1. Colorado will have to survive on the road
The Colorado Buffaloes will start conference on January 2 at Arizona. The Buffs have five road games in their first seven, which seems to be the norm for them. Those games will at the Arizona schools, home against the Washingtons, at the Bay Area, then at Utah. As what happened the past two seasons, if the Buffs struggle on the road, their NCAA Tournament hopes could be in serious danger. Back in 2016, for example, the Buffs had five of their first seven conference games on the road and lost all seven — the home games they had were against #4 UCLA and #25 USC, so nothing was easy. The 2018-19 Buffs are filled to the brim with hyper-competitive players who hate losing more than anything, so there’s reason to believe this would be the CU team to survive a difficult road slate. We will find out soon if this is the Tad Boyle team that can win away from Boulder.
2. Colorado benefits from Pac-12 rotations
This season, the Buffaloes will only play the Bay Area and Oregon schools once each. Of those, the Buffs will travel to the Cardinal and Bears and host the Ducks and Beavers, which is probably the best combination you can have in the Pac-12. The Bay Area is typically the easiest road slate in the conference and should be again this year. Stanford should be solid, but they lost Reid Travis and a few other key players, and they tend to have the worst home court advantage in the Pac-12; Colorado has only lost once at Maples Pavilion. California is probably the second worst team, so hopefully that will be a road win. On the other side, Colorado has only won two games in Oregon, both in 2013. It’s especially good to avoid that road set because Oregon looks like a top-15 team and Oregon State will be much improved. The Ducks have never won a game in Boulder, so that will hopefully continue when the Buffs host them.
3. The Buffs can make noise at the end of the season
The upside to Colorado starting off conference play with a ton of road games is that the final stretch of the season is set up for them to succeed. Their final five games, all at the CU Events Center, will be against the Arizonas, Utah, then UCLA and USC. The two games before that are at Cal and Stanford, the two most winnable non-Wazzu road games on the schedule. Arizona and UCLA are always good, but CU beat both last season despite having three or four freshmen in the starting lineup. USC always gives the Buffs fits, but CU should be extra motivated to win that. Arizona State and Utah are all quality teams, but they’re both losing talent and should be beatable. That all said, there’s a strong chance that the Buffs finish the season 7-0. CU has never won more than 10 Pac-12 games in a season, so assuming the Buffs do steal a few road games, this would be the season for them to break that record.
4. Senior Day will be lit
Of all the games on the schedule, nothing stands out quite like the season finale. Colorado will be hosting USC in what should be an intense and petty game. If you recall from last season, Tad Boyle lightly criticized Andy Enfield for shady recruiting tactics — USC has been investigated by the FBI and De’Anthony Melton was ineligible all season — then Enfield fired back by calling a petty, rub-it-in-your-face timeout at the very end of USC’s home win over CU. This season, the Buffs are a year older and motivated to get back at USC. Both teams will contend for the NCAA Tournament, so this game should also have high-stakes rewards for the winner. It could very well be the most entertaining and important game of the season.