Colorado coach Tad Boyle isn't alone in believing forward Andre Roberson was snubbed last season as a sophomore not being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. So maybe it was with that in mind that Boyle began lobbying for Roberson after the Buffs won their 18th game of the season over Utah this week.
“Andre Roberson is the best defender in America,” Boyle said when asked a question about Roberson's impact on his team. “He is, without a doubt, the best defender in the Pac-12. He does not get enough credit for the job he does defensively.”
At first Boyle's comment seemed like an excited coach who felt like doling out the compliments following a win. Turns out, Boyle genuinely believes Roberson belongs in the conversation for defensive player of the year nationally. The third-year coach of the Buffaloes and former Kansas guard says Roberson compares favorably to anyone, including more well-recognized names such as Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Kansas center Jeff Withey, Ohio State guard Aaron Craft or pre-injury Nerlens Noel among others.
Roberson is the first recruit Boyle signed when he was hired in spring 2010. He found the skinny 6-foot-7 forward with a nose for the ball in the San Antonio area going overlooked by most of the schools in Texas and Big 12 Conference country.
Roberson came to Boulder and made an immediate impact by grabbing rebounds with an uncanny ease. He has drawn a few comparisons to Dennis Rodman for his ability to put himself in the right position and to get his hands on the ball coming off the rim. He finished third nationally in rebounding last year and is currently leading the nation in rebounding (11.8), including nine defensive rebounds a game. He's also first in the Pac-12 in steals
Roberson's athleticism and long reach allow him guard smaller men on the perimeter and while he isn't always the first option to defend the post, he does his share of guarding much bigger players around the rim. Whether he is guarding Arizona State 7-2 center Jordan Bachynski, Oregon's E.J. Singler, or Stanford's Dwight Powell he generally comes out ahead.
Boyle said Roberson doesn't get more credit and attention because he plays in Pac-12 where start times for games are often at bed time for potential television viewers in the east.
“It's just the factor of sometimes playing in our conference we just don't get the national recognition I think that our programs deserve,” Boyle said. “But if you look at his numbers, I hear people talk about other people in the Big 12, the Big Ten, the SEC or the Big East, but I'll put Andre Roberson up against anybody in this country, anybody. He can guard all five positions. He rebounds, he steals, he blocks shots, he deflects balls and he can guard the point guard through the five man. He's the best.”
While it's hard to argue with Boyle when it comes to the impact Roberson has on the Colorado team and the numbers he puts up, Roberson doesn't seem to take over games the way Oladipo has this season. Withey and his Kansas teammates absolutely embarrassed Roberson and the Buffs when they visited Allen Fieldhouse back in December. Kansas won 90-54.
Boyle probably has a point about Roberson belonging in the conversation, but when you have to convince people he belongs in the conversation, the best defender in the nation isn't as clear cut as Boyle says it is.
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