Coming into the year, most pundits pegged Andrew Wiggins as the best freshman -- if not the best overall player -- in America.

The Kansas star has been projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. His air time on ESPN rivals just about any other athlete over the past month.

Yet, as the Colorado Buffaloes (8-1) prepare to take on the No. 6 Jayhawks (6-1) on Saturday, they know they can't focus solely on Wiggins.

"Our scouting report went three pages deep with their personnel alone, because they've got a lot of guys in uniform who can play," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "Andrew Wiggins is an unbelievable talent, but I look at Perry Ellis and what he did the last few times out for them. He's really a tough match-up. They are big guys on the block. They bring a 7-footer off the bench (Joel Embiid) who runs and is as good an athlete as there is in the country. I think Wayne Selden is a guy that's really, really a terrific player. He's a good team player who makes them better.

Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins  averages 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins averages 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. (Associated Press)

"I know Arizona has great personnel and UCLA has great personnel, but in terms of depth, I'm not sure we'll face a team on our regular season schedule as deep as KU and as talented as they are, but they're young."

CU has a young roster, with five freshmen in the regular rotation. Kansas coach Bill Self has seven freshmen among his top 12, however, including four among his top five scorers. Of the top nine scorers at KU, seven are either freshmen or sophomores.

It's a talented young crew at KU, though. Wiggins, Embiid and Selden are considered potential lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft, while Ellis is also projected as a first rounder by some.

CU doesn't have the projected NBA talent that Kansas has, but what the Buffs have on Saturday is an opportunity at a signature win that could really make some waves around the country.

"We could open a lot more eyes," CU's Xavier Johnson said. "A lot of people have us to lose this game as underdogs. We just have to show everyone we're better than that and just play our game."

Boyle said CU's nine games to this point have not totally prepared the Buffs for facing Kansas, simply because they haven't played anyone near as good.

"Baylor had the athleticism and some of the length along the front line," Boyle said. "But, this will be the best team we've played so far. Not even close."

So, how can the Buffs pull off the upset?

"We've got to be tough for 40 minutes; we've got to compete for 40 minutes," Boyle said. "It's not going to be easy, but we've got to be the aggressor. We can't back down, we can't be in awe of who they are and what their reputations are. We have to come out ready to ball for 40 minutes."

The Buffs also can't make mistakes. They learned that a year ago when playing the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kan. CU had 18 turnovers and made just 37 percent of its shots in a 90-54 loss.

"Their best game is countering misses and turnovers and stuff, so for us, if we have a turnover or a mess-up on a play, that could be the game for us," Johnson said. "We just have to be able to focus and come out and just really be into the game."

There figures to be an electric atmosphere at Coors Events Center on Saturday. A sell-out crowd is expected with the Buffs' former Big 12 Conference rivals coming into town. The fans will be eager to see a good game, and Boyle believes his players will be prepared to give them one.

"Our players will be ready," he said. "They love challenges like this and it should be fun."

Boyle's a Buff

Although he played for Kansas and graduated from KU, Boyle said he no longer feels any extra emotions going against the Jayhawks. This will be his fifth time he's coached against KU.

"The 'ex-player going up against his alma mater' thing is kind of over with," he said. "I'm the coach at CU, I'm fortunate and happy to be in the position I'm in. We have great respect for Kansas and what that program represents in college basketball. I lived it for four years as a student-athlete a long time ago, but it's another game."

Notable

Redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon missed practice on Thursday and Friday with an undisclosed injury. He is "day-to-day" and his status for Saturday's game was unknown as of Friday. Gordon has started all nine games, averaging 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while leading the team with 12 blocks. ... The Buffs are trying to "Black Out" the Coors Events Center for the game, encouraging fans to wear black to support Boyle's team.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.

 

 

CU men's hoops preview

SATURDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (8-1) host the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks (6-1) in a 1:15 p.m. game at Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio -- KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV -- ESPN2, with Dave O'Brien and Jimmy Dykes on the call.

STORYLINES: CU has won eight in a row since a season-opening loss to Baylor. This is the Buffs' longest win streak since a nine-game streak during the 2005-06 season. ... CU defeated Colorado State, 67-62, on Tuesday. Spencer Dinwiddie had 28 points in the win. ... Kansas is ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the USA Today coaches' poll. ... The Jayhawks suffered their first loss on Nov. 29, 63-59 against Villanova. They rebounded the next night to beat UTEP, 67-63. ... Jayhawks freshman Joel Embiid, a 7-foot center from Cameroon, leads the team in rebounds (7.0 per game), blocks (2.3) and field-goal percentage (67.6). Embiid doesn't start, however, KU has outscored opponents 268-182 in the 124 minutes he has played. The Jayhawks have a slight 293-292 edge over opponents during the 156 minutes Embiid has not played. ... Scouts from 18 different NBA teams are expected to be on hand for the game. ... The Buffs are 6-0 at home this season and 50-7 at home under coach Tad Boyle. ... CU junior Askia Booker is connecting on a career-high 47.5 percent of his shots from inside the 3-point arc. He's also committed just three of his 19 turnovers in the second half. Seven times in nine games, Booker has played the second half without a single turnover. ... Neither team has shot the ball well from 3-point range. CU is hitting just 31.5 percent (52 of 165), while Kansas is at 30.7 percent (31 of 101).

KEY STAT: Coming into the week, CU ranked 11th nationally in rebounding margin (plus-11.1), while Kansas was tied for 42nd (plus-7.3). The Buffs are 7-0 this season when out-rebounding opponents; KU is 6-0 when out-rebounding its opponents.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 77-39 in his fourth season at CU and 132-105 for his career. Bill Self is 306-60 in his 11th season at Kansas and 513-165 for his career.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-6, Jr. (15.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.3 apg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (11.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Jaron Hopkins, 6-5, Fr. (6.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (9.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (12.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg). Kansas -- G Naadir Tharpe, 5-11, Jr. (6.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.0 apg); G Wayne Selden Jr., 6-5, Fr. (9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Andrew Wiggins, 6-8, Fr. (14.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 apg); F Tarik Black, 6-9, Sr. (4.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg); F Perry Ellis, 6-8, So. (15.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg).

SERIES: Kansas leads the series 123-39, including 40-26 in Boulder. The Jayhawks have won 19 straight against the Buffs since CU's 60-59 win in Boulder on Jan. 22, 2003.

UP NEXT: CU will host Elon on Friday at 6:30 p.m.