BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- The University of Colorado is a basketball school now, something that would have drawn laughs in the Big 12.
They've been one of the best teams in the Pac-12 since joining the league two years ago, winning a conference tournament title and making two trips to the NCAA tournament. And for the first time this year, Colorado sold out its season ticket allotment (7,160).
So, you'd think they'd have been flattered when they were picked to finish third this season behind Arizona and UCLA.
They scoff at the suggestion the Buffaloes are among a bunch of teams a tier below the loaded Wildcats.
''I'm going to defer to Spencer on this,'' coach Tad Boyle said.
Spencer Dinwiddie handled it like a wide-open 3-pointer.
''OK, I would probably say what Coach is thinking. He'll be more politically correct, and I'm going to try to be polite, as well. But we don't view Arizona as the top, the cream, and everybody else is the rest,'' Dinwiddie insisted. ''We view ourselves as the cream and everybody else can fight for the rest of the spots.''
''Confidence,'' said Boyle, ''has never been one of Spencer's problems.''
And Boyle had no problem with his star point guard's bravado.
''I want our guys confident. I don't want them cocky. I don't want them trash talking. I want them confident and I want them to back up their confidence with their play,'' Boyle said. ''As long as he does that I have no problem.''
Boyle also thinks there's no reason to crown the 'Cats as the cream of the conference just yet.
''No, I mean, to me it's a wide-open race,'' he said. ''We're excited to be in the hunt. We're excited to be in the conversation of one of the better teams in this league. Now we've got to go out and prove it.''
Five things to remember as the Buffs try to do just that:
LOTS TO LIKE: Boyle called Dinwiddie ''one of the premiere point guards in the country,'' and he'll be leading a team along with backcourt mate Askia Booker that has their coach downright smitten. ''I love our team, I love our guys,'' Boyle said. ''We've got a lot of talent. ... And our non-conference schedule is obviously very imposing, but these guys like that.'' They open against Baylor in Dallas on Nov. 8, and also play Kansas, Oklahoma State and Georgia.
DECEPTIVELY YOUNG: Yes, Andre Roberson is the only starter that left, but as Boyle said, ''I think there's a little bit of a misnomer in that we have an experienced team coming back. We have got four starters coming back, but outside of that, Eli Stalzer and Xavier Talton came off the bench for us last year.'' Boyle said he lost a lot of savvy with reserves Sabatino Chen, Shane Harris-Tunks and Jeremy Adams all gone. ''Last year we had experience in seniors coming off the bench. This year we have six freshmen,'' he said.
SIX-PACK: Those freshmen are expected to make big contributions despite their youth, especially redshirt Wesley Gordon, a 6-foot-9 forward from Colorado Springs ''who is really going to help alleviate the absence of Andre Roberson from our lineup,'' Boyle said.
HANDLING EXPECTATIONS: Despite Dinwiddie's indignation, the Buffs try not to pay much mind to others' expectations. Said Boyle, ''We can't worry about what the outside world is thinking about us or talking about or saying. Because when they picked us 11th our first year in the league that didn't matter. We ended up winning the conference tournament.''
BIG BAD BOSS: Boyle has to be the bad guy sometimes in trying to keep his team humble and hungry. ''People are (praising them) every day. On campus, every time they pick up a paper, listen to the radio or get on Twitter,'' Boyle said. ''It's my job to make sure they don't buy into that hype and I feel like I am the bad guy right now, but that's OK.'' After all, Boyle has spent his entire coaching career in rebuilding mode. ''Now, maybe we are on the map,'' he said, ''so how do we handle it? It's new territory for me, new territory for our team, and new territory for our program. So, it's important we handle it the right way.''
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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