As the Colorado men’s basketball team dives into the second half of the Pac-12 Conference slate, the Buffaloes are dealing with two slight quirks of the league schedule.
First, 12 games into the conference schedule the Buffs have yet to enjoy one of their one-game rivalry weeks against Utah, which finally happens for the first time next week in Salt Lake City. Secondly, the Buffs complete this weekend’s home series against Stanford on Sunday, marking the second of three consecutive Sunday dates to close two-game home series.
By playing on Sunday, the Buffs basically are forced to make the following Monday an off day. That will not be as big an issue this upcoming week, as the Buffs don’t play again until the Feb. 11 date at Utah, but in each of the other Sunday scenarios, it creates one less day of preparation for road games the following Thursday.
“If it was early in the year and you’re getting ready to play somebody for the first time, maybe that would be a disadvantage,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said regarding the glut of Sunday games. “We know what we’re supposed to do. We know what other teams are going to do. When you’re on the road you’d rather play Thursday-Saturday. But when you’re at home, I don’t think it really matters.”
Not playing Utah until the seventh week of the regular rotation of conference games means the Buffs frequently have played teams that have had a chance to lick their wounds in shorter weeks. This weekend’s home opponents for instance, Cal and Stanford, played each other in a single game last week.
Boyle said getting two such shorter weeks down the stretch still provides a benefit, but he would have preferred one of the Utah dates being on a Thursday instead of both being slated for Saturdays. USC and UCLA have played both of their one-game, head-to-head matchups on Thursdays ahead of home series. CU and Utah play both of their games on Saturdays ahead of road trips, including the regular season finale on March 4 at the CU Events Center ahead of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
The only other travel partners that have not yet played each other this season are the Washington schools. They complete the regular season on Thursday March 2, giving both squads — potential first-round Pac-12 tourney foes for the Buffs — two extra days of rest ahead of the conference tournament.
“I think everybody goes through that,” Boyle said. “The only thing I’d say about the last Utah game, I wish we’d play that on Thursday instead of a Saturday. That gives you a few extra days rest before the conference tournament.”
Less than advertised
Going into Thursday night’s home date against California (8 p.m., Pac-12 Network), the Golden Bears rank fourth in Pac-12 games with a .331 3-point percentage.
That number is deceptive, in large part because of the Buffs’ defense.
When Cal won back-to-back Pac-12 games at home a month ago, first against CU and then against Bay Area rival Stanford, the Golden Bears were unusually hot from long range. Cal went 7-for-13 on 3-pointers against CU and a torrid 16-for-22 against the Cardinal, compiling a combined mark of .657. In Cal’s eight other Pac-12 games, it has shot a much more modest .248 (34-for-137) from long range.
CU allowed Cal’s Joel Brown to get loose for a 9-for-14 performance with a career-high 21 points in Berkeley. Brown is averaging just 6.4 points this season, and since that showing against CU he has scored a combined 23 points in six games while going 8-for-31 (.258)…The Bears are averaging just 9.7 assists in conference games, the lowest mark in the Pac-12…Cal is 0-6 in true road games and has lost eight in a row dating back to last season…A loss against Cal would give CU its worst record through 13 Pac-12 games since joining the league. A win would keep the Buffs at 5-8 in the conference, which still would tie two other teams for the worst 13-game record in the program’s Pac-12 history (5-8 also in 2014-15, 2016-17)…CU began Thursday at No. 71 in the NET rankings and No. 60 at KenPom.com. Cal is No. 296 in the NET and No. 257 at KenPom.