The week of Jan. 13, 2014 was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons for Colorado basketball fans.
A day earlier, a 15th-ranked Buffaloes squad lost at Washington. Far more devastating than the 17-point loss against the Huskies, and the ensuing four-spot dip in the polls, was the loss of guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who suffered a torn ACL and never donned a Buffs jersey again.
CU dropped to No. 21 on Jan. 13, 2014 and promptly split home dates against USC and UCLA. The Buffs dropped out of the AP top 25 the following week and haven’t been ranked since. At least until this week.
Saturday night’s contest against San Diego will mark a milestone of sorts for the CU program. Not only will it be the first home game of the 10th season of the Tad Boyle coaching era, but it will be the first time the 25th-ranked Buffs hit the CU Events Center floor as a ranked squad since that momentous week nearly six years ago.
“It helps bring attention to you, no doubt. You’re on the ticker more now,” Boyle said. “It just brings a little bit more light on to the program, and that’s a good thing. But what I love about college basketball is that stuff doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t hurt. But it puts a little more of a bulls-eye on your back though, too.”
Since the current core group of Buffs took over the rotation for the 2017-18 season, CU has gone winless against just two annual foes. One is Washington, lately one of the top teams in the Pac-12 Conference. The other is San Diego, which probably wasn’t expecting to be eyeing a sweep going into the finale of a two-for-one arrangement the programs agreed to years ago.
While the Buffs’ rotation has matured since the teams’ last meeting, a 70-64 loss in CU’s first 2018-19 road game a year ago, San Diego’s has been completely overhauled. Like the Buffs, the Toreros were an NIT team a year ago but lost their top four scorers. San Diego also lost its most experienced forward, Yauhen Massalski, to a foot injury after the season opener.
“It’s a good feeling, obviously. Something we worked hard for all spring, all summer,” point guard McKinley Wright said of the Buffs’ new status as a nationally-ranked team. “But I don’t think No. 25 is where we want to be. We think we’re a better team than that. We have to keep coming out, taking it one game at a time. These guys, they’ve beaten us the last two years. I’ve never beaten San Diego. It’s going to be a big one for us and it’s the home opener. It’s a must-win.”
Saturday’s contest is the Buffs’ first since returning from China, where they topped Pac-12 rival Arizona State last week in the season opener. It will be a short turnaround before Monday’s home date against UC-Irvine, but then the Buffs will enjoy another six-day break before taking on Wyoming in Las Vegas on Nov. 24.
“They’re really good defensively. You look at their numbers and you watch them on film, and they’re really solid,” Boyle said. “To me, they execute their stuff on offense. But defensively, they’re really solid. They don’t beat themselves. You have to make shots against them and you have to execute and have patience.”
San Diego Toreros at No. 25 CU Buffs men’s basketball
TIPOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m., CU Events Center.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks; Radio — 850 AM.
RECORDS: San Diego 2-2; Colorado 1-0.
COACHES: San Diego — Sam Scholl, 2nd season (25-19 overall and at San Diego); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 10th season (190-123, 246-189 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: San Diego — G Joey Calcaterra, So., 18.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, .400 3-point percentage; G Braun Hartfield, Jr., 12.5 pg, 6.8 rpg; G Marion Humphrey, R-Fr., 10.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 spg; Colorado — G McKinley Wright, So., 17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.0 apg; F Tyler Bey, Jr., 15.0 ppg, 12.0 rpg; G/F D’Shawn Schwartz, Jr., 15.0 ppg, 3.0 apg.
WHAT TO WATCH: The Buffs are intent on improving on last year’s .323 mark on 3-pointers and got off to a solid start in that department, going 6-for-16 (.375) in the opening win against Arizona State. CU will be tested by a San Diego squad that has held its first four opponents to a .227 mark (17-for-75) from the arc.
NOTES: The Buffs went 3-for-18 on 3-pointers and shot just .259 overall, their lowest mark ever at the CU Events Center, in a loss against San Diego in Boulder two years ago…Redshirt sophomore Evan Battey enjoyed a big game during last year’s loss at San Diego, finishing with 18 points and four rebounds…CU assistant Bill Grier was the head coach at San Diego for eight seasons from 2007 to 2015….San Diego got back to .500 with a 71-56 win Thursday night at Weber State… CU senior Lucas Siewert’s next appearance will be his 100th game with the Buffaloes…CU is 9-0 in home openers under Boyle…Bey posted the 20th double-double of his career against Arizona State. He needs to more to tie Wilky Gilmore for the 12th-most in CU history.