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Tad Boyle discusses future of CU Buffs-CSU Rams hoops rivalry

CU leader willing to keep series intact if “it’s a quality game”

Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle said he's willing to continue CSU rivalry as long as it remains a quality nonconference matchup.
Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer TIMES-CALL
Colorado basketball coach Tad Boyle said he’s willing to continue CSU rivalry as long as it remains a quality nonconference matchup.

Colorado State will visit the CU Events Center next season.

Beyond that, state’s biggest annual basketball rivalry might be in more danger of going on hiatus that it was a year and a half ago.

Barring an unexpectedly positive run by Colorado State this season, the current agreement between the schools will expire after next season. When the previous contract expired following the 2017-18 season, a year that saw CSU top a young, short-handed Buffs team in Fort Collins before going 7-17 the rest of the way, Boyle and then-new CSU coach Niko Medved entered into an agreement unique to the rivalry.

Unless CSU’s average RPI for last year and this season falls between one and 150, the current agreement will end with another home date in Boulder next season. Finishing between 1-151 would invoke another game in Fort Collins in 2021-22. Yet given the Rams finished last season in the 230s, depending on which RPI system is referenced, CSU would have to end this season in the range of a lower-tier seed in the NCAA Tournament in order for the series to be continued in the 2021-22 season.

With the rivals set to meet for the 129th time overall Friday night in Fort Collins (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network), Boyle was asked how the rivalry might continue deep into the next decade.

“I’m going to do the same thing. I’m going to have the same stance I have right now,” Boyle said. “I’m not changing my stance on it. I think Colorado State is a quality one right now. But what we can’t have happen, I think it was coach (Larry) Eustachy’s last year when they beat us and it turned into a bad loss. If we play Colorado State, we’re risking losing a game. And if we lose a game, and they’re not a quality opponent, I would be the dumbest coach in America to keep the series going. As long as it’s a quality game, we’ll play them.”

The game Boyle referenced occurred two years ago. It was just the seventh career game (and first true road game) for the Buffs’ current core of juniors McKinley Wright IV, Tyler Bey, and D’Shawn Schwartz. Senior big man Tory Miller-Stewart, CU’s best defensive option against CSU forward Nico Carvacho, suffered a season-ending foot injury leading up to the game. His backup, current senior Lucas Siewert, played only six minutes when pressed into duty after missing the previous game due to a sprained ankle.

That’s not at all to say a Buffs team that finished 17-15 would have reached the NCAA Tournament with a win at CSU. But in a rivalry in which records routinely can be thrown out the window, Boyle wants to hedge his bets against the sort of loss that might be understandable in the short-term yet disastrous in the big picture.

Further muddying the picture is the Pac-12 Conference’s new scheduling standards, which require league members to compile nonconference schedules against foes whose aggregate trailing five-year average NET ranking is at least 175. CSU’s final NET ranking last year was 193.

“When Niko got the job we talked about it,” Boyle said. “He understands where I’m coming from. We’re on the same page. We have to be compensated for our risk. It’s their Super Bowl, we get beat, and it’s a bad loss. I know where I’m at with this game, it’s the other games you just have to figure out.”

Friday’s game will mark the 29th consecutive season the state rivals have squared off.