Although last year's non-conference schedule seemed like it would reward the Buffaloes in March, it didn't exactly turn out that way. Colorado beat Dayton, Baylor and Murray State in the Charleston Classic and all three of those teams had aspirations to make the NCAA Tournament. Surprisingly, none of them did. The Buffs squared off with Air Force, Fresno St., Colorado St. and Wyoming as well. The highlight of the schedule was supposed to be against Kansas on the road, but that turned out to be an embarrassment. While Hartford, Wofford and Northern Arizona were all opponents that certainly didn't help Colorado's RPI, the Buffs managed to have a stronger non-conference schedule than most of the teams in the Pac-12. In comparison to last year, Colorado's non-conference schedule this year is not as balanced. However, the amount of elite competition the Buffs play outweighs the multiple opponents that will bring down their RPI.
Once again, the most enticing game for the Buffs this year will be their game against Kansas. This time, it is at the Coors Event Center. The best recruit in the nation, Andrew Wiggins, leads the Jayhawks and they also feature transfer Tarik Black and other standout freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid. Before Kansas comes to Boulder, the Buffs will take on Baylor and Harvard, who are ranked 26th and 32nd respectively in USA Today's Coaches Poll. Harvard returns Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry and should provide the Buffs with a good test. Baylor brings back a strong front court with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson and unfortunately, Brady Heslip still remains on the team. Later in the schedule, the Buffs will take on another outstanding Big 12 team: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys boast one of the best point guards in the nation with Marcus Smart. Travis Ford lucked out as Smart turned down the NBA Draft and returned for his sophomore season. Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte are all returning as well to complement Smart. The game will be played in Las Vegas as part of the MGM Grand showcase. Kansas, Harvard, Baylor and Oklahoma State are the Buffs' four toughest opponents on the schedule, but the games are either at home or on a neutral site, which bodes well for Tad Boyle's team.
Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming and Georgia are some of the lesser opponents on the schedule, yet they could still give the Buffs fits. Colorado State and Air Force both host the Buffaloes and since anything can happen on the road, like a loss to Utah, these games are not certain victories. Colorado hasn't beat Wyoming in two years as they lost last year in Laramie and the previous year at the Coors Event Center. Thankfully, Leonard Washington, who had a season high 22 points against Colorado last year, has graduated, so Wyoming shouldn't be much trouble. Georgia follows the theme of losing players and will miss Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Bulldogs don't have much talent and would have to play their best game to upset Colorado, which seems unlikely. This quartet of games will serve as a good measuring stick for Tad Boyle. If the Buffs want to be considered a top team in the Pac-12, they have to be able to win on the road against teams they should beat and Colorado St. and Air Force fit that mold.
Lastly, there are the teams that will hurt the Buffs' RPI: UT Martin, Jackson State, Elon, Santa Barbara and Arkansas State. These games don't help the overall non-conference schedule, but they aren't necessarily going to deteriorate the Buffs' resume on Selection Sunday. Colorado has its fair share of top competition in non-conference play and although Tad Boyle didn't get Colorado into a notable pre-season tournament, the Buffs still have one of the toughest non-conference slates in the Pac-12. They will be tested in November and December, which will prepare them for the arduous task of staying in the top tier of one of the toughest conferences in America come January.
Some may be skeptical of the non-conference season ahead because the Buffs could conceivably lose to Harvard, Oklahoma St., Baylor and Kansas. But Colorado does play its best basketball at the Coors Event Center and is no stranger to wins on neutral sites as they won the Pac-12 Tournament in 2012 and the Charleston Classic last year. The bottom line is that Tad Boyle wants Colorado to be looked at as a top program in the country, and in order to do so, he must prove that his team can play with the best in the nation. We'll get a chance to see if Colorado can achieve that task this upcoming season.
2013-2014 Non-Conference Schedule
Nov. 8- vs. Baylor (in Dallas)
Nov. 10- vs. UT Martin
Nov. 13- vs. Wyoming
Nov. 16- vs. Jackson State
Nov. 18- vs. Arkansas State
Nov. 21- vs. UC Santa Barbara
Nov. 24- vs. Harvard
Nov. 30- at Air Force
Dec. 3- At Colorado State
Dec. 7- vs. Kansas
Dec. 13- vs. Elon
Dec. 21- Oklahoma St. (in Las Vegas)
Dec. 28- vs. Georgia