Despite far more risks at hand than when the plan was conceived, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said he hasn’t had second thoughts about allowing the Buffaloes to travel home for the holidays.
Once CU completes its much-anticipated showdown against No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday night at the CU Events Center (7 p.m., ESPN2), the Buffs will be released for a short respite before reconvening in Boulder on Christmas night.
After remaining in Boulder as a team last season and staying semi-sequestered amongst themselves during the holidays in order to keep playing games in college basketball’s pandemic season, Boyle and his staff planned for the short break over Christmas this year. The recent COVID surge, which has impacted games for Pac-12 rivals Washington, USC, and UCLA — among many others in college basketball, including No. 21 Colorado State — hasn’t altered that plan.
“I know it’s a risk, and that’s part of it,” Boyle said. “But look, this is the time of year you should be around your family. You don’t get a lot of breaks as a college basketball player. I was really disappointed we couldn’t do it last year. Obviously without the vaccinations last year it didn’t make sense. It wasn’t prudent. This year, we’re all vaccinated. I’m just hopeful those vaccinations work.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t catch it. To me, it’s more important that they’re with their families at this time of year. And if we have a setback, we have a setback.”
The finish, of course, has been the prevailing memory. But the win posted by CU against then-No. 6 Kansas during the Jayhawks’ most recent visit to the CU Events Center eight years ago became an instant classic due to an impressive cast of characters.
The Jayhawks featured Andrew Wiggins, who went 7-for-11 with a game-high 22 points, and Joel Embiid who, amazingly, came off the bench to post a solid stat line of 10 points, four rebounds and three steals (plus four turnovers).
The Buffs’ own future NBA star, Spencer Dinwiddie, went 8-for-10 at the free throw line and finished with 15 points and seven assists with only one turnover in 31 minutes. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott scored 14 points apiece, combining to go 10-for-18 with 10 rebounds (six for Johnson, four by Scott). And although Askia Booker was just 4-for-11 when he launched the running 3-pointer that gave CU a 75-72 win at the buzzer, he nonetheless finished with 15 points while authoring an all-time shot in program lore.
A bolt-from-the-blue play like Booker’s long-range bomb obviously would bolster the Buffs’ upset chances on Tuesday, but Boyle believes the grit and determination on display that night (Dec. 7, 2013) offers a template as the Buffs take aim at the seventh-ranked Jayhawks in KU’s long-awaited return.
“I just remember Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins,” Boyle said. “They were talented and long. Our guys, they relished the opportunity. They didn’t back down from the challenge. And that’s what you have to do. You have to be mentally tough against Kansas. And you can’t be mentally tough without being physically tough, so we can’t back down from the fight and the challenge they give us. You’ve got to meet it head on, and we have to be able to make plays. And obviously last time here, we made a play — Askia Booker made a hell of a shot.”
CU began the day Tuesday at No. 110 in the NET rankings and No. 77 at KenPom.com. KU is seventh in the NET and fourth at KenPom…Only two current CU players competed against the Jayhawks when a 20th-ranked Buffs squad suffered a 72-58 loss against No. 2 Kansas in Lawrence two years ago (Dec. 7, 2019). Forward Evan Battey went 5-for-8 with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Elijah Parquet scored seven points…On this date in 2019: CU scored a thrilling overtime win against No. 13 Dayton in Chicago on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by D’Shawn Schwartz.