It will be difficult to discern what exactly home court advantage means this season in college basketball with no fans in the stands.
Against this backdrop — with piped-in noise and cardboard cutouts with silent, frozen expressions staring down on the action — teams are being forced to summon their own energy instead of playing off, or against, thousands of screaming fans.
The Buffs just finished their first week of Pac-12 Conference play with three games on the road. Two of those matchups, at UCLA and certainly at Arizona, typically are among the toughest venues for visiting teams in the league. CU went 1-2, falling to 7-3 overall, but now the Buffs get to return home for four consecutive games.
Normally, four straight games at the CU Events Center likely would be the exact remedy needed for a competitive Buffs team to get back on track. After sampling life on the road in the Pac-12 in college basketball’s pandemic season, CU head coach Tad Boyle believes two factors still will play to his team’s advantage at the Events Center — the altitude, and the fact Boyle is confident his team will answer the bell every night.
“It’s a wash. To me, it’s a wash,” Boyle said. “I look at Arizona, there weren’t 14,000 fans in the stands but they played with unbelievable energy. I think it really gets down to the players and the coaches and the mindset of the team that you’re playing. Do they really want to play? I think that’s the one thing that we’re going to find out. It’s going to become more and more obvious as the season plays out. Who really wants to play? Who’s really ready to play? Because you don’t have home court advantage to kind of lift you up.
“Now, when we come back to Colorado, the one thing that we do have an advantage on is the altitude. We know that. That’s a factor. We don’t have our fans in the building, but nobody else does either. So that’s a wash. Our job is to make sure our players are ready to go mentally, emotionally, spiritually. In every sense of the word they’ve got to be ready to play and want to play. The one thing I know about our team is they want to play. We have not come out flat all year long. We’ve been ready to go. We haven’t always played well, but we’ve been ready to play. We want to play. That’s what you’re going to see play out as the season unfolds, in my opinion.”
The Buffs run of four consecutive home games is scheduled to begin Thursday night against No. 21 Oregon (9 p.m. MT, FS1). CU already will have some ground to make up in the Pac-12 race, as the Buffs begin the week as one of only four teams with a losing record within the league. Certainly that disparity is skewered somewhat by the jumbled number of Pac-12 games teams have played so far — Arizona State, for instance, has played only one Pac-12 game, and four others have played just two. Yet the Buffs will try to establish some normalcy to the season by staying afloat via success at home.
“It’s huge for us,” CU point guard McKinley Wright IV said. “We’re a good team at home. We’ve got to take care of business. It’s going to be huge for us. These four games are all must-wins in my eyes.”