The Colorado Buffaloes spent much of the offseason, as well as the preseason, explaining how one of the primary challenges surrounding the 2019-20 season would be the Buffs’ ability to, as head coach Tad Boyle often put it, “block out the noise.”
And maybe the Buffs have done that, ignoring the preseason headlines as well as the likely soon-to-be-history national ranking. But they sure aren’t playing like it.
When the Buffs get back to work Monday morning following two days off, there will be little choice to ratchet up the intensity as a CU team struggling to put together consistent offensive possessions and plagued by turnovers braces for another demanding stretch of the schedule.
Coming off a week in which the Buffs played at No. 2 Kansas, hosted a solid Northern Iowa squad, and played at state rival Colorado State in just a seven-game span, CU is bracing for a visit from Prairie View A&M, a team that took Arizona State and Loyola Marymount to the wire last week, before turning around to face No. 14 Dayton in Chicago less than 48 hours later.
For a team that barely survived the CSU Rams to end a two-game losing streak, while mired in an offensive funk in which the team’s turnover issues continues to mount, the upcoming week hardly will provide a pre-holiday breather.
“I think it’s just a little stretch of adversity,” CU junior wing D’Shawn Schwartz said. “Obviously we won the game, which is great, but there’s still a lot of steps we need to take before we face teams like Dayton and obviously the Pac-12. Just trying to make sure we’re not too low, not too high. Just staying in the gym, stay working, keep getting better.”
Turnovers have never been the strength of Boyle’s teams during his previous nine years at the helm, but his 10th CU team has taken that weakness to a new level through 10 games. In previous years the turnover shortcomings tended to strike in bunches as was the case, in one prominent example, in the Buffs’ loss to UConn in the first round or their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016.
Those bunches are occurring more frequently. Boyle’s first CU team in 2010-11 averaged 11.7 turnovers per game, which remains the lowest mark of his tenure. In the eight full seasons afterward, the high-water mark was 14.1 turnovers two years ago, while the average turnover total in the other six seasons hovered within a thin range between 12.1 and 13.4.
Through 10 games this season, the Buffs are averaging 15.5 turnovers per game. They have enjoyed just one game in single-digit turnovers, committing seven against UC Irvine on Nov. 18, but CU hasn’t posted fewer than 12 in any other game. The Buffs will go into their Thursday night home date against Prairie View A&M (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) averaging 18 turnovers over the past five games.
“I think we’ve just got to do a better job of executing,” CU senior forward Lucas Siewert said. “I think our defense has been there since the season started. Our offense hasn’t. I feel a lot of it is because of turnovers. We’ve had a little problem with that. I think that’s the only reason why we haven’t really blown teams out. As coach said, CSU got 17 more shots up than we did. That just shows how much improvement we have (to make) on offense, and that’s the key for us to live up to that expectation everyone is looking to.”