Kyle Ringo
Kyle Ringo
When they show up focused and ready to play, the Colorado Buffaloes can hang with just about any opponent in the nation on their home court.

They have proven it numerous times against ranked teams and conference title contenders over the past two seasons under coach Tad Boyle.

The California Golden Bears, the first-place team in the Pac-12 Conference, were the latest victims Sunday afternoon on senior day in a packed house.

Now it's time for the Buffs and Boyle to take the next step and perform more consistently on the road, particularly when they're visiting tough opponents in difficult venues.

"The next step for our program, and I've said it, is we have to beat a quality program on the road, and we have an opportunity to do that Thursday in Eugene," Boyle said.

I'd take it a step further than Boyle.

It's not about earning a single win against a good program, though that would be a good start. It's about the Buffs playing consistently well when they go on the road.

Want to go to the NCAA Tournament? Sick of people around the nation questioning your credentials every year at this time?

Don't find a way to lose a very winnable game at Colorado State. Don't get blown out at Stanford. Don't lose by 17 on the road against a mediocre UCLA team. At least give yourself a chance to win at the end at Arizona.

CU has built a reputation as a tough team to beat at home. Now they need to add to their reputation by bringing the same sort of focus andintensity on the road -- every time.

I know, I know, easier said than done.

The Buffs have won four times on the road this season in nine games.

Some would say that's not bad, but the teams the Buffs have beaten are teams they should beat regardless of venue.

One of those wins came in overtime at Air Force, which has won 13 games this season and already has fired its head coach.

The Buffs' other three road wins came against the bottom dwellers in the Pac-12, Arizona State (nine wins), Utah (six wins) and USC (six wins).

The Buffs have to win those games, but it has a huge effect on the resume when a team wins on the road when it isn't expected to. When the Buffs start doing that more often than rarely, their NCAA Tournament hopes will be realized.

Cal had worked its way to the top of the conference standings entering Sunday's game by winning 23 games already this year, but only five of them came on the road.

Winning on the road is a challenge for everyone.

And it's the next challenge for the Buffs.

CU goes on the road to Oregon on Thursday night and Oregon State on Saturday to complete the regular season.

Winning both of those games isn't going to help the Buffs get into the NCAA Tournament this season as an at-large team. We've already covered how others around the nation have little regard for the Pac-12 (this season) and the Buffs (in general).

But wins on the road this week would solidify the Buffs in the top four in the Pac-12 and give them a first-round bye in the conference tournament the following week in Los Angeles.

That's a big accomplishment for this season's team, which was picked to finish 11th.

It would serve as another feather in the cap of an accomplished senior class, especially Nate Tomlinson, Austin Dufault and Trey Eckloff who have built a very nice foundation for the program during their careers.

Beating Oregon and Oregon State this week also would provide the players who are returning next season with something to build on and believe in when they face that first big road test next year.

There is a lot to be said for believing you can get the job done when you go on the road.

There have been myriad road games in the recent past for this program when the Buffs flat out didn't believe in themselves, and the results reflected that.

These Buffs don't count themselves out from the start like that, but there is still too much doubt in their heads at times when they leave the Coors Events Center.

The difference between how the Buffs play at home and how they play on the road is often still too vast.

Conquer that challenge and the Colorado program will really take off.