Tad Boyle warned the Buffs this week that the 2012-13 season will be ending too soon if they don't get refocused and re-energized.
There might not be a sense of urgency for many of the players on the roster who have a lot of college basketball ahead of them in the years to come.
But it's a different story for Sabatino Chen, who is almost out of eligibility.
Colorado's soft-spoken senior isn't going to bark at the team the way Nate Tomlinson did at this time last year or dominate the Pac-12 Tournament like Carlon Brown.
Chen, like a determined Austin Dufault last March, just wants to lead by example and do whatever it takes to finish his career in the NCAA Tournament.
CU's last home stand of the season begins Thursday against No. 19 Oregon at the Coors Events Center (7 p.m., ESPN2).
"The seniors last year wouldn't make any excuses and they knew it was up to them and they made sure they had an impact on how their last games went," Chen said. "I'm not satisfied yet because this team has a lot of potential and we could go a long way if we play the way we can play."
The Buffs (19-9, 9-7) played their worst offensive game of the season last Saturday during a 62-46 loss at Cal. The visitors shot a joyless 23.1 percent from the field and were out-rebounded 46-36.
"There's two things I look at: Did we get good shots and were the right guys taking those shots? The answer to both of those is yes," Boyle said of CU's 15-for-65 performance from the field.
"The thing about Cal is their defense is so good you don't get as many open looks. When you do have them you've got to be able to knock them down, and we weren't able to do that."
The Ducks (23-6, 12-4), the Pac-12's best scoring defense (62.9 ppg), can earn at least a share of the Pac-12 regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in Las Vegas if they beat CU and Utah on the road.
"They're coming here playing for a league title," Boyle said. "We're playing for pride."
Actually, CU still has a chance to nab the No. 4 seed and a bye at the conference tournament with a sweep of Oregon and Oregon State coupled with an Arizona loss to Arizona State.
And two quality wins over Oregon -- the Buffs escaped with a 48-47 win on Feb. 7 in Eugene -- would solidify CU's chances of earning an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996-97.
It won't be easy.
Dana Altman will have starting point guard Dominic Artis available on a limited basis. Johnathan Loyd started for the injured Artis in the first meeting and did not score on 0-for-7 shooting from the field.
"Those two in combination were pretty good. When we asked Johnny to play 38 minutes it was unfair to him," said Altman, whose team suffered three consecutive losses without Artis after beginning conference play 7-0. "Johnny played hard, he played well ... we just had three games that went the wrong direction."
Artis had six points off the bench in 12 minutes after returning to the lineup for Oregon's 85-75 victory over Oregon State a week ago.
CU has won the last three games in the series by one point each, including a 72-71 victory in Boulder last season and a 63-62 victory in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament last postseason.
"I just thing they're a tough, disciplined team and we're a tough, disciplined team. They're a tough team to get away from," Boyle said. "We have to play with supreme mental toughness to beat Oregon. We were able to do that in Eugene, we were able to do that in the Pac-12 Tournament and at our place last year."
A victory would give CU its seventh 20-win season in school history and the third under Boyle.
"It has been an up and down year," Chen said. "I think that's just because we're hard on ourselves and we expect a lot from ourselves. If you look back we've had a good season."
Boyle will need some of his underclassmen to play like seniors for the Buffs to make the most of this March.
THURSDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (19-9, 9-7) will play the No. 19 Oregon Ducks (23-6, 12-4) at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Television on ESPN2 with Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play) and Miles Simon (analyst). Radio on KOA (AM 850) with Mark Johnson (play-by-play) and Chad Brown (color). Follow on Twitter: @RyanThorburn.
CU STORY LINES: The Buffs can still earn the No. 4 seed and a bye in the opening round of the Pac-12 Tournament with wins over Oregon and Oregon State coupled with an Arizona loss to Arizona State. ... CU is attempting to win 20 games for the seventh time in school history and third time under Tad Boyle. ... Andre Roberson (11.5 rpg) is still the nation's leading rebounder and still trying to get over the flu. ... This will be the final home stand of Sabatino Chen's career. The former Monarch High School standout is the only senior on CU's roster.
OREGON STORY LINES: The Ducks can win at least a share of the Pac-12 title and earn the No. 1 seed at the conference tournament with wins over CU and Utah. ... Oregon point guard Dominic Artis, who missed the first meeting due to a foot injury, will play limited minutes, according to Dana Altman. The starting point guard missed CU's win in Eugene. Backup Johnathan Loyd went 0-for-7 from the field and did not score. ... The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense, giving up an average of 62.9 points per game.
KEY STAT: The Buffs are 3-2 against ranked teams this season, including a 48-47 win at Oregon on Feb. 7. The program hasn't had a winning record against ranked teams since the 1960-61 season (1-0).
COACHES: Tad Boyle is 67-35 in his third season at CU. Dana Altman is 68-34 in his third season at Oregon.
SERIES: CU leads 6-3 after winning the previous three meetings by one point each time. The Buffs are 3-0 against Oregon in Boulder.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- F Andre Roberson, 6-7, Jr., 10.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg; F Xavier Johnson, 6-6, Fr., 8.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg; F Josh Scott, 6-10, Fr., 11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg; G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6, So., 15.2 ppg, 3.0 apg; G Askia Booker, 6-1, So., 12.8 ppg, 2.2 apg. Oregon -- C Tony Woods, 6-11, Sr., 9.4 ppg, 1.1 bpg; F Arsalan Kazemi, 6-7, Sr., 9.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg; F E.J. Singler, 11.5 ppg, 3.0 apg; G Jonathan Loyd, 5-8, Jr., 4.1 ppg, 2.8 apg; G Damyean Dotson, 6-5, Fr., 11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg.
UP NEXT: The Buffs conclude the regular season against Oregon State on Saturday at the Coors Events Center (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanThorburn