Taking care of business at home hardly is an original concept in competitive athletics, let alone in major college basketball.
Yet the way the wild Pac-12 Conference is shaping up for the 2016 stretch run, claiming two-game sweeps on the road will be difficult, if not impossible, to count on.
For the Colorado Buffaloes, who have earned splits of their first two road series of the Pac-12 schedule, defending their Coors Events Center floor has grown even more imperative given the logjam in the middle of the league standings. Only six home games remain, a slate that begins Wednesday night as Stanford visits the CEC (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
“If we want to get to where we want to get, which is the top half of the league and competing for a league championship, you have to win at home. Because you know how hard it is to win on the road,” CU coach Tad Boyle said. “That’s where we need our fans. We really need a great home-court atmosphere. I think with the combination of altitude and great energy in this building, we’re hard to beat.”
The week begins with two teams sharing the league lead at 5-2 — Washington and an Oregon club that lost at CU on Jan. 17. After that, six teams are lumped together at 4-3, a crowd that includes CU, Stanford and Cal, which visits Colorado on Sunday.
“You can’t be a top-four seed if you lose at home,” CU senior Josh Scott said. “We only have six of them left (at home) and it’s important to get every one of them.
“I didn’t think the league would be as deep as it was. There’s a lot of good teams in the league. In terms of winning, these are probably the toughest four wins I’ve had in Pac-12 play in four years of being here. It’s like that this year. You have no off nights.”
In addition to keeping pace in the crowded Pac-12 standings, the Buffs also will face a familiar challenge for the first time this season with its first repeat matchups in the conference schedule. Despite a rough second half, CU managed to escape Stanford on Jan. 3 with a one-point victory after leading by 10 with eight minutes to go. Two days earlier, the Buffs fell flat in a league-opening loss at Cal.
“Stanford, you look at the second half at their place, and I’m sure if I’m (coach) Johnny Dawkins or one of their players they feel like they could’ve won that game,” Boyle said. “This is a much-improved Stanford team from where they were on January the third.”