Schedule shuffle: CU Buffs to visit No. 13 Tennessee on Dec. 8

Buffs expected to welcome back senior wing D’Shawn Schwartz

Kansas State athletics
Eleven days will pass between games for Evan Battey and the CU men’s basketball team, but after a tough week that included two Pac-12 opponent postponements, CU will play at Tennessee on Tuesday.

Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle did a video media session on Saturday afternoon at the end of a week that has to be among the wilder ones of his 11 seasons leading the Buffaloes. The chaos continued not long after the call concluded.

The always-in-motion 2020-21 schedule was hit by yet another audible on Saturday evening, this one of the intriguing and challenging variety. Instead of hosting Colorado State on Tuesday (the Buffs’ originally-scheduled foe) or Colorado Mines (announced as the Rams’ replacement on Friday), the Buffs instead will hit the road to take aim at a big-time foe with a visit to No. 13 Tennessee on Tuesday night.

To add even further excitement for Buffs fans to a road game against a nationally-ranked foe, Boyle told BuffZone on Saturday evening he expects senior D’Shawn Schwartz to return to the rotation at Tennessee, barring any setbacks in his comeback from a positive COVID-19 test.

Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. MT and the game will be streamed via SEC Network+. It will be just the third matchup between the programs, and the first since a home-and-home series in 1980-81 and 1981-82. The Volunteers won both of those games.

The matchup created on the fly might serve as a perfect metaphor for the early stages of the college basketball season. CU played its only two games of the season so far shorthanded due to coronavirus issues, then went on a two-day pause while having its first two Pac-12 Conference games postponed. Tennessee has yet to play at all after a November COVID-19 breakout that included a positive test for head coach Rick Barnes.

Tennessee had been eyeing a Dec. 12 opener against Cincinnati but added a matchup against UT-Martin on Dec. 9 that has now been canceled. Tennessee had its first four games canceled, including matchups against Gonzaga and Notre Dame in the Jimmy V Classic. CU also canceled its hastily-arranged Tuesday matchup against Colorado Mines.

It will be a reunion of sorts between the Buffs’ veterans and Tennessee assistant Kim English, who spent two seasons as an assistant at CU (2017-18, 2018-19). Boyle credited the relationship between English and Nate Tomlinson, CU’s Director of Player Development, for getting the game together on short notice.

Boyle said the Tennessee matchup has been in the works for days, but if Saturday’s postponed game against Washington State had been rescheduled for Sunday — which was an option at first — the Buffs wouldn’t have traveled to Tennessee on short notice. When a possible Sunday matchup against WSU fell through, the Buffs were clear to make travel plans for Knoxville.

“A lot of credit goes to Nate Tomlinson and Kim English,” Boyle said. “Obviously Rick Barnes and I were (involved) as well, but Nate and Kim were the original brain trust behind getting this game together. Obviously they worked together and they’re good friends and they played against each other. It’s really a cool relationship that they have. It just worked out.”

As for Schwartz, it was his positive COVID-19 test prior to CU’s opener against South Dakota last week that sparked the still-ongoing coronavirus drama surrounding the program. Schwartz was cleared to resume workouts on Friday. Schwartz didn’t practice on Saturday, which was just the third full practice for the Buffs since they defeated Kansas State on Nov. 27, but Boyle said Schwartz is expected to practice on Sunday and Monday.

“We were not at full strength against South Dakota. We weren’t at full strength against K-State. And we will not be at full strength against Tennessee,” Boyle said. “But we’re going to go hook it up and see what happens. In (Schwartz’s) workout (Saturday), he was probably in better shape than we thought he would be and he shot the ball well.

“One thing about D’Shawn, he’s a senior, he’s a veteran. You expect him to pick up where he left off, but we’ll see how the next few days unfolds where he’s at.”