Skip to content

CU Buffs men’s basketball notes: Tad Boyle vents at lack of NCAA tourney consideration

Buffs putting turnover issues in the past

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 10: Head coach Tad Boyle of the Colorado Buffaloes reacts as his team takes on the Oregon Ducks during the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 10: Head coach Tad Boyle of the Colorado Buffaloes reacts as his team takes on the Oregon Ducks during the Pac-12 Conference basketball tournament quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — The Colorado men’s basketball team is trying to crash the party at the Big Dance.

Head coach Tad Boyle is frustrated the Buffaloes aren’t a little closer to a formal invitation.

Following his team’s 80-69 win against Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference quarterfinals on Thursday, Boyle expressed some frustration over his own streaking team’s status on the outside of the tournament bubble, as well as what he perceives as a lack of respect for the Pac-12 in general.

“I’m a little disappointed finishing fourth in a Power 5 league and we’re not even in the conversation,” Boyle said. “The only way to get there is to win the next game. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

CU’s win against the Ducks was their eighth in nine games, a run that includes a home win against No. 2 Arizona on Feb. 26. Ten years ago, the Buffs’ strong stretch run and signature win in late February likely would garnered more earnest tournament consideration. In the NET era, CU still has work to do.

The Buffs began Wednesday at No. 74 in the NET rankings, with a 2-5 mark in Quadrant 1 games (NET 1-30 at home, 1-50 neutral, 1-75 on the road). Ironically, Thursday’s win might move one of those Quad 1 wins — CU’s Jan. 25 victory at Oregon — to Quad 2, as Oregon entered the quarterfinals at No. 72 in the NET.

Boyle cited Virginia Tech as one comparable example. The Hokies were at No. 36 in the NET on Thursday, despite a somewhat down year for the ACC and Virginia Tech’s comparable 1-5 mark in Quad 1 games. Thursday’s win bumped CU’s Quad 2 record to 5-3, and the Buffs’ combined Quad 3 and Quad 4 mark is 14-2, the exact same as Virginia Tech’s.

No doubt, several factors have conspired against the Buffs. They went a combined 0-3 against UCLA and USC. A loss against Southern Illinois to open the Paradise Jam in November was doubly damaging, as not only was it one of CU’s Quad 3 losses, but it denied the Buffs more appealing matchups later in the tournament. Two of CU’s nonconference wins (Milwaukee, Maine) were against teams now in the bottom 25 of the NET.

CU’s defeat at Washington on Jan. 27 was a bad loss, and Oregon State’s three-win season dragged down the NET sums for the entire conference. Even if it had been a loss, the canceled Dec. 21 date against Kansas robbed the Buffs of a chance to improve their weak nonconference strength of schedule metrics.

Now if the Buffs want to play in the Big Dance, they have to play their way in.

“Quite frankly, I think there’s a big bias with the East Coast. And, quite frankly, ESPN,” Boyle said. “They’re talking about Virginia Tech. They’re squarely on the bubble. We’re not even in the conversation. I hope the committee is smarter than the people that are putting that thing together. But I can’t sit here and pound the table for Colorado because we lost to Southern Illinois. We had 10 losses. But we have a young team. And if you look at the Colorado team today relative to where we were in November or December, if you don’t think we’re one of the top 68 teams in the country, you’re sorely mistaken.”

Turnover turnaround

For the second consecutive game, the Buffs posted their second-lowest turnover total of the season. And suddenly the turnover issue that plagued the team for much of the year feels as if it has been put in the rear view mirror.

CU committed just eight turnovers in the win against Oregon, one game after recording only nine in the regular season finale at Utah. In CU’s ugly home loss against Oregon on Feb. 3, the Buffs committed 20 turnovers, their second-highest total of the season. At that point, CU averaged 14.5 turnovers per game.

The Buffs have won eight of their nine games since, averaging 11.6 turnovers per game during that run. CU has posted only six games with 10 or fewer turnovers, yet four of those have occurred in the past six games, including the last three in a row.

Individually, star forward Jabari Walker remains the team leader in turnovers by a wide margin (2.4 per game), but he has committed only four in the past three games. During the win against Oregon on Thursday, Walker posted his first zero-turnover game of the season (not including a Dec. 18 win against Cal State Bakersfield in which Walker only played four minutes before departing due to an injury).

Boyle credited some recent drills implemented by assistant coaches Mike Rohn, Bill Grier and Rick Ray for the improved in ball security.

“We work on passing drills in practice. Sometimes they’re elementary,” Boyle said. “Coach Ray is a really good basketball coach. Coach Grier is a really good basketball coach. So is coach Rohn. Sometimes they come up with drills that these guys think might be a little silly or elementary, but they really work. They’ve helped us become better passers. Having freshmen that grow up and learn from mistakes.

“Keeshawn (Barthelemy) has been really good with his assist-to-turnover rate all year. Julian (Hammond) and KJ (Simpson), our young guards, have really gotten better. Jabari has gotten much, much better at taking care of the ball and being a play-maker. I just think it’s maturity and a young team growing up.

Defending Dante

Oregon forward N’Faly Dante grabbed 11 rebounds, but for the third time this season he was limited to just four points against the Buffs. CU’s inside tandem of Walker (a career-high 16 rebounds) and Evan Battey (12 rebounds) helped lead CU to a 40-28 edge on points in the paint and a 15-6 advantage on second-chance points.

“Battey is physical in there. Walker is as good as anybody in the league, in my opinion, and he was obviously one of the best players on the floor today,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “Those two guys are athletic. Their length on the wings gives us problems. (Tristan) da Silva and (Nique) Clifford, they’ve got size on the wings.”


Walker and Battey gave the Buffs two double-doubles in a Pac-12 tournament game for the first time since a first-round win against Arizona State in 2018, when it was done by McKinley Wright IV (20 points, 11 assists) and Tyler Bey (14 points, 10 rebounds)…Oregon was eliminated before the Pac-12 semifinals for the first time since 2014…CU’s 17 assists tied for its fourth-highest mark of the season.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.