CU men’s basketball notes: Lack of outside preseason competition a unique challenge

KU showdown postponed until 2021-22

Photo courtesy CU athletics
BOULDER, CO – October 21, 2020: Colorado’s Jeriah Horne, center, during men’s basketball practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

With fans barred from Pac-12 Conference basketball games until at least Jan. 1, Colorado men’s coach Tad Boyle this week confirmed the obvious that there will be no Black and Gold intrasquad scrimmage this year.

Yet there are no exhibition games or closed scrimmages on the preseason slate this year, either. Boyle said this week he is attempting to put his squad through more five-on-five situations during practice to try to offset the lack of live competition ahead of the Nov. 25 opener against South Dakota State in Manhattan, Kansas.

Still, another aspect to the lack of preseason competition is concerning to Boyle. Typically, the Buffs will have a closed scrimmage against another program, a true exhibition, or one of each before the season officially tips off. Add the annual Black and Gold scrimmage to that ledger, and that is three opportunities for the Buffs to compete with actual NCAA referees overseeing the game.

Boyle is hoping to get clarification this week as to whether he will be able to get officials into the CU Events Center for one of the Buffs’ scrimmages.

“I’ve got to make some phone calls this week to find out if we can get officials in here. Because I think with COVID-19 restrictions and issues, officials and how they travel and how they get tested and all that sort of thing is going to be a piece to the puzzle,” Boyle said. “I think it would be very helpful for our players, rather than have our coaches officiate. They’re not officials, they’re coaches. It’s really helpful to bring in outside officials to do that, but I just don’t know what those restrictions are going to be. And if we can’t do that, then the first time we’ll have a real official will be November 25th in Manhattan, Kansas. Which will be unfortunate. But if that’s the case, that’s the case. I don’t know the answer to that, but hopefully I will by week’s end.”

KU postponed

BuffZone confirmed a report from CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein on Thursday that CU’s much-anticipated home date against Kansas, originally scheduled for Dec. 22 as the return date of a home-and-home series, will be postponed until next season. While missing that game will put a potential dent in the NET rankings of a CU team taking aim at an NCAA Tournament berth, the matchup is likely to offer a far more festive atmosphere for the Buffs than what they would have experienced this year on a Tuesday night in late December without any fans in the CU Events Center.

Crash course

The lack of full team workouts over the summer and the first part of the fall left the Buffs, like most college teams, behind the curve as they began preseason practice last week. For CU’s four true freshmen, in addition to Tulsa graduate transfer Jeriah Horne and the three new walk-ons, the past week has featured a whirlwind of new information.

“We’re going faster because we didn’t have a normal fall,” Boyle said. “Everybody says, ‘Well, you only need 30 practices to get ready anyway.’ Yeah, that’s true, assuming you have a normal fall where you can start instituting some of your team concepts in your workouts. We had none of that. Everything in the fall was individual skill improvement. Which is important. But we got no team stuff done in the fall. Absolutely zero. So when practice starts, we’re behind the game.

“For the new guys it’s a lot of information in a short amount of time. The veteran guys I don’t worry about. We’ve got to dial them up in our execution, but it hasn’t been hard for them mentally. For the freshmen, it’s a lot being thrown at them in a short amount of time.”

Shuffling duties

Assistant coach Mike Rohn’s hiatus from coaching CU’s big men was short-lived.

Last year, Rohn was reshuffled from his long-standing duties of coaching the Buffs’ post players after Boyle added the 6-foot-11 Anthony Coleman to his staff. Coleman returned to Arizona State after just one season, sending Rohn back into the post for his position group this season.

Boyle replaced Coleman with Rick Ray, a 23-year veteran at the Division I level who most recently served as the head coach at Southeast Missouri State. CU’s leader this week offered high praise for the new makeup of his staff.

“Might be, from an experience standpoint for sure, the deepest and well-rounded staff that I’ve been a part of,” Boyle said. “When you think of (Ray’s) pedigree and his coaching experience and assistant coaching experience. We know what coach Rohn brings. Bill Grier we know his Gonzaga days and head coach at San Diego. Those three guys bring a lot to the table.”