Despite a second procedure recently on his ailing right knee, the status of freshman Javon Ruffin remains up in the air as the Colorado men’s basketball team tips off the 2021-22 campaign.
Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle told BuffZone that Ruffin recently endured what Boyle described as a “clean up” procedure on his right knee. Ruffin underwent knee surgery over the summer to repair cartilage damage from a dislocated kneecap, a situation that has limited Ruffin’s first preseason with the Buffs.
Ruffin did not play during CU’s four-game exhibition trip to Costa Rica in August, but he was cleared to practice shortly after official preseason workouts began on Sept. 28. Boyle conceded several times during the preseason that, at best, Ruffin would not be 100 percent until at least December, and Ruffin played only four minutes in the preseason opener against Colorado Mines on Oct. 27.
Continued swelling in the knee kept Ruffin on the sideline as the Buffs completed preseason play with a loss at Nebraska on Oct. 31. Boyle has said a redshirt remains a possibility for Ruffin, the son of former Cherry Creek star and NBA veteran Michael Ruffin. While that decision has not yet been settled, the Buffs will go into Tuesday’s season opener at home against Montana State (8 p.m., Pac-12 Mountain) without two of the players that gave the Buffs the top-ranked recruiting class in the Pac-12. Freshman forward Quincy Allen already has been ruled out for the 2021-22 season due to a hip injury.
“We should know something in the next couple of weeks,” Boyle said. “But I don’t expect to have (Ruffin) these first couple weeks.”
CU freshman guard KJ Simpson admitted he battled nerves as much as the opposition during the Buffs’ exhibition win at home against Mines. Yet after absorbing that experience, as well as CU’s preseason visit to Nebraska, the dynamic Simpson believes he’s ready for when the lights go on for real on Tuesday night.
“Once you’re in that moment, it’s surreal,” Simpson said. “But I feel like not only the Mines game, but also the Nebraska game helped a lot. This (Montana State) game is all about preparation. We got the nerves out of the way. Now it’s time to play.”
Given the inexperience in the backcourt, turnovers are a potential issue for the Buffaloes. CU recorded 16 turnovers against only 10 assists during the exhibition loss at Nebraska last week, and Boyle said reckless giveaways have been an issue at practice lately.
“We’d better take care of the ball, because turnovers have become a major issue in practice,” Boyle said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball and get a great shot on offense. We’ve got to control the backboards (against Montana State). They’ve got three or four guys that can play in the Pac-12.”
Montana State has a newcomer familiar with the Buffs. And he has enjoyed big moments at the CU Events Center.
Former Washington guard RaeQuon Battle transferred to Montana State following last season. He played in 34 games over two seasons with the Huskies, averaging 4.6 points per game last year. One of the four starts Battle made during his UW career was in Boulder on Jan. 25, 2020, when he knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with 12 points in a 76-62 CU victory.
“We’ve got to play through mistakes. We can’t hang our heads, because we’re going to make mistakes. We’ve got to play through them. The youth and inexperience of this team, it’s going to show up at times. We’ve got to be able to regroup when things don’t go our way.”
–Boyle, discussing what could be an early hurdle for the Buffs’ new-look rotation.
All 12 Pac-12 teams will play on opening day, with all games available via the regional Pac-12 networks. The full slate on Tuesday night (*available on Pac-12 national network; All times MT):
Alcorn State at Washington State (1 p.m.)*
UC San Diego at Cal (3 p.m.)*
Texas Southern at No. 13 Oregon (5 p.m.)*
Portland at Arizona State (5 p.m.)
Abilene Christian at Utah (6 p.m.)
CSU Northridge at USC (7 p.m.)*
Tarleton at Stanford (8 p.m.)
Montana State at Colorado (8 p.m.)
Northern Illinois at Washington (8 p.m.)
Portland State at Oregon State (8:30 p.m.)
Northern Arizona at Arizona (8:30 p.m.)*
CSU Bakersfield at No. 2 UCLA (9 p.m.)*
Strange as it seems, Montana State actually leads the all-time series against CU 6-1, with the Buffs’ only victory occurring on Feb. 13, 1924. The Bobcats have won all six matchups since, most recently in a wild 85-82 overtime win in Boulder on Nov. 18, 2008. Cory Higgins and Dwight Thorne paced CU with 21 points apiece.
Former CU point guard McKinley Wright IV put together a huge night in the NBA G League on Monday, scoring 35 points in the Iowa Wolves’ double overtime win against Sioux Falls. Wright went 14-for-24 overall and 4-for-7 on 3-pointers, adding five rebounds, five assists and only two turnovers in 41 minutes. The Wolves won on a Wright 4-point play with 0.2 seconds remaining in the second overtime…Former CU center Dallas Walton started for Wake Forest in its exhibition game last week against Winston-Salem State, going 0-for-2 from the floor with one point and five rebounds. The Demon Deacons open the regular season Wednesday night against William & Mary.