CU men's basketball preview: No. 16 Oregon
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12 Conference) at Oregon Ducks (18-4, 7-2).
GAME TIME: Today, 7 p.m. MST, Matthew Knight Arena.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM; TV — Fox Sports 1.
COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, sixth season (125-73, 181-139 overall). Oregon — Dana Altman, sixth season (141-61, 674-328 overall).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: F Josh Scott, Sr., 17.4 ppg; Rebounding: Scott, 9.5 rpg; Assists: G Dom Collier, So., 3.3 apg. Oregon — Scoring: F Dillon Brooks, So., 16.6 ppg; Rebounding: F Chris Boucher, Sr., 7.8 rpg; Assists: G Casey Benson, So., 3.3 apg.
NOTABLE: Five players scored in double-figures for CU in a Jan. 17 home win against the Ducks. Scott led the way with 17 points and 11 rebounds...The Buffs' 17-5 mark after 22 games is tied for the second-best in program history, trailing only the 18-4 record put together in the 1968-69 season...CU has lost 10 consecutive games against ranked opponents. But the Buffs' last win over a top 25 team was against Oregon on Jan. 5, 2014...Collier (.492) and George King (.480) boast the top two 3-point percentages in the Pac-12.
Plenty of time remains to bolster an NCAA Tournament resume that currently is on solid footing for the Colorado Buffaloes.
Of course, there also is plenty of time for that solid footing to slip toward the uneasy surface of the dreaded bubble as well.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, perhaps the biggest omission from the Buffs' ledger is a road win against a bona fide NCAA tournament team. CU can rectify that shortcoming tonight, as the Buffs visit No. 16 Oregon in a critical matchup of Pac-12 Conference frontrunners.
"This is 'The' road win I would say, with a capital T," sophomore guard George King said. "The reason why is because Oregon is number one (in the Pac-12). Seeding-wise we're in the top half of the league, and coach (Tad) Boyle mentioned to us this is a championship game. We all want to play for rings, and this is a championship-caliber game.
"It's going to be fun, too. We have to make sure we have fun as well, but we have to buckle down."
Oregon already is one of the most impressive victims for a CU team boasting a 17-5 overall mark, having suffered a 91-87 loss in Boulder on Jan. 17. The Ducks, though, haven't lost in four games since, taking an overall streak of seven wins in eight games into the rematch. Last week, Oregon picked up the sort of road win CU is seeking, topping then-No. 18 Arizona and snapping the Wildcats' 47-game home win streak.
Much of Oregon's recent surge has been powered by sophomore forward Dillon Brooks. The reigning Pac-12 Conference Player of the Week after going 10-for-19 with 24 points at Arizona, Brooks is averaging a team-leading 16.6 points per game but has averaged 20.5 over Oregon's past six games. Brooks torched the Buffs' for 21 points on a 9-for-13 effort from the floor in the team's previous meeting.
Brooks' recent run has not gone unnoticed by Boyle.
"I think at this point, halfway through the league race, if I was voting for a player of the year it would be Dillon Brooks. Without a doubt," Boyle said. "He's playing a high level for them offensively and defensively, the whole nine yards."
Oregon leads the Pac-12 with a league mark of 7-2, yet the Buffs are one of four teams directly on the heels of the Ducks with a 6-3 record. Among the other three 6-3 squads this weekend, CU traveling partner Utah also swings through the state of Oregon beginning at Oregon State, while USC plays just a lone game at home against rival UCLA. Washington hosts the two Arizona schools beginning late Wednesday night against Arizona State.
Come Monday, that long-coveted separation among the league's contenders might finally arrive. Or maybe not. Either way, the Buffs are simply focused on taking care of their own business.
"We've talked about wanting to win a championship since I was a freshman, we've put ourselves in position where we're going to go into a tough road environment and have an opportunity to get closer to that goal," senior forward Josh Scott said. "This being a big-time game between the one and one of teams tied at two, it's big-time in terms of the Pac-12 standings."