Head coach Tad Boyle dubbed last week "separation time" for the Colorado Buffaloes in the crowded race for the top of the Pac-12 Conference pack.
CU certainly held up its end of the bargain, holding serve at home with victories against Stanford and Cal. Yet with the conference slate having officially reached the midway point, separation is proving elusive for the league contenders.
While separation has occurred to a certain extent — the Pac-12 front-runners definitely have surged ahead of the bottom fourth of the league—the war of attrition that is the conference slate has left five teams within two games of league-leading Oregon.
The Ducks, sitting atop the pack at 7-2 and awaiting a visit from the Buffs on Thursday night, are one game ahead of four teams -- including CU -- with 6-3 marks. Arizona, still widely considered the most talented in the league, remains close at 5-4, with Cal, Stanford and UCLA hovering at 4-5.
CU has avoided getting swept on the road, returning home from trips to northern California and Washington with splits. And while Boyle will never profess a .500 road mark as being the goal, netting a similar result this week at No. 16 Oregon and Oregon State will keep the Buffs firmly in control of their own NCAA tournament destiny over the final seven games.
Four of those final seven will be at the Coors Events Center, where CU has gone 12-1 overall while winning four in a row in league play.
"Nine games under the belt, we're 6-3, a good time to pause and reflect, but not for long," Boyle said. "We've got nine more games, four at home and five on the road, and we've got to consider the task at hand. Which is going to be a tall one, going to Eugene and playing the team that's in first place."
Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon once again have each topped the 40-block plateau this season, marking the third season in a row the inside duo has reached that mark.
What perhaps is most impressive about their shot-blocking skills is they rarely send a blocked shot into the stands — a feat that's great for highlight reels but does little to produce a defensive stop. By racking up their blocked shots with a soft touch, Scott and Gordon generally stay out of serious foul trouble while almost always turning their rejections into a possession for the Buffs.
"That's something we talk about, but there's some players that have a feel for that and some that don't," Boyle said. "The thing I think Josh and Wesley do for shot blockers really well is that they don't get into foul trouble. For the most part they stay out of foul trouble because they're really smart about, number one, going straight up and being vertical and not trying to swat.
"It is something we work on and something we talk about, but they go out and do it and do a good job of it."
Gordon already has matched the career-best 47 blocks he produced last season and sits in fifth place among CU's all-time blocked shot leaders. Scott has recorded 42 blocked shots and needs just 10 more to surpass Ted Allen for second place all-time at CU.