Pac-12 preview: Colorado University

This is the fourth in an annual 12-part series previewing the Pac-12 teams.

The first two years of Coach Linda Lappe’s tenure at Colorado has been challenging. She has had to deal with lack of depth, lack of quality players, and changing conferences.

In 2010-2011, Lappe’s roster was nine. Last year there were 11, but two players logged a combined total of 37 minutes, which means essentially that they had nine again.

Last season – the Buffs first in the Pac-12 – they were 6-12 in conference play and tenth in points scored, with an average of 56.1 per game. They lead the Pac in one category: turnovers. Not surprisingly, Colorado made an early exit in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Another problem has been what Lappe has called the Buffs mid-season lull. They started the season undefeated last year, only to go on losing streaks in January and February. But more depth and quality on this year’s roster might change that.

Four starters return, lead by dynamic senior point guard Chucky Jeffery (15.5 ppg, 8 rpg). Junior guard Brittany Wilson (9.1 ppg), senior guard/forward Megan Malcolm-Peck (4.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), and sophomore forward Jen Reese (7.8 ppg, 6 rpg) are also back, as well as five other returnees. The most key returning reserve may be sophomore guard Lexy Kresl (9 ppg, 3.3 rpg), who was named to last year’s Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

This year, four freshmen are expected to contribute right away.

Kyleesha Weston is a true point guard, and can back up Jeffery. The Buffs also have high expectations for the other newcomers: forwards Jamee Swan and Arielle Roberson, and guard/forward Lauren Huggins. They may also have a walk-on in Alexus Atchley, if she can get cleared by the NCAA.

The entire team worked hard all summer on their game, and on conditioning. The result is renewed team confidence and optimism. Lappe has made making the NCAA Tournament a goal, but is taking a one-game-at-a-time approach.

Most significantly, Colorado faces Illinois, Louisville and New Mexico in preseason. They make their first appearances in California for Pac-12 conference play, visiting all four of that state’s home teams this year, which they did not last season.