The Colorado Buffaloes were unable to cement an identity in nonconference play.

Yet given the slate CU faces through the first seven games of the Pac-12 Conference men's basketball schedule, the Buffaloes will learn in a hurry just how they stack up in the overall league picture.

The Buffs were set to reconvene Tuesday night after a holiday hiatus to begin preparations for their league opener at Utah on New Year's Day. That matchup begins a conference-opening three-game run on the road for the Buffs, who then will open the home half of the league schedule against the two teams from Los Angeles who ran the table during the nonconference schedule — No. 2 UCLA and No. 22 USC.

The bright side to the early glut of road games is that CU will play five of its final seven league games at home. While that will provide a softer cushion of the Buffs falter early, winning two of the first three on the road would be a huge plus for a squad that endured an up-and-down run through the season's first two months.

"I look at it as an 18-game schedule, and we have nine at home and nine on the road," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "We'll play them as they come. If we don't get off to a good start — we have five of the first seven on the road, so the latter part of the schedule favors us as far as being at home. You'd like to steal some road games, and if you do so early you're in good position.


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"If that doesn't happen we can't hit the panic button. We have to look at this as a marathon, not a sprint. But we'd like to get out of the gates quick if we can."

The Pac-12 slate gets off to a rousing start Wednesday night with UCLA visiting No. 21 Oregon. Here is a glance at the nonconference resumes compiled by the Pac-12 competitors.

Arizona Wildcats

Record: 11-2.

Good wins: Michigan State, Texas A&M.

Bad losses: None.

California’s Ivan Rabb, left, has helped the Golden Bears lead all Pac-12 teams in scoring defense.
California's Ivan Rabb, left, has helped the Golden Bears lead all Pac-12 teams in scoring defense. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Outlook: First, redshirt freshman Ray Smith suffered his third major knee injury in two years. Then Allonzo Trier, selected to the Pac-12 All-Freshmen team last year, began the season on the bench and has remained there due to off-court issues that have yet to be disclosed. Finally, junior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright went down with an ankle injury Nov. 30 and hasn't returned. Nonetheless, coach Sean Miller's bunch has suffered losses only against No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 13 Butler by a combined 11 points. The Buffs get an early look at the 18th-ranked Wildcats on the road Jan. 7.

Arizona State

Record: 7-6.

Good wins: UNLV, San Diego State.

Bad loss: Davidson.

Outlook: The Sun Devils have played an impressive nonconference slate in the second season under coach Bobby Hurley. ASU, though, has gotten trounced in front of national audiences, losing to Kentucky by 46 and Purdue by 33. ASU ranks last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (81.7), defensive field goal percentage (.462), and rebounding margin (minus-2.8). The Sun Devils have sported individual standouts in Torian Graham, who is tied for second in the Pac-12 in scoring (17.8) and Obinna Oleka, who shares the league in rebounding (10.8).

Cal Golden Bears

Record: 9-3.

Good wins: None.

Bad loss: San Diego State.

Outlook: Ivan Rabb opted to return to Cal instead of reaping the riches of an NBA lottery pick, and the 6-foot-11 sophomore is a big reason why the Bears top all Pac-12 teams in scoring defense (59.3) and defensive field goal percentage (.366). However, last summer's sudden transfer of sharpshooter Jordan Mathews to Gonzaga still stings, and injuries to guard Jabari Bird and 7-foot-1 Kameron Rooks have prevented the Bears from utilizing their entire rotation for much of the season. An uneven showing in nonconference play ended on a positive note as Cal took 12th-ranked Virginia to the wire in a four-point loss.

Colorado Buffaloes

Record: 10-3.

Good win: Xavier.

Bad loss: Colorado State.

Oregon’s Chris Boucher, right, will miss the start of Pac-12 play with an ankle injury.
Oregon's Chris Boucher, right, will miss the start of Pac-12 play with an ankle injury. (Chris Pietsch / Associated Press)

Outlook: The Buffs have been marked by inconsistency, narrowly escaping upset bids by Seattle and Wofford at home, then bouncing back from a bad loss against Colorado State by knocking off then-No. 13 Xavier. The addition of Derrick White and the injury comeback of Xavier Johnson have made the Buffs more versatile on offense, though the team's league-leading percentages on 3-pointers and free throws from a year ago are down so far. The Buffs might learn early where they stand in the league after opening league play with three straight on the road—Utah, Arizona State, and Arizona—followed by a homestand against the two undefeated teams from Los Angeles.

Oregon Ducks

Record: 11-2.

Good wins: Boise State, Tennessee, UConn.

Bad loss: Georgetown.

