Generally, Tad Boyle neither disparages nor lauds the intricacies of a basketball schedule. The Colorado men’s basketball coach has been consistent in this approach, and at the end of the day the 30-game regular season schedule will include 18 Pac-12 games — nine at home and nine on the road.
However, when the Pac-12 released its weekly pairings for the 2018-19 season on Monday, Boyle couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow.
When the Buffs tip off the Pac-12 slate at either Arizona or Arizona State in early January, it will mark the fourth consecutive season they have begun league play on the road. It also will be the second time in three seasons CU has played five of its first seven Pac-12 games on the road.
“You’d like to think that at some point that would run full circle, but it hasn’t,” Boyle said. “We just have to keep waiting year to year. I have some thoughts on that, but my thoughts don’t really matter when it comes to that. It is what it is. We have to live with it and there’s nothing we can do about it. Play them as they come.”
In the four seasons from 2015-16 through the upcoming season, no Pac-12 team has started every league schedule on the road, or at home for that matter, except the Buffs’ and their run of four straight league openers on the road. The 2018-19 season will be CU’s eighth in the Pac-12, and the Buffs have started the league slate at home only three times — 2011-12, 2013-14, and 2014-15.
Moreover, the Buffs will play five of their first seven Pac-12 games on the road, beginning with an opening trip through Arizona and continuing with dates at Utah, Cal, and Stanford. A far more experienced CU team than the one that will hit the floor this fall also played five of its first seven Pac-12 games on the road in 2016-17. Despite boasting two future NBA draft picks in Derrick White and George King, a Buffs team high on expectations yet short on chemistry started 0-7 and could only salvage a first-round exit in the NIT.
Of course, the early run of road dates also creates an advantageous glut of home games down the stretch (CU plays five of its final seven games at home, including the last three in a row). Yet given the difficulty of winning on the road in college basketball, a rough start away from home often is too difficult to overcome. Last season Arizona State entered league play ranked third in the nation but went 3-4 while playing five of its first seven league games on the road, erasing an early momentum the Sun Devils never recovered.
In that same four-year span between 2015-16 and 2018-19 that has seen the Buffs open on the road annually, five different Pac-12 programs have played five of the first seven league games at home. Three — Oregon, Oregon State, and Stanford — have done so twice. Oregon likely will be heavily favored in the league race this year, and the Ducks get to play five of their first seven Pac-12 contests at home.
CU has played five of its first seven Pac-12 games at home just once — in 2011-12, the Buffs’ first year in the league.
“It is disheartening to start five out of seven on the road for the second time in three years,” Boyle said. “We’d better be ready come the first of January.”