Final exams are over. Yet in many ways, the cramming has just begun for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
For the first time this season, the Buffaloes returned to practice on Friday having won consecutive games. CU’s 84-60 rout of North Alabama pushed the Buffs (6-5) back over .500 as they prepare to continue a run of four consecutive home games on Sunday against former CU player Daylen Kountz and the Northern Colorado Bears (3 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
Until classes resume on Jan. 16, the Buffs will have nothing but basketball to focus upon, other than a Christmas break of a few days later next week. A Buffs team that battled inconsistency throughout November and early December now has an opportunity to focus solely on the game, and head coach Tad Boyle is optimistic his squad will take advantage of the opportunity.
”This is a period of time as a college basketball team you can make huge strides,” Boyle said. “Even during finals you can, if you’ve got a team that’s mature enough to compartmentalize what they’re doing on a daily basis. Some teams can, some teams can’t. Certainly now that finals are over with, between now and Christmas time, we can make a lot of strides.
“We don’t have a lot of practice time because our games are kind of two days apart. Two days of prep for UNC. Then two days of prep for Southern Utah. Those two days of prep are really important. But they’ve got nothing else to do. We can improve as a team, and we need to do that.”
Following Sunday’s battle against Northern Colorado, the Buffs host Southern Utah on Wednesday before a short holiday hiatus. On the other side of that break, CU will dive into the regular portion of Pac-12 Conference play, beginning with the Bay Area trip to face Stanford and Cal.
Despite the 6-5 overall mark, CU remains fully in charge of its destiny in terms of postseason aspirations. On Friday morning, the Buffs were at No. 44 in the NET rankings and No. 50 at KenPom.com. It’s not that the Buffs haven’t put it all together — it’s difficult to quibble with the performances during wins against Tennessee, Texas A&M and CSU. It’s just that those performances have been too few and far between.
CU has showed signs of turning a corner in some of the areas that led to such a rollercoaster November. Offensively, the Buffs have shot at least 50% in each of the past two games. Turnovers have been an issue, and the Buffs committed a gaudy 38 during their Pac-12 losses against Arizona State and Washington. But CU has posted its three lowest turnover totals over the past five games, including just 18 in the past two home wins against CSU and North Alabama. The Buffs have committed at least 18 in a game four times this season.
“Coach Boyle always talks about it, there’s two different type of teams around this time,” CU point guard KJ Simpson said. “There’s teams that can get a little lackadaisical because they just got done with finals. And there’s teams that are excited (because) now it’s just all about basketball. I feel like now that classes and things are done, we have a lot more time to really lock in, watch some film, work on stuff individually and have really good practices. It should be good for us.”