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Men's Basketball Month-By-Month Preview: January

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The third of a five-part series breaking down the Colorado men's basketball schedule

Ethan Miller

January marks the beginning of Colorado's fourth year of Pac-12 play. CU opens against a UCLA squad who lost a boatload of talent from last season's Sweet 16 team. Other eye-catching games on the January docket include a visit to Salt Lake City to play the Utah Utes, and a road game against Arizona.

Friday, Jan. 2                      UCLA

Conference play opens with a showdown against one of the two Pac-12 teams Colorado didn't record a win against last season. Steve Alford's Bruins saw Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and Zach LaVine all get selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. The always-pesky Wear twins both graduated, and have made their way onto NBA training camp rosters. Add the fact that Jon Octeus wasn't admitted and Jonah Bolden is ineligible, and the guess here is that Colorado should emerge with their first ever Pac-12 win against UCLA.

Sunday, Jan. 4                   USC

While Colorado has never managed to beat UCLA since entering the Pac-12 in 2011, the Buffs have never lost to the dismal Trojans in the past three seasons. Things won't get any easier for second-year head coach Andy Enfield, as leading scorer Byron Wesley transferred to Gonzaga. He'll need to rely heavily on a four-man recruiting class deemed top-20 by ESPN.com.

Wednesday, Jan 7           at Utah

Remember New Years' Eve 2011, when the Buffs obliterated Utah 73-33 in Larry Krystkowiak's first season? Those days are long gone. Utah is good enough to challenge for a top-two finish in Pac-12 play. Trips to Salt Lake City have never been easy for Colorado - they barely managed to win in 2012, and lost each of the last two seasons, including a memorable collapse in 2013 after leading by as many as 22 points in the second half.

Thursday, Jan 15               at Arizona

An eight-day reprieve in the middle of conference season might just be what the doctor ordered in advance of what looks to be the most difficult game of the season for the Colorado Buffaloes. The Wildcats lose one-and-done star Aaron Gordon and Pac-12 player of the year Nick Johnson, but return floor general T.J. McConnell and big man Kaleb Tarczewski, good enough for second-overall in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.

Saturday, Jan 17               at Arizona State

CU should have their best chance to notch their first victory in Tempe since 2012. Obviously, the loss of Jahii Carson leaves a scoring drought that will need to be filled by committee. Jordan Bachynski's departure should make it a little easier for Colorado to score inside, a normally difficult task against the Sun Devils.

Thursday, Jan 22               Washington

Washington loses star wing C.J. Wilcox, but return All-Pac-12 freshman team member Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews, who will combine to make one of the more potent backcourts in the conference. Lorenzo Romar, the Dean of Pac-12 coaches, will be looking to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.

Saturday, Jan 24               Washington State

Ernie Kent mercifully exited the broadcasting booth in March to take over the Washington State job after athletic director Bill Moos fired Ken Bone. Colorado had a difficult time taking care of business against the Cougars in both meetings last year. With the addition of Kent and the return of marksman DaVonte Lacy, facing Washington State likely won't get any easier.

Thursday, Jan 29               at USC

Typically when Colorado has traveled to Los Angeles to face the Trojans the last couple of seasons, the Colorado contingent of fans has outnumbered, or at the very least, been louder than the USC fanbase. With the kind of recruiting class Enfield has brought to Troy, there could be a revitalized energy about the program, but USC will still likely be a road game the Buffs are more than capable of winning.

Saturday, Jan 31               at UCLA

UCLA officials maintain that Pauley Pavilion should be ready for action after a flood caused by a water main break by the time the season starts. Last year's visit to Pauley went south after halftime, due in large part to outstanding shooting by Bryce Alford, who returns to L.A. for his sophomore season. Colorado's perimeter defense will have to be much stronger than it was a year ago if they want to emerge from Pauley with a victory.

Predicted Record: 6-3