The University of Colorado men's basketball team will face one of the top season-opening challenges in the program's 115-year history next week against No. 7-ranked Iowa State.
Though the showdown is fast approaching, the Buffaloes haven't yet used much of their practice time to focus on the Cyclones. At least not on the floor.
The offices of coach Tad Boyle and his staff have been another matter entirely, as the Buffs' braintrust faces the dilemma of preparing for a marquee opponent that nonetheless boasts a number of question marks due to an offseason coaching change.
"We kind of know what we're going to be up against, but we haven't really dialed into a game plan yet. It's a little early for that," Boyle said. "The staff is definitely talking about it and thinking about it, but I haven't let my mind go there yet."
After leading Iowa State to the Big 12 Conference tournament championship and a school-record fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, Fred Hoiberg opted to leave his alma mater to take over the Chicago Bulls.
Iowa State looked outside its program to hand the keys to its top-10 squad to Steve Prohm, who is coming off a successful four-year run at Murray State. The Buffs topped Prohm's Murray State team in the final of the Charleston Classic early in the 2012-13 season, yet Boyle and his staff remain uncertain of how Prohm might utilize the Cyclones.
"That's the unknown — you know their personnel, but you don't know how they're going to guard ball screens, what defenses are they going to be in," Boyle said. "So, yeah, you watch Iowa State and you watch Murray State. But at the end of the day you don't know what they're going to do until you step on the floor. That's why you have to prepare for everything.
"That's what makes it so difficult. If you're playing a team whose head coach has been there for 10 years and has a system established ... like Auburn. We'll have a much, much better feel for Auburn (in the second game) and how they're going to play. No. 1, we played them last year. No. 2, Bruce Pearl is in his second year and we could watch their late games last year and see what they were doing and see where they've improved."
While the focus of preseason workouts to far has been to master the new wrinkles Boyle is adding to CU's schemes at each end of the floor, that focus will soon shift to the Cyclones. The Buffaloes are ready to turn the page on the preseason and embrace the challenge.
"We've all been thinking about it — coach has mentioned a few times that we're going to play a top 10 team," guard Dom Collier said. "It's very exciting. We get to play on a big stage, a top 10 team on ESPN. It's a challenge that we're going to be ready for."