It certainly won’t be an easy season-opening slate for the new-look Colorado men’s basketball team. Yet the new faces dotting coach Tad Boyle’s roster will remain mostly at home while getting accustomed to big-time college basketball.
On Monday, CU announced its nonconference schedule for the 2021-22 season, which will begin with a Nov. 9 home date against Montana State. Although the Buffs will play three games against a solid field of teams at the Paradise Jam in the US Virgin Islands, CU is set to play its first nonconference schedule without a true road game since the 1935-36 season.
With the Buffs and Colorado State both in the eight-team field at the Paradise Jam, the programs have opted to push the final game of their most recent three-game agreement, a CU home date, into the 2022-23 season. While the Buffs and Rams certainly could match up in the Virgin Islands, the 2021-22 season also will mark the first time since the 1990-91 season the Buffs will not have any scheduled dates against in-state programs CSU, Denver, Air Force, or Northern Colorado.
“My biggest thing was, coming out of the pandemic without having fans, and having such a special team last year, I really wanted to upgrade the schedule as best we could with home games,” Boyle said. “They’ll have that opportunity against some quality opponents. I always feel like in nonconference you want to play somebody that you think has a chance to finish in the upper half of their league. It’s a good schedule. One of the best we’ve had.”
As previously reported, CU will host challenging home dates against Tennessee (Dec. 4) and Kansas (Dec. 21), as well as perhaps a deceptively formidable matchup against Milwaukee. The Panthers will feature incoming freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr., ranked as the No. 5 overall prospect in the 2021 recruiting class by 247Sports.com who passed on offers from larger programs in order to play for his father at Milwaukee. The 6-foot-10 Baldwin currently is competing at the USA Basketball U19 World Cup tryout camp alongside CU’s Jabari Walker.
The Buffs will play one school for the first time, hosting Maine on Nov. 15 and another for the first time in 10b years in Cal State Bakersfield on Dec. 18. Former Fairview star Brent Wrapp, who helped lead Cal State Bakersfield to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance and who shares the team’s career assists record, is the Roadrunners’ Director of Basketball Operations.
While the Buffs will enjoy plenty of home cooking to start the 2021-22 season, CU still will face a challenging schedule crunch in early December. With the first two early-season dates set in what is just the second season of the Pac-12 Conference’s 20-game schedule — Nov. 28 at home against Stanford, and Dec. 1 at presumptive league favorite UCLA — the Buffs have a two-week stretch in which they play the final two games of the Paradise Jam (with a possible date against either Creighton or CSU) in addition to Stanford, at UCLA, and Tennessee.
The Kansas date is the completion of a home-and-home series that was supposed to bring the Jayhawks to Boulder last season, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the programs opted to push the game one year. Eastern Washington won the Big Sky Conference tournament. Montana State went 13-10 last year and is welcoming back three of its top four scorers as “super seniors.” And New Mexico will be in the first season under new coach Richard Pitino.
Although CU and CSU won’t meet within the state until next year, Boyle said he and Rams coach Niko Medved have begun discussing renewing the rivalry beyond the 2022-23 season.
“We plan on renewing it beyond (2022-23),” Boyle said. “The Colorado State game is an important game for us. And I think it’s important that we play it for the state of Colorado, and just the basketball fans in the state. Niko and I have talked about that and he knows where we stand on that.”
The Buffs will play Tennessee in Nashville during the 2022-23 season to complete a three-game agreement, and the Kansas home-and-home set comes to an end, but Boyle said the other 2021-22 home dates are one-game contracts and not home-and-home agreements.
Early 2021-22 CU Buffs men’s basketball schedule
(Times, TV info TBD unless noted; *Pac-12 Conference game)
Nov. 9 — MONTANA STATE
Nov. 13 — NEW MEXICO
Nov. 15 — Maine
Nov. 19 — vs. Southern Illinois (Paradise Jam, US Virgin Islands; 6 p.m. MT, ESPN3)
Nov. 20 or 21 — vs. Duquesne/Northeastern (Paradise Jam, US Virgin Islands; ESPN3)
Nov. 22 — TBD (Paradise Jam, US Virgin Islands; ESPN3)
Nov. 28 — STANFORD*
Dec. 1 — at UCLA*
Dec. 4 — TENNESSEE
Dec. 8 — EASTERN WASHINGTON
Dec. 10 — MILWAUKEE
Dec. 18 — CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD
Dec. 21 — KANSAS