You can feel the tingling sensation in the air as your medulla is ready to pump adrenaline at the sound of buzzer, like you’re one of Pavlov’s dogs. In the distance, you can barely hear pattering and squeaking on wooden floors, leather and hands hitting glass one after the other, a loud smack followed by a yell of "And one!" Basketball is almost here.
This is the first piece in what will be an extensive season preview. Today, we’re looking at the Buffs’ non-conference schedule. The conference schedule preview will be here in the coming days.
Warm Up Games
With all respect to Sacramento State (Nov. 11), Seattle (Nov. 14) and Louisiana-Monroe (Nov. 17), the Buffs’ first three games — all home — are nothing but warm ups. Sure, CU has lost to the Hornets before, but this is basketball, and Tad Boyle doesn’t lose these games. Well, he has lost to Seattle, but that was at the end of a weird season. Anyway, the Buffs will be able to try out Wesley Gordon’s newfound offensive game, see what Derrick White can do, and even break in the freshmen, all without fear of losing.
Prediction: Three easy wins and Bryce Peters dunks on some poor souls.
Notre Dame (in Brooklyn), Nov. 21
The Buffs’ fourth game overall is their first competitive game of the Legends Classic -- Seattle and UL-Monroe are technically in that tournament — and it may end up as their most challenging of the non-conference slate. Notre Dame is for real. In the past two seasons, the Fighting Irish have won 56 games, outlasted North Carolina in the 2015 ACC Championship, and have reached the Elite Eight both years. The Buffs will have themselves a game against Zach Auguste (he's terrifying) and the Irish.
Prediction: Auguste blocks a buzzer-beater and the Buffs lose in excruciating fashion.
Texas or Northwestern (in Brooklyn), Nov. 22
If the Buffs are in the Legends Classic to build their resume — I assume as much — they would be Smart to prefer Texas. The Longhorns return basically their entire ultra-talented roster from last year’s up-and-down season that ended on a Northern Iowa buzzer-beater.
Northwestern isn’t a joke — well, besides them still being a March Madness virgin — so it’s not like they’d be an easy win for the Buffs should they play. Still, I like CU’s chances to potentially storm the court against the Wildcats.
Prediction: CU victory against whichever team they face.
Wofford, Nov. 27
As I wrote when this game was announced, Wofford is ludicrously good at basketball. I’m more impressed that CU was able to schedule a game with them than I am at their chances of victory. Luckily for the Buffs, they will playing in front of a rowdy C-Unit that will propel them to an upset win.
Prediction: Buffs shock Wofford, the world.
Colorado State, Nov. 30
The Buffs dominated the Rams so thoroughly last week that it has to carry over onto the basketball court. Spencer Dinwiddie isn’t here to destroy CSU, but the Buffs will do enough to avoid another home loss to their frenemies.
Prediction: Buffs win.
Portland State (at Portland), Dec. 3
After a cupcake buffet the previous week, the Buffs will head to Portland to face Damian Lillard at the Portland State Vikings. Don’t check the Vikings’ roster. Lillard will apply as a graduate student to PSU just to play in this game and make my wildest dreams come true (I’m a Trail Blazers fan). Additionally, former PSU power forward Julius Thomas may suit up if and when the Jacksonville Jaguars are eliminated from playoff contention.
Prediction: Dom Collier predictably dominates Lillard on offense and does just enough on defense to propel the Buffs to victory.
(If you think this article is going off the rails, it is. Thanks for stopping by.)
UPDATE: An astute commenter came up clutch and pointed out that this game is actually at Portland against the Pilots. I have nothing to note on this team, other than the fact that I applied to UP but didn't send them my transcripts when I found out they're heavily Catholic.
Xavier, Dec. 7
This may be the most important home game the Buffs have ever scheduled. The Musketeers don’t usually schedule road games against Pac-12 schools, but an exception had to be made for the Buffs.
On the exception, Xavier Athletic Director Xavier Xanderson said:
"We are going to Boulder to reclaim the Xavier crown. [Tad] Boyle thought the Buffs could recruit a bunch of players named Xavier and say they’re the King of Xaviers? No, no, no. Not on my X-shaped watch."
Though folk hero Matt Stainbrook is gone, the Musketeers have a very real chance at reclaiming the Xavier crown. Since moving from the A-10 to the Big East three years ago, Xavier has finishing in the top 3 of the conference twice and has made it to each of the past three (and 10 of the past 11) NCAA Tournaments.
Prediction: Buffs win on a George King buzzer-beater, are ranked in the top-20 the following week.
Brigham Young (at Provo), Dec. 10
BYU is basically the same team as they were last year when the Buffs trashed them in Boulder. The main difference this year is that the Cougars’ best player, triple-double machine Kyle Collinsworth, graduated. BYU will never be an easy road game, but it seems manageable if the Buffs can withstand very loud, but a very polite home crowd.
Prediction: Tory Miller is gonna dunk on some white guy and bite him on the way down. This will result in an ejection, but it will have inspired a comeback road win.
Fort Hays State, Dec. 17
I don’t even know if Fort Hays State is a D-1 school and I’m not going to look it up, either.
Prediction: Sefo Liufau is pulled before the first half ends, Buffs blow ‘em out.
Air Force (at Colorado Springs), Dec. 19
Last time the Buffs visited the Air Force Academy was in 2013, the Buffs committed acts of treason against the U.S. Military. The time before that, noted foreigner Nate Tomlinson saved the day. This time around, the Buffs should win against a team lacking, er, firepower.
Prediction: The Buffs destroy the Air Force, leaving the United State’s national security jeopardized. (If you think that joke is bad (it is), just wait until I live-tweet the game.)
Eastern Washington, Dec. 22
In the holiday spirit, the Eagles gift the Buffs a blowout win. Take that, Wazzu.
Prediction: Buffs roll, celebrate non-conference play ending.
The Buffs finishing their non-conference schedule 12-1 would be something of a best-case scenario — 13-0 would better — but each victory is highly realistic, if not somewhat probable.
That said, a slip or three from the Buffs — Texas/Northwestern, Xavier and BYU are quite slippery — could leave them 9-4 needing wins of both quantity and quality.
Either way, the Buffs will need to have a strong showing in Pac-12 to secure a ticket to the Dance. The conference schedule preview is coming shortly.