Consider this week the calm before the storm for the University of Colorado men's basketball team.
The Buffs' hot start is beginning to garner wider attention. Last week, the Buffs received a lone vote on the USA Today Coaches Poll. Entering Sunday's play across the nation, CU's eight-game winning streak moved it into No. 23 in the RPI rankings. Which, for what it's worth at this early stage of the season, puts the Buffs well ahead of top 10 teams Oklahoma, Virginia and Maryland.
This week the Buffs will get some off-the-court responsibilities off their shoulders with the completion of fall semester finals. Then CU will host a pair of nonconference opponents against whom the biggest challenge for the Buffs might be to retain the edge that helped procure the past two impressive wins against Colorado State and Brigham Young on Saturday night.
After that, however, the Buffs will have their first opportunity since the opening two games of the season to showcase how well their improved play stacks up against national competition. Handling the inevitable attention that will continue to build each time CU extends its eight-game winning streak will be a focal point for coach Tad Boyle once finals are complete.
"We had a chance for a letdown coming off the CSU game," Boyle said. "In-state rivalry, it's finals season, guys are spending a lot of time meeting with tutors away from basketball. Maybe some sleepless nights. We had two really good practices (last week) and one that was just OK, not great. But the way they came out and answered the bell (against BYU), to me that's how you're judged — answering the bell on game night."
CU hosts Nicholls on Friday and Hampton Saturday in the first two games of the Las Vegas Classic. Nicholls is 3-4 and take the Coors Events Center floor just two days removed from a road date at No. 19 SMU. Hampton is 4-3 and also has to face SMU two days before taking on the Buffs.
Next week CU will travel to Las Vegas for the final two games of the showcase against Penn State and, if the matchups align properly, SMU. It would be the Buffs' first test against a ranked opponent since their six-point loss against No. 4 Iowa State in the opener.
"Up until this point, we have taken care of business in our schedule outside of the Iowa State game, obviously. Which we'd all love to have back," Boyle said. "But I like this team. I like their composure. I like their intensity. They're taking care of business, which we have to continue to do. We have a lot of room for improvement."
The Buffs continue to hold their own nationally in a number of categories. Entering Sunday's play, CU ranked 18th in the nation in free throw percentage at .759 (170 for 224). The Buffs also are in the top 30 in the NCAA in overall scoring, ranking 28th at 84.8 points a game. CU extended its school-record streak of scoring at least 80 points to eight games in Saturday's victory.