Boyle's Buffs Gear Up For Visit From Ducks To Begin Crucial Homestand
BOULDER — Home has not been where Tad Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes have roamed this year — at least not on a regular basis.
In fact, one of the statistical oddities created by the coronavirus pandemic season is this: after 10 games, the 7-3 Buffaloes (1-2 Pac-12) have played as many games in Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum (two) as they have at the CU Events Center.
The Buffs, however, will finally have the opportunity to rectify that issue this week, when they open a three-game home stand Thursday with a late tip against No. 17 Oregon (9 p.m., FS1) at the Events Center. That will be followed by a Jan. 13 game against Cal (7 p.m., Pac-12) and a Jan. 16 home tilt with Stanford (1 p.m., Pac-12). The home stretch was originally scheduled to be four games, but Saturday's home contest against Oregon State was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the OSU program.
Still, the home stand will be the most important stretch the Buffs have had on their plates thus far this season. After opening conference play last week with three road games in six days — and coming away with one win, at USC — Colorado needs to put together some victories to remain in the mix for an upper-division Pac-12 finish.
"It's huge for us," said CU point guard McKinley Wright IV. "We're a good team at home. We have to take care of business … These games are all must-wins in my eyes."
The Buffs have indeed been good — very good, in fact — on their home floor under Boyle. Now in his 11th year in Boulder, Boyle has a sparkling 143-27 record at the Events Center.
But while the Buffs will have the home floor advantage created by a familiarity with the court — along with the edge of playing at altitude — they won't have a home crowd to produce the normal adrenaline boost.
That energy, Boyle said, has to come from players and coaches.
"We don't have our fans in the building, but nobody else does either," Boyle said. "Our job is to make sure our players are ready to go mentally, emotionally, spiritually. In every sense of the word they have to be ready to play and want to play."
NATIONAL RANKINGS: The first NET rankings of the season were released by the NCAA on Monday, and the Buffs checked in at No. 14.
The Pac-12 had six teams in the top 100. Following Colorado were Oregon (19), Arizona (21), USC (26), UCLA (54) and Stanford (55).
The Buffs have one Quadrant One win thus far, last week's victory at USC, and all three of their losses (Tennessee, UCLA and Arizona) were against Quadrant One teams.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: This is a big, big homestand for the Buffs. CU had an opportunity to come home with two wins on last week's three-game trip, but let victories at Arizona and UCLA slip away. While it's obviously very early in the season, Colorado can't afford to lose home games and fall farther back in the conference standings.
Thursday's game is critical. The Ducks are the only Pac-12 team in the AP top 25. A victory would go a long way in helping the Buffs corral some national attention.
Oregon (8-1 overall, 3-0 Pac-12): As per usual, Dana Altman's Ducks have plenty of talent. Guard Chris Duarte was named conference player of the week Monday after averaging 21 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in Oregon's wins last week over Cal and Stanford.
But Duarte is far from UO's only weapon. The Ducks have three players averaging double-figure scoring, led by 6-6 forward Eugene Omoruyi (18.7 ppg) and followed by the 6-6 Duarte (16.7) and 6-6 forward Eric Williams (12.7).
As a team, Oregon is second in the conference in field goal percentage (47.4), third in 3-point field goal percentage defense (29.2) and second in rebound margin (plus-7.4 per game). The Ducks' only loss came against Missouri early in the season, and they own conference wins over Washington, Stanford and Cal.
The Ducks will also be more than happy to play in an empty gymnasium, as they haven't fared well at the Events Center. Buffs fans have almost always packed the arena for games against the Ducks, and it has never ended well for Oregon.
In fact, Oregon has never won in Boulder. While Colorado has just a 12-9 all-time lead in the series, that ledger includes a perfect 9-0 record at home — including a 7-0 mark in Pac-12 games.