Final exams are approaching for the University of Colorado men's basketball team.
Yet in order for the Buffaloes to achieve their goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six seasons, the mid-season exams CU will hold at practice over the next three weeks leading up to the Pac-12 Conference schedule could prove critical.
CU's 79-71 loss at Brigham Young Saturday night left the Buffs with a 7-3 record and dimmed some of the leverage the team gained with its victory earlier in the week against No. 13 Xavier.
The Buffs play just three more games ahead of the league opener on New Year's Day at Utah, all against opponents they should defeat handily. During these three crucial weeks, head coach Tad Boyle expects to address a laundry list of issues for a team that has struggled to consistently put together solid 40-minute games.
"We've got to play 40 minutes of basketball, and we're not quite tough enough mentally to do that yet against anybody," Boyle said. "This team has to become tougher mentally when things get tough. We have to become more consistent from one half to the next, from one possession to the next. And we have to have everybody do their job. It doesn't mean guys aren't going to miss shots and have off nights. But if they have an off-night shooting the ball, they've got to be able to help us in some other area.
"We have to get better in areas that don't have to do with shooting the ball. We have to get better in every phase of the game."
A prime example of Boyle's point can be seen in senior Josh Fortune, who has not converted a field goal in the past two games. Shooting woes happen to even the best of shooters, but in Fortune's 0-for-5 night against Xavier he added just three rebounds and one assist in 27 minutes. He went 0-for-8 at BYU with three rebounds, one assist, and two turnovers in 22 minutes.
Fortune, of course, hardly is alone when it comes to consistency.
Senior forward Wesley Gordon recently put together a run of four consecutive games with at least nine rebounds, culminating with a 10-rebound game last week at Portland. Gordon has posted just nine rebounds total in the past two games, with his field goal percentage dipping to .369.
Collectively, the Buffs were outrebounded at BYU for the second consecutive game and the third time this season. CU was outrebounded just seven times all last season, and never by more than five boards. BYU's 15-rebound advantage was the most by a CU opponent since Arizona outrebounded the Buffs 38-25 on Feb. 26, 2015.
"Everybody has a responsibility on this team, whether you start or come off the bench," Boyle said. "Everybody has a responsibility. Guys who don't play have a responsibility. And right now we have guys who aren't living up to their responsibilities. Sometimes it's the guys who's scoring the points. They missed some box outs too.
"We did a great job fighting and scratching and clawing. I like this group's competitiveness. It's a competitive group of guys. But we're not good enough for 40 minutes."
The Buffs play Division II Fort Hays State for the first time at home Saturday at noon...George King has posted four double-doubles over the past five games. Coming into the season he had one in 61 games...With 17 points Saturday Xavier Johnson passed Burdette Haldorson for 24th-place on CU's all-time scoring list.