Guess who's finally back in Boulder?
University of Colorado students.
After final exams ended a month ago, CU was able to rattle off six consecutive home wins and surged to the front of the Pac-12 without most of the program's rowdiest fans. But while their peers were wrapping up the extended holiday break, the Buffs suffered consecutive road defeats last weekend in the Bay Area.
CU hopes to start the spring semester with a healthy serving of Coors Events Center cooking Thursday night against Arizona State (6:30 p.m., Root Sports).
"It just seems like there's something on the road that we're missing," said freshman guard Askia Booker, who only scored four points on 2-for-8 shooting during the Cal-Stanford trip. "At home I feel we're pretty safe as of now. We're a pretty good team at home."
A pretty dominant team.
The Buffs (11-6, 3-2) are 9-1 at home, shooting 47.4 percentage from the field at the Coors Events Center, despite losing 75 percent of the scoring from last season's 24-win squad.
Tad Boyle's transitioning team plays like a contending team on Sox Walseth Court, where CU has outscored the opposition by an average of 72.9 to 56.5 so far this season.
By contrast, CU is 1-3 in true road games, shooting 40.3 percent and being outscored 69.8 to 63.5.
"We just have such a great advantage here with our fans and the altitude," said freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who averaged 6.5 points and was 4-for-15 shooting in Berkeley and Palo Alto. "When you go on the road you face adversity. Sometimes things don't go your way and the other team is playing in their comfort zone."
The Sun Devils (6-11, 2-3) will try to force the Buffs into an uncomfortable grind-it-out game.
Arizona State, which is 10th in the conference in scoring (64.0 ppg), is 2-2 on the road this year with low-scoring wins at Tulsa (67-64) and USC (62-53).
"Our goal is always to dictate tempo. It's no secret they want to slow it down, play zone and limit possessions," Dinwiddie said. "We want to speed it up. It's going to be a battle of wills, but I think we have the personnel to speed the game up and play the game we want to play."
Boyle said the Buffs probably took the Coors Events Center advantage for granted during the only home loss this season against Wyoming. The coaching staff has been warning the players all week not to sleep on the Sun Devils.
"They are so much better than their record," Boyle said. "They're well-coached, they're very sound, and they don't beat themselves."
CU averaged 57.0 points and shot 37.5 percent last week while allowing the Bears and Cardinal to score 43 points off turnovers.
Looking at the glass half full, Cal (15-4, 5-1) and Stanford (15-3, 5-1) are the top two teams in the Pac-12 right now.
"The Cal game I thought we played pretty well and I didn't think it was that difficult to adjust to the road. The Stanford game was a different ball game," sophomore guard Jeremy Adams said. "The crowd and the way Stanford played with their physicality was a real tough adjustment. That's what we're working on this week is to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said there is nothing unusual about CU's stellar play in Boulder and struggles just about everywhere else.
"I think they're a very good team. I know it's going to be a very challenging game for us," Sendek said. "They're more than capable of playing anywhere. Probably if you did a general sweep, most teams tend to be a little better at home. I think that's true in the NBA, I think that's true in college basketball. But they're certainly more than capable anywhere they play."
The Buffs will have to travel well down the stretch with seven of their final 11 games on the road. First they'd like to recreate the atmosphere from last season's Big 12 run when students were packing the Coors Events Center and doing their part to create five sellouts.
"I think we won some games early and got them excited. Hopefully we've done that again this year," Boyle said. "We won our first three conference games. They weren't here, but it's critical that they give us energy. That student section was the difference last year."
CU men's hoops preview
TONIGHT: The Colorado Buffaloes (11-6, 3-2) will host the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-11, 2-3) at 6:30 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Television on Root Sports with Drew Goodman (play-by-play), Ceal Barry (analyst) and Mark Stout (reporter). Radio on KKZN (760 AM) with Mark Johnson (play-play-by) and Chris Lewis (color). Follow on Twitter @RyanThorburn.
STORYLINES: CU is coming off road losses to Cal (57-50) and Stanford (84-64). ... Austin Dufault averaged 16.5 points to lead the Buffs but the bench scored a total of 17 points on the trip. ... CU hasn't lost two straight games since coming up short against Wichita State and Maryland at the Puerto Rico Tip-off. ... Andre Roberson (11.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) is the only Pac-12 player averaging a double-double in conference games. ... Arizona State, led by 22 points from Chanse Creekmur, is coming off a 76-66 win over Oregon State. ... The Sun Devils had a season-high 22 assists against the Beavers. ... Arizona State is one of only nine Division I programs without a senior on the roster.
KEY STAT: CU is 9-1 at home and outscoring opponents by an average of 72.9 to 56.5 at the Coors Events Center.
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 35-20 in his second season at CU. Herb Sendek is 94-86 in his sixth season at Arizona State.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Nate Tomlinson, 6-3, Sr., 5.8 ppg, 3.2 apg; F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 11.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg; F Austin Dufault, 6-9, Sr., 11.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-5, Fr., 10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg; G Carlon Brown, 6-5, Sr., 13.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg. Arizona State -- C Ruslan Pateev, 7-0, Jr., 5.2 ppg, 1.3 bpg; F Carrick Felix, 6-6, Jr., 10.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg; F Kyle Cain, 6-7, So., 8.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg; G Chanse Creekmur, 6-5, So., 6.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg; G Trent Lockett, 6-4, Jr., 13.9 ppg, 2.2 apg.
SERIES: Tied 2-2. All four games were played in the 1960s with the home team winning each time. CU won the last meeting 112-81 on Dec. 12, 1968, in Boulder.
UP NEXT: Colorado will host Arizona on Saturday at the Coors Events Center (4 p.m., Root Sports).