For the first time since the 2020-21 season, the Colorado Buffaloes enter the pre-season will real expectations of an NCAA Tournament appearance. As we will preview in the month to come, the Buffs have legitimate stars in Tristan da Silva and KJ Simpson, a five-star freshman in Cody Williams, and a bunch of veteran role players who all fit into Tad Boyle’s vision of gritty basketball.
The Buffs announced their full schedule on Thursday afternoon. The non-conference is easier than most years, with the only real challenges being a bus ride to Ft. Collins and then a neutral site game against Miami (FL). There are some tricky games in there, including a mid-season tournament in Dayton Beach, Florida, where they will face Richmond, then Florida State or UNLV. Those programs have good reputations but they’re coming off hugely disappointing seasons, especially the Noles who somehow went 9-23 last year.
Oct 28 (Sat) — Metro State (Pre-Season)
Nov 6 (Mon) — Towson
Nov 10 (Fri) — Grambling State
Nov 14 (Tue) — Milwaukee
Nov 20 (Mon) — Richmond in Daytona Beach, FL
Nov 21 (Tue) — Florida State / UNLV in Daytona Beach, FL
Nov 26 (Sun) — Iona
Nov 29 (Wed) — at Colorado State in Ft. Collins, CO
Dec 3 (Sun) — Pepperdine
Dec 10 (Sun) — Miami (FL) in Brooklyn, NY
Dec 21 (Thu) — Utah Tech
The Buffs should finish their non-conference with one or two losses at most. There aren’t any big home games, unfortunately, because most Power Five schools are afraid to visit Boulder even during down years. Depending on who they play, the Buffs should be around 9-1 entering conference play, maybe 8-2 if they lose to CSU or drop a winnable home game. There’s not a whole lot of room for error with this easy of a non-conference slate so those games in Ft. Collins and Daytona Beach will be much needed.
Dec 29 (Fri) — Washington
Dec 31 (Sun) — Washington State
Jan 4 (Thu) — at Arizona
Jan 6 (Sat) — at Arizona State
Jan 10 (Wed) — at California
Jan 13 (Sat) — USC
Jan 18 (Thu) — Oregon
Jan 20 (Sat) — Oregon State
Jan 24 (Wed) — at Washington
Jan 27 (Sat) — at Washington State
Feb 3 (Sat) — at Utah
Feb 8 (Thu) — Arizona State
Feb 10 (Sat) — Arizona
Feb 15 (Thu) — at UCLA
Feb 17 (Sat) — at USC
Feb 24 (Sat) — Utah
Feb 28 (Wed) — California
Mar 3 (Sun) — Stanford
Mar 7 (Thu) — at Oregon
Mar 9 (Sat) — at Oregon State
There’s a lot to unpack. The Buffs could get out to a really strong start, as they have easy home games against the Huskies and Cougars, could (and maybe should) split the Arizona trip with the Sun Devils looking tepid, then a quick road trip to Cal that is tougher than it looks with Fardaws Aimaq resembling Andre Kelly in the middle. After that, the Buffs host USC, Oregon and Oregon State, then travel to Seattle, Pullman and Salt Lake City. By my count, that’s only one probable loss in these first 11 games.
The Buffs won’t start 10-1 — let’s be clear about that — but these road games are as friendly as they get in the Pac-12 slate; even in Tucson the students will be out of school at that time. As for the home games, the Buffs should always beat USC and Oregon at home, even if those are talented teams with players capable of torching our still-unproven defense. If I have to guess the record after 11 games, I’ll go with a hopeful 8-3, with road losses at Arizona, Cal and Washington, all of which are cursed courts.
After that, the Buffs host the Sun Devils before a tricky three-game set against with the ‘Cats at home, then UCLA and USC on the road. I would say the Buffs go 1-3, maybe 2-2 if the Bruins struggle to fit in all their international freshmen. (Jan Vide and Berke Buyuktuncel are GOOD if you haven’t seen them play.) They get to recover with home games at Utah, Cal and Stanford, none of whom will be bad, but they should be wins. Finally, we get to the final road trip to Eugene and Corvallis, where we can hope for a split but expect 0-2.
Conservatively, let’s say the Buffs go 8-2 in non-con, 7-4 or 8-3 in those first eleven games, 1-3 in that tough stretch, and then 3-2 to finish the season. That would have them at 11-9 or 12-8 in Pac-12 play, 19-9 or 20-8 overall, and probably in need of a win of two in the Pac-12 tournament to get an 8-ish seed in March. That seems realistic.
Maybe they win a less more, maybe they win a few less. (I would bet over 19.5 regular season wins.) It will depend on some swing factors like Williams’s readiness as a ball-handler, Simpson’s consistency, Luke O’Brien’s shooting and then how good this team defense will be without Lawson Lovering in the middle.