The possibility of perhaps squaring off against Larry Brown, a basketball Hall of Famer and Tad Boyle’s college coach at Kansas, is not exactly an entirely new proposition for the Colorado Buffaloes’ head coach.
For the past four years, Boyle’s Buffs have taken on Brown’s Mustangs in preseason scrimmages. While several factors have to fall into place for the matchup to become a reality — most notably for CU, the need to continue its 10-game winning streak against Penn State on Tuesday in the first bracket game of the Las Vegas Classic — the opportunity to square off against a basketball Hall of Famer and a personal mentor is an uncomfortable one for Boyle.
“I hate playing against friends and, in coach Brown’s case, a mentor,” Boyle said. “But it will just be another game. Once the ball is tipped up, he’s going to want to win, and I’m going to want to win. I’ve got great respect and love for him, and I always will. That’s not going to change.”
The offseason controversy that forced Brown to take a suspension and saw the SMU program suffer scholarship and postseason sanctions due to academic fraud and ethical violations has not deterred No. 18 SMU from putting together an undefeated start.
The Mustangs, who face Kent State on Tuesday, will bring a 9-0 mark to Las Vegas and have outscored their opponents by an average of more than 24 points.
“You get a chance to coach against a legend and a Hall of Famer, it’s a great opportunity,” Boyle said. “Not only for me, but our players and our coaching staff. I have great respect for him and what’s he’s done in his life as a basketball player and coach. I’m one of the few guys around who still remembers coach Brown as a player.”
No bright lights
The Buffs have traveled to Las Vegas somewhat regularly during Boyle’s six-season tenure at CU. The familiarity with the brightly lit terrain, alongside the focus the Buffaloes have displayed during their 10-1 start, has Boyle confident his club will focus on the tasks at hand this week instead of the many distractions Vegas has to offer.
“I trust our team and I trust our guys are going to make good decisions,” Boyle said. “Where we are and what we’ve done up to this point, I think our players appreciate it, understand it, and they know what’s at stake. I don’t think there will be any craziness.”
For the first time this season, Boyle altered the rotating starter situation among George King, Josh Fortune, and Tre’Shaun Fletcher on Saturday. Boyle brought Fletcher off the bench on a night that normally would have seen the junior in the starting lineup.
The juggling act was medically based rather than performance-based, as Fletcher missed practice time during the week while being examined under the concussion protocol stemming from a hit he absorbed Dec. 12 against Brigham Young.
Senior forward Josh Scott is one of three players in the nation averaging at least 18 points and nine rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the floor. The other members of that club are Utah’s Jacob Poeltl and Belmont’s Evan Bradds. … CU’s 53-point explosion in the second half of Saturday’s win against Hampton marked the third time this season the Buffs have scored at least 50 in a half. The Buffs scored 52 points in the second half Friday against Nicholls and 55 points in the second half against Omaha on Nov. 22.