The most important stretch of the season, maybe Jeff Bzdelik's tenure at Colorado begins today against Iowa State at the Coors Event Center in Boulder. The Buffs sit at 12 - 15 and have three very winnable games remaining to try and hit the .500 mark as they head into the Big 12 tournament.
The Buffs lost to Iowa State less than a month ago in Ames 62 - 63. Buffs freshman Alec Burks left injured in the first minutes of the game but Colorado still got off to a 18 - 4 lead before the Cyclones crawled back. Even without arguably their best player, the Buffs held with the home team for the entire night but lost in the end, squandering a great opportunity to end the road losing streak. This time, though, Colorado has the Cyclones at home. On the road this year, Iowa State is 2 - 6 and were on a six game slide before winning against Nebraska on Wednesday night. The Buffs forced Iowa State into 21 turnovers in their first meeting but CU only shot 34.4% from the field, clearing missing Burks' scoring ability. The 6'10" Iowa State F Craig Brackins causes all kinds of matchup problems for the Buffs, which was displayed in the teams' first meeting with Brackins scoring a game high 27 points and collecting 13 boards. With a healthy Burks returning against Iowa State and the game being played in Boulder, Colorado should have a good shot but they better have a game plan for Brackins.
The missed opportunities began early. Colorado led by 16 points before losing to Gonzaga 76-72 in the Maui Invitational opener on Nov. 23. The next morning the Buffs lost to Arizona 91-87 in overtime. Another potential victory over a Pac-10 opponent slipped away down the stretch as a bad Oregon State team beat the Buffs on Dec. 4. The single-digit setbacks continued in Big 12 play with tough losses to Kansas State (87-81), Texas A&M (67-63) and Kansas (72-66, OT). If the Buffs had found a way to win half of those games they would be 15-12 instead of 12-15. A berth in the NIT or CBI would be within reach. There`s nothing CU can do about the near-misses now, except avenge the most painful woulda-coulda-shoulda finish of the season -- the 64-63 loss to Iowa State in Ames on Jan. 30.
NCAA rules prohibit CU coach Jeff Bzdelik from mentioning names of prospective recruits, but he has said that he seeks two big men that can rebound and play strong defense in the post. It’s been widely reported that two of CU’s targets are 7-foot Aziz Ndiaye of the College of Southern Idaho (junior college) and 6-11 Rob Loe of New Zealand. Ndiaye, a native of Senegal, would have two years of eligibility. Loe would be a freshman. The spring signing period for basketball begins April 14.
5. Georgia at Colorado, Oct. 2: By the time Colorado faces Georgia, the Bulldogs should be settled at quarterback. And whoever it is, he will be surrounded by 10 returning starters on offense, including running back Washaun Ealey and receiver A.J. Green.
9. Colorado at California, Sept. 11: At least the Buffs won’t have to deal with Jahvid Best, but Shane Vereen is more than capable as a runner. The Golden Bears are always a tough out at home.
Toney Clemons, Colorado (from Michigan) -- The receiving corps was a concern for most of last season for the Buffaloes, but the emergence of Markques Simas and Clemons hitting the field in 2010 makes this a team strength. Clemons caught 12 passes in two seasons at Michigan and should be a solid No. 3 option for quarterback Tyler Hansen.
University of Colorado standout Alec Burks is having one of the best freshman seasons in school history. Despite flying under the recruiting radar, Burks has been very visible to all the teams that overlooked him as a prospect.