CU men's hoops preview

Today: The Colorado Buffaloes (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) host the Utah Utes (14-6, 3-5) in a noon game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.

Broadcast:

Radio -- KOA (850 AM), with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. TV - Pac-12 Network, with Paul Sunderland and Lamar Hurd on the call.

Storylines: CU has lost two in a row and is looking to avoid its first three-game skid of the season. ... CU and Utah both went 0-2 last weekend in Arizona. ... CU is 1-4 in its last five games. ... During Tad Boyle's four seasons as coach, the Buffs are 14-3 in home games that follow a road or neutral site loss. ... CU is 12-1 at home this season and 56-8 at home under head coach Tad Boyle. ... Utah is 0-5 on the road this season and the Utes have lost 10 consecutive road games, dating back to last season. ... Since joining the Pac-12, the Utes are 4-32 away from their home arena, including 1-21 in Pac-12 road games. ... CU ranks among the nation's top 15 in free throws made (sixth, 430), free throws attempted (eighth, 598) and rebounding margin (14th, plus-7.


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6). ... Utah ranks seventh nationally in scoring margin (plus-17.3 per game). ... Among Utah's six losses, three have come by two points and five by four points or less. Their biggest loss was a 65-56 defeat at No. 1 Arizona on Saturday. ... During Pac-12 play, junior Delon Wright has led Utah in scoring (17.9 ppg), rebounding (7.1 rpg), assists (3.6 apg), steals (2.6 spg) and blocks (1.6 bpg). ... Counting only the healthy players, CU is hitting just 56.2 percent (50-of-89) of its free throws in the final two minutes of regulation.

Key stat: CU preaches the important of defense and rebounding. Under Boyle, the Buffs are 36-2 (25-0 at home) when they win the rebounding battle and hold the opponent below 40 percent shooting in the same game.

Coaches: Boyle is 84-44 in his fourth season at CU and 140-110 for his career. Larry Krystkowiak is 35-49 in his third season at Utah and 77-69 during his career.

Probable starters:

Colorado -- G Jaron Hopkins, 6-5, Fr. (5.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (13.2 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.5 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (6.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.6 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (10.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg). Utah - G Delon Wright, 6-5, Jr. (16.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.6 apg); G Brandon Taylor, 5-10, So. (10.0 ppg, 3.8 apg); G/F Dakarai Tucker, 6-5, So. (8.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Jordan Loveridge, 6-6, So. (16.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.7 apg); C Dallin Bachynski, 7-0, Jr. (5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

Series: CU leads 24-16, including 15-4 in Boulder. Since the two schools joined the Pac-12, CU is 4-1 against the Utes.

Up next: CU will host Washington State on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

Throughout the past few weeks, Colorado men's basketball players have gone through a major adjustment.

Losing star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and valuable freshman Tre'Shaun Fletcher to serious knee injuries during a Jan. 12 loss at Washington changed the roles of several Buffaloes.

It also changed the job of head coach Tad Boyle.

"I've asked our players to change their mindset; I've had to change my mindset," Boyle said. "Life's all about challenges and we're going to make the most of this."

Boyle admits he hasn't enjoyed the challenge to this point. He would much rather have a full arsenal of players. But, he has had an opportunity to re-focus as a coach.

"One thing it's made me do is step back and look at the big picture and understand why do we coach?" he said. "What's our goal every day? It kind of gets you back to your philosophies and your roots as a coach. I coach because I like being around young people. I want to help them grow; I want to help them develop."

For Boyle, that means getting as much out of the rest of the season as possible. That starts on Saturday, when the Buffs (15-6, 4-4 Pac-12) host Utah (14-6, 3-5) in the first of three consecutive home games.

"It's critical because we're coming off two disappointing losses on the road," Boyle said of Saturday's game against the Utes. "It's critical because we're in desperate need of a win. It's critical because you have to hold serve at home."

The Buffs are 1-4 in their five games, all since losing Dinwiddie and Fletcher.

Once considered a contender for the Pac-12 crown, the Buffs are now simply trying to hang on to their standing as an NCAA Tournament team. To do that, they know the stakes are high during this homestand.

"These are three must wins, I think, but we take one game at a time," junior guard Askia Booker said. "I don't want to look ahead right now. I just want to look at Utah and put all my concentration on them and prepare for them as best as we can."

CU will host Washington State and Washington next week, but, as Booker said, the Buffs can't afford to worry about those games just yet.

The Buffs didn't play well during their weekend set in Arizona last week, and have spent this week trying to re-focus and concentrate on some of the basics that got them to 15 wins.

"We've become more defensive-minded and not worrying about the offense as much," redshirt freshman Wes Gordon said. "If we focus on taking care of the ball and (playing defense), we'll be fine. (This week) we have had time to practice and really watch what we've been doing, focus on it and go back to the basics. This has been a perfect week for us."

It certainly helps to get in front of the home crowd, too.

"I think so," Booker said. "It's good to get to come home and practice and know that you have a game here where your fans support you. It's always a good feeling because I think we're pretty good here.

"But, we do have to come prepared. We have to bring our own energy. We can't always rely on the fans. We're just going to have to play and fight for one another."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.