Outlook: The Ducks began the season as the overwhelming favorite to repeat as the Pac-12's regular season and tournament champion while matching, at least, last spring's run to the Elite Eight. Certainly the talent remains to put together that sort of run, but injuries and a lack of cohesion has contributed to Oregon being supplanted by UCLA as the Pac-12 front-runner. League play tips off with a possible classic as the second-ranked Bruins take aim at Oregon's 33-game home win streak on Wednesday night. With standout forward Chris Boucher nursing an ankle injury, the 21st-ranked Ducks then get to host No. 22 USC on Friday.

Oregon State Beavers

Record: 4-9.

Good wins: None.

Bad losses: Several, including home setbacks against Savannah State and Lamar.

Outlook: The graduation of Gary Payton II, combined with injuries during nonconference play to the team's top two returning scorers, Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr., have brought the Beavers back down to earth after the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance in 26 years. Thompson has averaged 15.2 in six games since returning, but Tinkle is likely to remain sidelined with an injury through at least the first three weeks of league play. With uncertain guard play, the Beavers rank last in the Pac-12 in scoring (66.8) and turnover margin (minus-3.31).

Stanford Cardinal

Record: 8-4.

Good win: Seton Hall.

Bad losses: None, though a 23-point loss at SMU wasn't pretty.

Outlook: After the Los Angeles schools, Stanford counts as one of the Pac-12's pleasant surprises through nonconference play. After missing most of last season due to injury junior Reid Travis has thrived under first-year coach Jerod Haase, averaging 17.8 points and 9.8 rebounds with a .569 field goal percentage. Narrow defeats against nationally-ranked St. Mary's and Kansas should give the Cardinal the confidence it can battle against the Pac-12's best.

USC Trojans

Record: 13-0.

Good wins: Texas A&M, SMU, BYU.

Bad losses: None.

Outlook: The roster turnover didn't slow coach Andy Enfield's up-tempo approach. It has been a group effort for the Trojans, who don't have a player ranked in the Pac-12's top 10 in scoring and rebounding yet nonetheless have forged an undefeated record behind an offense averaging 83.2 points per game. Six players average at least 9.8 points for USC. The Trojans haven't been overly tested in nonconference play, with the victory against SMU ranking as their only one against a team currently boasting a top-50 RPI. That changes for No. 22 USC Friday with a visit to No. 21 Oregon.

UCLA Bruins

Record: 13-0.

Good wins: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State.

Bad losses: None.

Outlook: With a talented group of veterans set to take the floor with one of the top freshman classes in the nation, it was billed as make-or-break year for coach Steve Alford. So far, so good for the Bruins, who used an impressive dismantling of Kentucky on the road to propel their climb to the nation's No. 2 ranking. Freshman Lonzo Ball ranks second in the nation with 8.3 assists per game while shooting .534 from the floor. Fellow rookie TJ Leaf leads UCLA with 17.5 points per game while adding 9.2 rebounds. Meanwhile, retrunees Isaac Hamilton, Bryce Alford, and Aaron Holiday all are averaging at least 14.5 points. The Bruins, averaging 95.8 points with a league-leading .550 field goal percentage, visit the Coors Events Center on Jan. 12.

Utah Utes

Record: 9-3.

Good wins: None.

Bad loss: San Francisco.

Outlook: A revamped Utes team didn't play the world's most difficult nonconference slate, and an injury to junior forward Kyle Kuzma early in the loss to San Francisco could affect the Utes in their league opener against CU on Sunday. Utah recently gained the midseason eligibility of transfers David Collette and Sedrick Barefield, with both players averaging just over 15 points in a limited showing so far. Without Kuzma, the Utes displayed the sort of grit that has become typical under coach Larry Krystkowiak by finishing the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last week with wins against Hawaii and Stephen F. Austin.

Washington Huskies

Record: 7-5.

Good wins: None.

Bad loss: Nevada.

Outlook: Last year, Washington boasted to players eventually selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft in addition to the league's leading scorer, yet the Huskies were relegated to the NIT. UW is profiling similarly this year, despite the individual brilliance of freshman guard Markelle Fultz. Already billed as a lottery pick next summer, Fultz's 22.0 scoring average makes him the only player in the Pac-12 averaging 20 points. However his individual brilliance has not been enough for the Huskies to make up for other shortcomings, as they rank 11th in the league in scoring defense (80.2), 11th in defensive field goal percentage (.434), and last in defensive 3-point percentage (.388).

Washington State Cougars

Record: 7-5.

Good wins: None.

Bad losses: New Orleans, San Jose State.

Outlook: Senior Josh Hawkinson remains a double-double machine, averaging 15.2 points and a league-leading 10.8 rebounds. Yet once again Hawkinson will be fighting an uphill battle in lifting the Cougars into relevancy in the Pac-12. Despite Hawkinson, WSU is one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league, and the Cougars rank 11th in the league with a turnover margin of minus-2.33.

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07