Earlier this week, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle offered the thought that he'd have a better gauge of the state of his team following a two-week spell against the best sustained competition his Buffaloes will see in nonconference play.
That test has begun, and the early returns aren't promising.
CU's stunning 72-58 loss Wednesday night against Colorado State — the Buffs' second consecutive home loss against their rivals from Fort Collins — confirmed in a painful manner many of the concerns Boyle has expressed since the beginning of preseason workouts.
When dialed-in, the Buffs can play with anyone in the Pac-12 Conference, and perhaps even the nation. When they're not, CU can allow a mid-major program like Wofford to hang around on the Buffs' home floor, or let a more energetic Rams team inspire frustrated Buffs fans to vacate the Coors Events Center early.
The telling non-conference run doesn't get any easier for the Buffs, who visit an improved University of Portland squad Saturday night. Next week, CU hosts No. 7 Xavier before traveling to Brigham Young.
"I knew coming into this (Colorado State) game that the next two weeks would tell us a lot about our team and where we are," Boyle said. "This is kind of the meat of our nonconference schedule. I still feel that way, probably even more so. We'll find out where this team is toughness-wise, mental-toughness wise, physical toughness-wise, next Saturday night at about 9:30 in Provo when that (BYU) game is over.
"We've got three strong tests — two of them are on the road, and one of them against one of the best teams in the country coming in here next Wednesday."
In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday's loss Boyle reiterated it is the team's wealth of veterans who need to take the wheel and right the Buffs' ship, yet through their 5-2 start the top unit has been plagued by inconsistency.
George King recorded a career-best 13 rebounds in consecutive games early last week, but in the following game against Wofford he finished without a rebound and went scoreless during the Buffs' trying first half. King, the reigning Pac-12 Most Improved Player, went 1-for-6 with five points against CSU.
Over the past four games senior Xavier Johnson has turned in two 20-point efforts but was held to under eight points in the other two, including a 1-for-7 night with six points against the Rams. Wesley Gordon, the team's only true post threat, is shooting just .365. Gordon and Johnson, both fifth-year seniors, were the biggest culprits in CU's miserable 17-for-31 showing at the free throw line against CSU, going a combined 7-for-16.
Josh Fortune, a .385 shooter from 3-point range last year, is shooting just .308 from beyond the arc (8-for-26). Even Derrick White, lauded early for his steadying presence at point guard, has struggled since a nine-assist game against Notre Dame last week, posting six assists and nine turnovers in the three games since.
All five of those Buffs starters will be challenged to produce more consistently if CU hopes to forge a better final grade at the end of the current two-week nonconference challenge.
"Life is about how you respond to adversity," Boyle said. "(Against CSU) we faced a lot of adversity. A lot of it was self-induced. I didn't do a very good job as a coach."