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Boyle's Buffs Set To Open Season Vs. Coyotes In Little Apple Classic

Nov 24, 2020
Senior McKinley Wright leads the Buffs into their Wednesday night season opener vs. South Dakota.

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MANHATTAN, Kan. — When Colorado finally tips off its season Wednesday night against South Dakota in the Little Apple Classic (6 p.m., ESPN+ and KOA radio), the Buffaloes will already be 1-0 in coach Tad Boyle's mind.

The way Boyle sees it, simply getting to the point of being able to actually play a game will be a win.

"If we can do that, it will be a heck of an accomplishment for these young men," Boyle said earlier this week. "You look at what's going on throughout our state, it's another testament to our guys, knock on wood, that we'll keep being safe and healthy."

Indeed, in the days leading up to college hoops' season opening date, dozens of programs — including Colorado State — have already had to pause activities and cancel at least their first game (if not more) because of positive covid tests.

"We plan on tipping off," Boyle said. "Just look around college basketball and there's 30-plus programs that are paused or are canceling their first game or two. We don't want to be in that category. These kids have worked too hard and come too far. … They've handled their business, they've worked hard, they have sacrificed with their families. I'm just really proud of our guys."

If all goes according to plan, the Buffs will square off against the Coyotes on Wednesday, then meet Little Apple host Kansas State on Friday in a 6:30 p.m. contest (ESPNU) at Bramlage Coliseum.

Under normal circumstances, college teams have roughly a dozen non-conference games to prepare them for league play.

But in this pandemic-adjusted season, CU's first two games will be far more important than "normal" non-conference games. Colorado opens Pac-12 play next week with a Dec. 2 game at Arizona, followed by a Dec. 5 home game against Washington State.

What it means is that Boyle and his staff have precious little time to develop a rotation, as the opportunities for experimenting with different combinations are greatly reduced.

"We've talked about it as a staff a lot and we'll continue to have those conversations," Boyle said. "Practices mean something and that's what I want our young players to understand. They're either gaining in practice or they're losing traction in practice relative to some of those rotational minutes. Those are difficult decisions we're going to have to make this year."

Boyle's 11th team in Boulder is an interesting mix of seasoned veterans — the Buffs have four returnees with extensive starting experience — along with five scholarship newcomers who have yet to play a minute in a Colorado uniform, a grad transfer, and several other veterans who have seen varying degrees of playing time in their CU careers.

Add it all up, and the math is simple: not everyone is going to get the playing time they want.

"You can't play 13 guys," Boyle said. "We're going to have a rotation of eight to nine, maybe 10. Some guys on the outside of that have to understand that's the way it is for that game — but the next game could be totally different."

But there are a few certainties with the lineup and rotation, beginning with All-Pac-12 guard McKinley Wright IV, a senior who returned to CU for one more season in pursuit of an NCAA Tournament berth. Also very likely to see extensive time will be senior wing D'Shawn Schwartz and junior forward Evan Battey, as well as senior big man Dallas Walton and redshirt freshman guard Keeshawn Barthelemy.

After that, it could be any mixture of grad transfer Jeriah Horne; true freshmen Jabari Walker, Nique Clifford, Luke O'Brien and Tristan da Silva; and returning vets Eli Parquet, Maddox Daniels and Alexander Strating.


SOUTH DAKOTA: The Coyotes were 20-12 last season (10-6 and third in the Summit League) under Todd Lee, who is entering his third season with USD. 

The Coyotes lost four of five starters from last year and have only one returning player that averaged more than four points or 13 minutes per game. USD was picked to finish fifth in the annual Summit League Preseason Poll. South Dakota's lone returning starter is senior forward Stanley Umude who averaged 16.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks last year en route to All-Summit League Second Team Honors. This will be just the second meeting ever between the two programs, with Colorado collecting an 82-58 win in Boulder on Dec. 4, 2018.

KANSAS STATE: This will be the first meeting between these old Big Eight and Big 12 foes since Colorado left for the Pac-12 in time for the 2011-12 season.

The Wildcats are coming off a rare losing season after an 11-22 finish (3-15 Big 12) last season under Bruce Weber, who is entering his ninth year with the Wildcats.

KSU has two returning starters from last season, senior guard Mike McGuirl (6.9 ppg) and sophomore forward Montavious Murphy (5.2 ppg). The Wildcats have high hopes for 7-foot freshman Davion Bradford, and added three transfers, including 6-11 junior college transfer Carlton Linguard.

Kansas State leads the all-time series with the Buffs, 97-47, including a 54-11 mark in Manhattan. But Colorado has won the last three meetings, getting home and road wins in 2011, along with a victory in the Big 12 tournament.

BROADCAST: Wednesday's broadcast will be available only on ESPN+, which requires a subscription. Friday's game will be televised by ESPNU.

Both games will be carried by KOA radio with Mark Johnson on the play-by-play.