action in his first year as a Bengal. Others returning are guard Phyllip Taylor and center Deividas Busma. Taylor sat out the 2009-10 season and Busma was injured seven games into the 2009-10 season and missed the rest of the campaign.
Colorado is 13-1 in season openers in the Big 12 era (since 1996), including a 10-1 record at home. Idaho State has lost 19 straight road openers and is just 2-30 in non-conference road games over the last three years. The teams last met December 5, 1998, a 90-63 home win for Colorado. The trends and Colorado's powerful backcourt add up to a convincing win for the Buffaloes.