One of the preseason goals set by the Colorado men’s basketball team was a lofty one.
During the 2018-19 season, the Buffaloes decided they would set the bar for the season’s total of road wins at seven.
Setting challenging goals is admirable. But this one may be unattainable for the Buffs. In fact, as near as I can tell seven road wins in a season has never happened at Colorado.
During the previous eight full seasons under coach Tad Boyle, the Buffs have never won more than five true road games in a single season, topping out with a 5-7 mark in 2012-13 and a 4-7 mark in 2011-12.
I’ll confess due to time constraints I didn’t go through the entire 100-plus year history of Colorado basketball, but I did look back through the entire 1990s, including the 1989-90 season. During that span, the Buffs have never won more than six road games in a season — going 6-6 in 1994-95, 6-7 in 1996-97 with Chauncey Billups, 6-6 in 2000-01, and 6-7 in 2003-04.
(UPDATE: Colorado twice has won seven road games in a season, but not in modern times. CU went a program-best 9-1 on the road in 1941-42 and also went 7-2 in ’39-40.)
CU already has suffered two missed opportunities in the quest for seven road wins, dropping a 70-64 decision at San Diego on Nov. 20 and losing 70-62 in overtime at Hawaii two weeks ago. Wins at Air Force and New Mexico gives the Buffs a 2-2 road mark going into the Pac-12 Conference opener Thursday night at Arizona, meaning the Buffs will have to go 5-4 in league road games to make that seven-win goal happen.
That, obviously, has never happened either, as the 4-5 road mark in the Pac-12 by the 2012-13 club counts as the top road effort in the league under Boyle. The idea a club that went 1-10 overall on the road last year and 1-8 within the league will suddenly surpass a goal that has never been achieved in program history is far-fetched, yet the Buffs will have a chance to prove doubters wrong by opening Pac-12 play with five of the first seven games on the road.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the Pac-12 or the Big Sky or the ACC, if you want to finish in the top half of the league and have a chance to win a championship, you have to win on the road,” Boyle said. “You don’t have to win every game on the road, but you have to win games on the road. Our team set a goal before the season of six or seven road wins. If we played Hawaii in Hawaii we wanted seven road wins. Obviously we didn’t get the win there, but we’ve got two of those seven now in the pocket. Which means we’ve got to get seven more.
“Where are they going to come from? I don’t know. But you can’t win five unless you win the first one. We’re looking to get that box checked in terms of our goal list as a team this year.”
The Buffs can probably live with the errant outside shooting of point guard McKinley Wright, particularly if he continues to hover around the 45-to-50 percent range overall from the floor.
But if CU hopes to reach those lofty road win goals, or any of their other preseason goals for that matter, Wright needs to lead the charge in curbing the Buffs’ turnover issues.
While the sophomore guard’s assists have increased slightly — he averaged 5.5 per game last year and posted a 5.8 per game mark through CU’s 12 nonconference games — his turnovers have increased at a far more rapid rate.
After averaging 2.9 turnovers per game last year, Wright is averaging 3.6 per game going into Thursday’s game at Arizona. As a freshman, Wright suffered 11 games in which he committed at least four turnovers, with only two of those occurring over the final 15 games as he settled into his role as CU’s floor general. So far this year, Wright has posted six such outings through the first 12 games, including three four-turnover games in the past five contests.
Wright’s assist-to-turnover ratio last year was 1.86, but he takes a 1.60 mark into Pac-12 play.
Arizona is 73-17 in Pac-12 play over the past five seasons. Under coach Sean Miller, now in his 10th season at Arizona, the Wildcats are 71-10 in home conference games…UA went 22-for-23 at the free throw line in last year’s 80-71 win against the Buffs in Tucson. Wright was 6-for-9 with 15 points, seven assists, and only two turnovers in that game, while since-graduated George King went 9-for-12 with 22 points and six rebounds…Arizona has lost only four home games since the start of the 2013-14 season…Boyle is 5-13 against Arizona.