Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
CU men’s basketball preview: Drake
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 6 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 850 AM; TV — Pac-12 Network.
RECORDS (2017-18): Drake 17-17; CU 17-15.
LEADERS (top returning from 2017-18): Drake — Scoring: F Nick McGlynn, Sr., 11.8 ppg; Rebounding: McGlynn, 5.7 rpg; Assists: N/A; All top assist players did not return. Colorado — Scoring: G McKinley Wright, So., 14.2 ppg; Rebounding: F Tyler Bey, So., 5.1 rpg; Assists: Wright, 5.7 apg.
NOTES: The Buffs opened a season with Drake once before — in 1996-97, Chauncey Billups’ sophomore year, which included the memorable NCAA Tournament win against Indiana…Wright recorded 21 points and nine assists in the Buffs’ neutral-court win against Drake last year. The Bulldogs’ McGlynn posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds…The Buffs haven’t lost a season opener at home since losing to New Mexico to start the 2007-08 season…CU hosts Omaha on Friday night (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
If there is a quick hook or two by coach Tad Boyle Tuesday night at the CU Events Center, don’t be alarmed.
The leader of the Colorado men’s basketball team has given his Buffaloes a short and succinct game plan for the 2018-19 season opener against Drake. While the Buffs expect to make a run at returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 behind a sophomore class that impressed as rookies a year ago, CU also will feature at least four players who will suit up for the Buffs for the first time.
“I’ve tried to make is really simple for our guys,” said Boyle, set to begin his ninth season at the helm. “Offensively, we want two things. Defensively, we want two things.
“Offensively, we want to take care of the basketball and get a great shot. It’s very simple. Let’s take a great shot and take care of it. Shot selection, I expect it to be good. If you see a guy come out after he’s taken a bad shot, don’t be surprised. Defensively, we want to contest all shots and limit them to one. So if guys are shooting it and our hands are down, you might here the horn go off for a substitution. If they get three offensive rebounds on a possession, you might see a couple subs.”
Although Boyle and his staff were unable to compile the nonconference schedule they would have preferred — the only potential matchup against a foe from one of the top five top non-Pac-12 basketball leagues could be against TCU in the nonconference finale at the Diamond Head Classic on Christmas — the 12-game non-league slate that begins Tuesday nevertheless will provide the springboard for any possible NCAA tourney run by the Buffs.
Last year, when the Buffs missed the tournament for the second consecutive year and did not play in any postseason game for the first time in Boyle’s tenure, critical nonconference losses against the likes of San Diego, Colorado State and Iowa played a key role. While the Buffs still will have to do the heavy lifting for a potential tournament bid in Pac-12 Conference play, any stumble along the way before then will only make that task exponentially more difficult.
“It’s kind of something that people underestimate or overlook,” sophomore guard D’Shawn Schwartz said. “We’ve made it known that that’s the reason we didn’t make the tournament last year, because we beat the (Pac-12) teams that were good enough to make the tournament. We’ve just got to take care of business in nonconference.”
The Buffs will be 10 days removed from their exhibition win against Colorado Mines when the season tips off for real on Tuesday night. Boyle previously described how his club didn’t run any set plays against the Orediggers, and Drake brings a squad to Boulder working in a new coach and an almost entirely new rotation.
Season-openers always involve a certain level of the unknown. Tuesday’s battle might take that factor to the extreme.
“They’ve played two games as well that we have on tape, and I’m sure they didn’t run all their stuff as well,” Boyle said. “They’ve got some stuff maybe in their packet that we haven’t seen. We’ve got some stuff in our packet that they haven’t seen. That’s why you have to have defensive principles. Because you’ve got to be able to go out there and play. You want as a coach to prepare your guys for everything that they’re going to do. But the bottom line is you can’t. Basketball is too fluid a game, too reactionary a game, for every scenario.”