CU men's basketball preview

THURSDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (18-8, 10-4) will play the Stanford Cardinal (18-9, 8-7) at 8:30 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Television on Root Sports with Steve Physioc (play-by-play), Marques Johnson (analyst) and Rebecca Haarlow (reporter). Radio on KKZN (AM 760) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chris Lewis (color). Follow on Twitter @RyanThorburn.

STORYLINES: CU improved to 3-4 on the road in the Pac-12 with a 55-48 win at Utah last Saturday. ... The Buffs are the only unbeaten team at home (7-0) in conference play. ... Stanford has lost six of its last nine games since an 84-64 victory over the Buffs on Jan. 14. ... Cardinal senior Josh Owens, who had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the first meeting with CU, is currently shooting 60.3 percent from the feld (140-of-232), which is second in the Pac-12. ... Stanford is 12-0 this season when it scores over 70 points. ... There were less than 300 tickets available for the game as of Wednesday afternoon.

KEY STAT: The Buffs are No. 1 in Pac-12-only games in scoring defense (60.4 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.389) and defensive rebounding (27.6 rpg).

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 42-22 in his second season at CU. Johnny Dawkins is 67-56 in his fourth season at Stanford.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado - G Nate Tomlinson, 6-3, Sr., 5.


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7 ppg, 3.4 apg; F Andre Roberson, 6-7, So., 11.2 ppg, 11.3 rpg; F Austin Dufault, 6-9, Sr., 11.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-5, Fr., 10.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg; G Carlon Brown, 6-5, Sr., 12.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg. Stanford - F Josh Owens, 6-8, Sr., 12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg; F Andy Zimmerman, 6-8, Sr., 3.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg; G Aaron Bright, 5-11, So., 11.3 ppg, 3.6 apg; G Anthony Brown, 6-6, So., 7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg; G Chasson Randle, 6-1, Fr., 12.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg.

SERIES: Stanford leads 8-3, including a 84-64 win in Palo Alto on Jan. 14. CU has a 3-2 edge in Boulder.

UP NEXT: The Buffs host Cal in the regular-season home final on Sunday at a sold-out Coors Events Center (3:30 p.m., Root Sports).

The Buffs are thinking about winning the Pac-12 regular-season title.

And they have head coach Tad Boyle's permission to talk openly about championship dreams, as long as the focus is on Stanford, Cal, Oregon and Oregon State in that order.

What you won't hear Colorado's coaches or players discussing -- unlike February and March of 2011 -- is the NCAA Tournament.

Bracketology is no longer an acceptable word in the Buffs' vocabulary.

"We were always looking at every other score and what was going on, who was winning, who was losing," senior guard Nate Tomlinson said of CU's bubble watch last season. "Not just in our conference, but the other conferences as well."

Kansas went 14-2 in the Big 12 to beat out Texas by one game for the regular-season title. Texas A&M and Kansas State finished tied for third at 10-6. CU tied for fifth with Missouri at 8-8.

The Tigers, Wildcats, Aggies, Longhorns and Jayhawks made the NCAA Tournament field. Boyle's selection Sunday party became awkward when the program was snubbed on live television and forced to settle for the NIT.

"We weren't really in the hunt for the championship because Kansas was so far out ahead. So we were thinking about seeding, we were thinking about quality wins, we were thinking about all that stuff," Boyle said. "This year the focus is just on trying to get a piece of the conference championship, which would be pretty special."

The Buffs (18-8, 10-4) will attempt to stay in the thick of the race Thursday night against Stanford at the Coors Events Center (8:30 p.m., Root Sports).

CU suffered an 84-64 defeat on Jan. 14 in Palo Alto. Since that first meeting, the Buffs (18-8, 10-4) are 7-2 in the Pac-12 while the Cardinal (18-9, 8-7) has gone 3-6.

"From watching the film afterwards, we didn't really play with a sense of urgency or have an edge about us," senior forward Austin Dufault said. "I don't know if that was because it was our first road trip or whatever, but it's something that we can learn from. They really turned it up a notch at their place and kind of took it to us."

CU is the only unbeaten team at home in conference play (7-0).

The Buffs are No. 1 in Pac-12-only games in scoring defense (60.4 ppg), field-goal percentage defense (.389) and defensive rebounding (27.6 rpg).

Stanford out-rebounded CU 35-27 in the first meeting, forced the visitors into 14 turnovers and outscored the Buffs 45-31 in the second half.

"They just annihilated us on the boards when we were up there," Boyle said. "They're strong, they're big, they're physical, they're athletic, so we've got to rebound the ball and have great first-shot defense."

Andre Roberson, who leads the Pac-12 in rebounding (11.3 rpg) and blocked shots (1.9 bpg), had four boards and no blocks at Stanford.

The Cardinal backcourt, Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle, combined for 32 points on 9-for-17 shooting in the first meeting. Josh Owens added 10 points in the paint and seven rebounds.

"Two big payback games for us," Roberson said of CU's final home stand. "You know Buff Nation is going to come out and support us, and we're going to try to get that place rocking and get two wins."

Cal (22-6, 12-3), which enters the week on top of the Pac-12 standings with Washington (19-8, 12-3), will visit Boulder on Sunday.

CU men's basketball schedule

Nov. 11 - Ft. Lewis 57, CU 85

Nov. 17 - Wichita State 67, CU 58

Nov. 18 - Maryland 78, CU 71

Nov. 20 - CU 81, W. Michigan 76

Nov. 23 - Air Force 73, CU 76, OT

Nov. 28 - CU 70, Georgia 68

Nov. 30 - CU 64, Colorado State 65

Dec. 7 - CU 71, Fresno State 64

Dec. 9 - Wyoming 65, CU 54

Dec. 19 - CU 70, CSU Bakersfield 64

Dec. 22 - CU 56, Texas Southern 51

Dec. 28 - CU 92, New Orleans 34

Dec. 31 - CU 73, Utah 33

Jan. 5 - CU 87, Washington 69

Jan. 7 - CU 71, Washington State 60

Jan. 12 - Cal 57, CU 50

Jan. 14 - Stanford 84, CU 64

Jan. 19 - CU 69, Arizona State 54

Jan. 21 - CU 64, Arizona 63

Jan. 26 - CU 74, USC 50

Jan. 28 - UCLA 77, CU 60

Feb. 2 - CU 83, Oregon State 57

Feb. 4 - CU 72, Oregon 71

Feb. 9 - Arizona 71, CU 57

Feb. 11 - CU 63, Arizona State 49

Feb. 18 - CU 55, Utah 48

Feb. 23 - Stanford at CU, 8:30 p.m.

Feb. 26 - California at CU, 3:30 p.m.

Mar. 1 - CU at Oregon, 8:30 p.m.

Mar. 3 - CU at Oregon State, 2 p.m.

March 7-10 - Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, Los Angeles, Ca.

With a sweep the Buffs will remain in contention for the program's first conference championship since the 1968-69 Big Eight title.

"We're talking about trying to compete for a conference championship. That's where our focus is. It's not on postseason or the Pac-12 Tournament," Boyle said. "We're within a game and a half and we have two games at home. They certainly aren't going to be easy, but we're capable of winning them.

"So we're focused on winning a conference championship and we'll let the other stuff take care of itself after that."