Late addition of Iona further solidifies 2019-20 slate for CU men’s basketball

Buffs face Gaels for first time Dec. 29

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
University of Colorado’s Shane Gatling, during the first formal MBB practice on Sept. 27, 2019.
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With the tipoff for the 2019-20 season now about a month away, the Colorado men’s basketball team suddenly has another nonconference foe to prepare for in the coming months.

And Buffaloes fans will get an additional opportunity at home to see what should be an entertaining CU squad square off against a solid foe just before the start of Pac-12 Conference play.

On Monday, CU announced the addition of Iona to the 2019-20 schedule, with the Gaels set to visit the CU Events Center on Dec. 29. The game tips off at noon and will air on Pac-12 Networks.

The additional game gives the Buffs a 31-game regular season schedule. CU applied for an NCAA waiver once a second home matchup via the MGM Resorts Main Event in Las Vegas fell through when UT-Arlington pulled out of the multi-team event. Teams are allowed to exceed the 30-game threshold while participating in MTEs, and the loss of UT-Arlington from the home slate prompted coach Tad Boyle’s club to apply for the waiver.

“We were promised two home games before we went to Vegas, and then two neutral-court games in Vegas,” Boyle said. “The operators (of the tournament) couldn’t find a fourth team for the tournament, so we had to get a waiver from the NCAA for the 31st game. Iona was the one team out there still looking for a game.”

It will be the Buffs’ first matchup against Iona, and the additional game further solidifies an already challenging nonconference schedule for a CU team expecting to make a run at an NCAA Tournament berth.

Iona has made four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and is the reigning regular season and conference tournament champion in the Mid Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Gaels lost in the first round last year to North Carolina.

In addition to Iona, the home slate during nonconference play also includes UC-Irvine, an NCAA Tournament team last year, and Northern Iowa, which reached the championship game of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The Buffs also will host San Diego (the home opener on Nov. 16), Sacramento State (Nov. 30), Loyola Marymount (Dec. 4), and Prairie View A&M (Dec. 19).

CU opens its season at the annual Pac-12 Conference game in China against Arizona State in a contest that will be played as a nonconference affair. The Buffs travel to a likely top-10 team in Kansas on Dec. 7 and also face a tough Dayton team in Chicago Dec. 21. In Vegas, the Buffs will play Wyoming on Nov. 24 and either Clemson or TCU on Nov. 26.

The addition of Iona creates a tough late December-early January run for the Buffs, who will have a few days to visit family over the holidays after the Dayton game before returning to Boulder to prepare for Iona. Following the Iona game, the Buffs will prepare for the Pac-12 opener at home Jan. 2 against Oregon, which has a good chance of being tabbed as the league favorite when the preseason poll is announced Tuesday.

“We’ve got a lot of dangerous games on our schedule this year that our fans may not, at first, know,” Boyle said. “UC-Irvine is a dangerous game. Northern Iowa is a dangerous game. Iona at home on December 29th is a dangerous game. It’s up to me and our staff to make sure our guys are mentally and emotionally ready to play those games.

“We’ve got a good team, and we’re going to challenge ourselves with our nonconference schedule. I go back to our first year here when we got left out of the NCAA Tournament with five top-25 wins on our schedule. Because they said our schedule wasn’t strong enough. That’s not going to happen again if I can help it. Especially with a good team.”