Pac-12 Coast to Coast Challenge canceled, but alternate Vegas plan in play for CU basketball

Tad Boyle discusses postponing Kansas showdown

CU athletics
BOULDER, CO – October 21, 2020: Colorado’s McKinley Wright during men’s basketball practice. (Courtesy photo/University of Colorado)

Not only has the much-anticipated visit from the Kansas Jayhawks been postponed for a year, but the Colorado men’s basketball team also no longer has a date with TCU in Las Vegas on the schedule.

A possible December trip to Vegas, however, remains in play for the 2020-21 Buffaloes.

Although the Pac-12 Conference has not yet announced the fate of its inaugural Coast to Coast Challenge, the official website of T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas has the event listed as canceled. The Buffs were set to play TCU on Dec. 19 at T-Mobile Arena as part of a four-game extravaganza scheduled to include a matchup between Oklahoma and Washington, along with the men’s and women’s teams from Oregon and Baylor squaring off.

BuffZone sources indicated the Buffs are attempting to finalize a plan to play two games in Vegas around that same week in late December. The games likely will include at least one other Pac-12 team will be played at a smaller, more affordable Vegas venue than T-Mobile Arena.

Assuming the Vegas event comes to fruition, the Buffs would have five of their seven nonconference dates confirmed. In addition to the two games in Vegas, CU opens the season on Nov. 25 against South Dakota State in Manhattan, Kan., and plays the host Kansas State Wildcats two days later. Head coach Tad Boyle also has said the Buffs still will play Colorado State at home.

It is unclear if the new Vegas event will be scheduled as separate, neutral court matchups — like the Buffs’ win against Dayton as part of a doubleheader at Chicago’s United Center last year — or a multi-team event like the Little Apple Classic at Kansas State. Either way, on Friday the NCAA announced a one-year exception to the rule allowing for only one multi-team event per team per season.

Given the difficulties schools are facing getting games safely scheduled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a glut of multi-team events could crop up on the 2020-21 college basketball schedule in the coming weeks.

“It’s helpful. We owe it to our players to play as many games as we can, which this year is 27,” Boyle said. “I feel like I owe it to the players on our team, especially the guys that were here last year and had the NCAA Tournament taken away from them and our five seniors, I owe it to them to schedule as many quality games as we can. We know we’re going to play 20 league games, and that gives us seven to get. Right now, we either have dates or opponents committed for six of those seven.”

As for the postponed Kansas game, Boyle said it was a mutual decision between CU and Kansas coach Bill Self. Boyle, naturally, wants fans in the stands for what likely will be a raucous, sellout environment. Kansas, in turn, always travels well and has a strong alumni presence in the Denver area.

Boyle confirmed the game will be played next season, though the date hasn’t been finalized.

“It made sense for us,” Boyle said. “I know our seniors are disappointed. I’m disappointed for them. It’s one thing to play Kansas. It’s another thing to play Kansas is an empty arena. And Kansas is getting out here trying to get in front of their alumni in the Denver area. It made sense after talking to Bill (Self), it was kind of a mutual agreement. They felt like they had to rearrange their schedule a little bit nonconference-wise.

“Why play Kansas if our fans can’t enjoy the game? We scheduled that game for our fans and our players. Again, I’m disappointed for our players this year. I’d rather play them this year with McKinley Wright and D’Shawn Schwartz. But next year, it will be another challenge.”