The men’s basketball showdown on Thursday night in Boulder between the Colorado Buffaloes and Colorado State Rams is the final contest under contractual obligation between the longtime state rivals.
It’s unlikely to be the end of the rivalry. Yet when exactly the Buffaloes and Rams might tip off again remains up in the air.
Asked this week if there have been talks about possibly renewing any type of home-and-home agreement, CU head coach Tad Boyle admitted his counterpart, CSU’s Niko Medved, has been more eager to get a new agreement in ink. For his part, Boyle has started coming around to the idea the next season schedule is best left to be settled in the spring, given the prevalence of roster changes in the transfer portal era.
“I know (Medved) wants to,” Boyle said. “I did an absolute awful job with this year’s nonconference schedule. If I make mistakes, I’m not going to make them again. That has nothing to do with CSU. I’m concerned with what’s best for Colorado basketball. I didn’t do a good job with the nonconference schedule. Some of the things were out of my control. But the things that were in my control, I didn’t do a good enough job. I did the best I could, it just didn’t come together the way it should have. We’ve got to figure that out going forward.”
Like many coaches, Boyle expressed reservations about finalizing too many dates before knowing what exactly his roster will look like. CU is set to welcome three freshmen next fall — wing Courtney Anderson, Denver-based big man Assane Diop, and the highly-touted Cody Williams — but after over-signing, Boyle is presuming at least one underclassman on the current roster won’t return next season.
While the Buffs’ tough early schedule has led to a 4-5 mark that is CU’s worst through nine games in 13 seasons under Boyle, the difficulty of that schedule has left the Buffs with a manageable No. 71 spot in the NET rankings as of Thursday morning. When pressed about scheduling regrets he has expressed on several occasions, Boyle said it was less about the degree of difficulty than the lack of home games.
CU opened the season at home against UC Irvine on Nov. 7, but then played its next five games in a 10-day span away from home. Thursday night’s battle against CSU (7 p.m., ESPN2) will be just the fourth home game of the season.
Excluding the pandemic season of 2020-21, when the Buffs’ early schedule was reshuffled on the fly by cancellations and postponements, the last time CU didn’t host its fourth home game until the 10th overall game of the season was in 2007-08, the first season under former coach Jeff Bzdelik.
CSU (6-3) has played six home games and only one true road game, though the Rams also played two neutral-floor games at the Charleston Classic. CU has played two true road games and four neutral-floor games, though one of those neutral contests — the Buffs’ win against Tennessee in Nashville — was neutral in name only.
“I’m not saying soften the schedule,” Boyle said. “Look at Colorado State’s schedule. They play three games at home, and they gain confidence. Then they go to an MTE (multi-team event) and they lost two games at their MTE, just like we did. Then they come home and they get three more games at home.
“So it’s gain some confidence, go figure out what you’ve got to get better at, come home, work on it while you’re still winning games. It’s the lack of home games. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying I didn’t do a good job in terms of the number of games at home. Playing at home is important. Now, we didn’t beat Arizona State in here, that’s on us. We should’ve won that game. We didn’t. What’s the makeup of our team next year? I don’t know. I’m going to hold off games. I’m not rushing to schedule games for next year. I want to see what happens next spring. And I think a lot of coaches are doing the same thing.”
The only confirmed game the Buffs have for 2023-24 is a return home date from Grambling State.
Twin City connection
CU forward J’Vonne Hadley is friends with former CSU star David Roddy, a first-round pick (No. 23 overall) in last summer’s NBA draft who has averaged 6.1 points through his first 24 games with the Memphis Grizzlies. Hadley (St. Paul) and Roddy (Minneapolis) are from the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
“Colorado State was actually my first official offer, so I know a little bit about their program,” Hadley said. “I’m friends with Roddy and might send him a text later and see what he’s doing.”
Hadley, a junior college transfer, has been a bright spot in an inconsistent CU offense, going 15-for-20 while averaging 11.3 points in three games since missing two games due to a shoulder injury. Like everyone on CU’s roster, Thursday will be Hadley’s first glimpse of the CU-CSU rivalry.
“I’m pretty sure we all know what’s at stake,” Hadley said. “We’re playing a really good program with a really good coach and really good players. It’s going to be a good game. We’ve got to come with high energy.”
D II boost
One of the big reasons CSU was able to go 5-2 without standout point guard Isaiah Stevens has been the play of newcomer Patrick Cartier.
A transfer from Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan, Cartier has averaged 18.4 minutes off the bench while contributing 12.0 points per game. Cartier is shooting .587 and is coming off a 3-for-4 effort from 3-point range in CSU’s loss on Saturday against Northern Colorado.
“He can score with his back to the basket. He can score facing the basket,” Boyle said. “He can score from the 3-point line. He’s a good player. He can score over 7-footers. He just puts the ball in the basket.”
On Thursday morning, CSU was ranked No. 94 in the NET and No. 88 at KenPom.com. The Buffs began Thursday at No. 61 at KenPom…Despite missing the first seven games due to a foot injury, Stevens should make a run at CSU’s all-time assists record. He goes into Thursday’s game with 451 career assists, second all-time at CSU behind early-1990s star Ryan Yoder (530)…Another reminder CU is hosting a toy drive for the Broomfield-based charity A Precious Child. Fans are encouraged to bring new, unopened toys to Thursday night’s game to drop boxes that will be available at every entrance of the Events Center.