It's this simple. Tad Boyle didn't have his team ready to play. This one is on the coach.
It would be too much to say Boyle was out-coached in the 74-50 loss by Stanford's Johnny Dawkins. After all, it wasn't Boyle getting beat down the court. It wasn't him shooting layups into the bottom of the rim, missing free throws or being completely out-muscled and out-hustled for rebounds to the tune of 50-26.
CU men's basketball schedule
Nov. 11 - Ft. Lewis 57, CU 85
Nov. 17 - Wichita State 67, CU 58
Nov. 18 - Maryland 78, CU 71
Nov. 20 - CU 81, W. Michigan 76
Nov. 23 - Air Force 73, CU 76, OT
Nov. 28 - CU 70, Georgia 68
Nov. 30 - CU 64, Colorado State 65
Dec. 7 - CU 71, Fresno State 64
Dec. 9 - Wyoming 65, CU 54
Dec. 19 - CU 70, CSU Bakersfield 64
Dec. 22 - CU 56, Texas Southern 51
Dec. 28 - CU 92, New Orleans 34
Dec. 31 - CU 73, Utah 33
Jan. 5 - CU 87, Washington 69
Jan. 7 - CU 71, Washington State 60
Jan. 12 - Cal 57, CU 50
Jan. 14 - Stanford 84, CU 64
Jan. 19 - CU 69, Arizona State 54
Jan. 21 - CU 64, Arizona 63
Jan. 26 - CU 74, USC 50
Jan. 28 - UCLA 77, CU 60
Feb. 2 - CU 83, Oregon State 57
Feb. 4 - CU 72, Oregon 71
Feb. 9 - Arizona 71, CU 57
Feb. 11 - CU 63, Arizona State 49
Feb. 18 - CU 55, Utah 48
Feb. 23 - Stanford 74, CU 50
Feb. 26 - California at CU, 3:30 p.m.
Mar. 1 - CU at Oregon, 8:30 p.m.
Mar. 3 - CU at Oregon State, 2 p.m.
March 7-10 - Pac-12 Basketball Tournament, Los Angeles, Ca.
But a team doesn't perform as poorly as the Buffs did Thursday on its home court if its coaches have all their ducks in a row ahead of time.
"I felt like maybe we were a little winded tonight," Boyle said. "Maybe I've been a little too soft on these guys in practices. I know we practiced the things we needed to practice to try to beat Stanford. I do know that.
"We didn't execute our game plan defensively at all or offensively for that matter. That's disappointing, especially at this time of year in a game that has this magnitude in the conference standings. We had a lot more to play for in the standings. We sure didn't act like it and play like it. I didn't see this coming. I'm surprised."
Those are surprising words coming from a coach who rarely experiences games like Thursday. In fact, it's a first for Boyle in his time at CU.
What is so confounding about the outing is that the Buffs had been looking forward to a chance for redemption against the Cardinal after being blown out in Palo Alto in January. The Buffs believed Stanford had played its best game of the season in that one and it happened to come on a day when they played badly.
Either history repeated itself Thursday or Stanford has the Buffs' number.
The impression here is that Stanford is just a better team with answers for all the Buffs' strengths. Boyle admitted he was "searching" at times as he hoped for a rally once Stanford took control.
"I wouldn't say our guysquit, but we just had no answers," Boyle said. "We just got beat, and there wasn't anything our guys could do about it. They tried. I thought our effort was good, but our execution wasn't very good and we didn't get it done for one reason or another."
Cory Higgins and Alec Burks came to town for the game during the All-Star break from their NBA teams. The two former Buff stars entered a packed arena buzzing with excitement, in part, because of their presence. They sat in courtside seats and received a standing ovation from a crowd badly in need of something to cheer for during a dreadful first half. By the final 5 minutes, the arena resembled the way home games used to look here in the early days of Higgins' career and when Burks was a freshman. Quiet with lots of empty gold seats.
"I feel like our fans who came out tonight got cheated," Boyle said.
Some will say the Buffs blew any chance they had at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with Thursday's performance. Not true.
The Buffs went into Thursday's game not even being mentioned by most forecasts as a possibility for an at-large bid. They lack even one signature win and they have a few ugly losses, including what transpired against Stanford -- twice.
They also play in a league that, like it or not, simply hasn't earned any respect around the nation this season.
The Buffs are in the same position now that they were prior to losing their first Pac-12 home game of the year. They must win the conference tournament and claim the automatic berth that comes with it if they want to go dancing. They can't leave their fate in the hands of others.
Even if they finish the season strong with, say, a 23-10 record, this is not a program with a lot of respect around the nation. We learned last year how the Buffs are viewed by the NCAA Selection Committee and that was in a season in which the league the Buffs played in was among the best in the nation.
Combine how CU is viewed with the current perception of the Pac-12 and the Buffs will be doomed to another sad selection Sunday unless they win the conference tournament.
But Thursday didn't create that challenge.