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20-game Pac-12 hoops schedule to provide boost to CU Buffs

Challenge of finding quality nonconference games lessened

Colorado head coach Tad Boyle feels the new 20-game Pac-12 schedule is good for the Buffs.
Helen H. Richardson / THE DENVER POST
Colorado head coach Tad Boyle feels the new 20-game Pac-12 schedule is good for the Buffs.

As the Colorado men’s basketball program struggled to put together a competitive nonconference schedule for the 2018-19 season, head coach Tad Boyle started reconsidering the notion of a longer Pac-12 Conference schedule.

Previously, Boyle was satisfied with the way the schedule was pieced together, with 12 nonconference games spread out over November and December allowing his Buffaloes an opportunity to prepare for the 18-game league slate that always tipped off after the holidays.

Soon that format will change. Earlier this month, the Pac-12 announced it will move to a 20-game league schedule for the 2020-21 season. And it is a change Boyle is embracing.

“I’m even more convinced now. At least for Colorado, and I think it’s a good thing for our league as well,” Boyle said. “I don’t think it was a unanimous feeling that it was good for everybody, because I think there’s some schools that don’t have the difficulty getting the quality games that others do. And we’re one of them. A 20-game schedule will be good for Colorado, in my opinion.”

Details of how the 20-game schedule will look have yet to be determined. In the current 18-game format, each Pac-12 team plays home-and-home sets with seven opponents and a single game against four others. In 2019-20, the Buffs will not travel to Washington and Washington State and will not host Arizona and Arizona State.

Some sort of rotation system will have to remain in play, and there have been discussions about making certain marquee matchups are highlighted on the docket. Regardless, for a CU team that finished the season with the fourth-best NET Ranking in the Pac-12 (65), the 20-game league schedule will at least give the Buffs two additional quality opponents.

Using last season as an example, if the Buffs had played a home date against last-place Cal, which CU only played once on the road, the likely win would have been against a team that finished with a NET of 225. Not great by any definition, yet it still was better than four opponents on CU’s nonconference slate — South Dakota (230), Air Force (244), Charlotte (266), and Portland (326) — and barely ahead of the pace of two others (Indiana State 204, Illinois-Chicago 211).

Boyle noted the change might make scheduling quality home-and-home series slightly more difficult, but CU has had difficulty scheduling those anyway.

“You get two quality games. That’s the toughest part about our nonconference schedule. It’s not getting games. It’s getting quality games,” Boyle said. “I don’t know what direction we’re going with yet on the 20-game schedule. Not only who we’re going to play, but when we’re going to play them. That’s still to be determined.

“It’s going to be different. It’s going to be a change from what we’re used to. In a perfect world, I think we’d all like to wait until after Christmas until starting conference play. But the way it’s set up, it’s getting difficult to do that. We’re just going to have to adjust to it and deal with it when it happens.”

Eight of the Buffs’ 12 nonconference slots for the 2019-20 season already are set. CU will play four games in the MGM Resorts Main Event, with two of those games in Las Vegas and two others at home against opponents still to be announced.

The Buffs will play a nonconference date against league rival Arizona State in the Pac-12’s annual season-opening game in China, and also will face Dayton in an NIT first-round rematch on Dec. 21 in Chicago. CU will travel to Colorado State and hosts San Diego in the completion of a two-for-one agreement.