Buffs Set to Open Against Western Colorado
BOULDER – If 2020 has taught any lesson, it is that nothing is guaranteed. That is one thing that the Colorado women's basketball team has had to work through as they get set to begin the 2020-21 season against Western Colorado on Wednesday.
The Buffs have worked up to the season-opener, starting from functional groups early in the preseason to being able to run full-squad practices to being 48 hours away from actual gameplay.
"At points, we did have to wonder maybe we weren't going to get games in this season," head coach JR Payne explained. "Not because of anything we were or weren't doing, but just because of the status of the world. There were times that we were doubtful but remained hopeful. We are beyond excited to get to play. We've worked really hard to not only get ready to play basketball but also taking the necessary precautions and make great decisions to allow ourselves to play."
Colorado finished last season with a 16-14 record and were beyond hopeful to claim a spot in the WNIT and head back to the postseason for the first time since the 2016-17 season. CU's last game came on March 5 at the Pac-12 Tournament and by the next week, postseason play was canceled across the nation due to COVID-19.
Wednesday's opener has been a date circled on everyone's calendar since the NCAA approved the start of the basketball season. For a lot of that period, the opponent was a big unknown. The Buffs knew they were going to play three non-conference contests and 22 league games, but the full schedule wasn't announced until last week.
"I think it [Wednesday] will just be an incredible sense of excitement," Payne added. "Probably relief more on the coaches' part, but the players are just wildly excited. They can't wait to put on a uniform. I really wish we could have some of our fans in the stands but understand that that's not to be right now. Just being able to play against somebody else, put on a uniform—the team has worked very hard to get ready for this point."
The preparation for the season has been different from previous seasons. The team hasn't been able to use the film room that is feet from the locker room, instead opting to do film sessions on the court. The Buffaloes, like a lot of other teams across the NCAA, have utilized male practice players to help with scout and keep the wear and tear minimal. This season those practice players have not been allowed forcing players and coaches alike to be called on to fill in that role.
In previous seasons, the coaching staff like to get a feel for the team using a closed scrimmage or an exhibition with another front-range team. Not this season. The Buffs have battled themselves the past few weeks, using competition in practice to prepare for the real deal.
"We have not played against anyone other than ourselves," Payne said about the preseason process. "There's been times that we haven't had a full roster because of just little knick-knack injuries and stuff so we had to play people out of position and do different things.
"I think the goals are to get out there and have fun and play hard. I don't think any team in America is going to play beautiful basketball early on in the season. If we can play hard, have fun and get better that'll be a huge win for us."
Tip-off against Western Colorado is set for 6 p.m. MT. The game will be streamed online at CUBuffs.com/WatchWBB and can be heard on the TuneIn app.