It doesn't feel like it was so long ago when the youngsters on the Colorado men's basketball team were packing their bags for Italy, ready for a series of August exhibitions that would provide their first taste of competition in Buffaloes uniforms.

All of a sudden the calendar has turned to 2018, and when the Buffs hit the road this week to face USC and UCLA in Los Angeles, they officially will begin the second half of the 2017-18 season.

With 16 games in the books CU has at least 15 games remaining, including a minimum of one game in the Pac-12 Conference tournament. As expected with a young team, CU has experienced its fair share of ups and downs through the first half of the season. The Buffs go into the second half carrying a wealth of momentum following a pair of top-15 wins at home against Arizona State and Arizona, a roll they hope will lead to a the sort of road success that has eluded CU so far.

"With the youngsters, I'm pleased," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "I really think our freshmen have produced for us in a big-time way. I'm pleased with our freshmen. And some of those guys, like McKinley Wright, I don't even consider him a freshman anymore, he's played so many minutes. And he's such a mature kid.

"I'd still like to have the San Diego game back, the Colorado State game back. I still think Iowa even though it was a road environment it was a winnable game. So there's always a couple you'd like to have back."


The positives for the Buffs through the first half of the season begins with guard McKinley Wright, who on Monday became the first CU freshman to win the Pac-12's Player of the Week honor. Wright has emerged as the unquestioned team leader both on the floor and off, pacing the Buffs in scoring (16.2) and assists (5.3) while providing one of the season's first-half highlights with his winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Quinnipiac on Nov. 17.

While this past weekend's wins against ASU and Arizona reshapes the potential of the season for the Buffs, there still are plenty of shortcomings to address before the Buffs can potentially play their way into NCAA Tournament consideration. Most prominently is that CU has yet to win a true road game, boasting a road mark of 0-4 that actually becomes 0-5 if a neutral-floor loss against Iowa is included in what was a decidedly pro-Iowa atmosphere in South Dakota.

The Buffs also are committing too many turnovers (12.6 per game, 16.0 over the past six games) and have experienced unexpected struggles from 3-point range, though the Buffs went 17-for-42 (.405) in the wins against ASU and Arizona.

"We've made a lot of progress," Wright said. "Just our hard work and dedication to this game the last two weeks has been tremendous. I think if we come out with this type of energy and effort every night, we have a good chance of winning the Pac-12."

Pat Rooney: or