Demanding start for Boyle's Buffs
The Colorado Buffaloes 2016-17 men's basketball schedule has taken another step closer to full completion.
In late-July, the Pac-12 Conference announced its site designations for the upcoming season. As of early August, specific dates and matchups were still to be determined, the Buffs and their fans now know where and when the Buffs will be on the road, and which weekends their respective league rivals will visit the Coors Events Center.
Like last season, CU will open the league slate on the road, this time against Utah the weekend of Dec. 28-Jan. 1. The Buffs didn't play three consecutive league games on the road last year but will do so out of the gate in 2017, following the Utah date with a swing through Arizona to face the Wildcats and Arizona State.
The Arizona-Arizona State trip was the only one not made by CU during the 2015-16 season in the league's rotating schedule. The lone pair of teams that did not visit Boulder last year, USC and UCLA, will open the home portion of CU's Pac-12 slate the weekend of Jan. 11-15.
From there, the Buffs will regularly rotate home and road series. After visiting Washington and Washington State the weekend of Jan. 18-22, CU hosts defending league champ Oregon — a likely top 10 to 15 team again next season — along with Oregon State the weekend of Jan. 25-29.
The Buffs travel to Northern California to take on Stanford and Cal on Feb. 1-5, with CU hosting Washington and Washington State the following weekend.
CU travels to Oregon and Oregon State the weekend of Feb. 15-19, followed by three consecutive home games to complete the regular season, beginning against Utah between Feb. 22 and 26. The Buffs complete the regular season with home dates against Cal and Stanford.
CU finished fifth in the Pac-12 last season with a 10-8 mark and has gone 56-50 in league play in six seasons under head coach Tad Boyle.
For the first time in the 116-year history of Colorado basketball, here come the Irish.
On July 13, tournament organizers released the full schedule for the 2016 Legends Classic, and CU's first game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn pits the Buffs against Notre Dame for the first time in program history.
CU takes on the Fighting Irish on November 21 at 5 p.m. MST. The game will air on ESPN 2.
Notre Dame has reached consecutive Elite Eights under coach Mike Brey, but the Irish lost two key figures from that run in guard Demetrius Jackson, a second-round pick of the Boston Celtics, and forward Zach Auguste. Notre Dame won the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The Buffs will take on either Texas or Northwestern in their final game at the Barclays Center on Nov. 22. Texas reached the NCAA Tournament this past spring and Northwestern went 20-12.
"To play at the Barclays Center on the east coast, it's a totally different environment against a national program," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "It's a great game for our program. Mike Brey has done a great job there and they're going to be good again."
The announcement also confirmed CU's home opponents in the first two games of the Legends Classic. The Buffs will host Seattle on Nov. 14 followed by a date Nov. 17 against Louisiana-Monroe. Times for both home games will be determined later.
While a win against Notre Dame would be a highlight of Boyle's tenure at CU, the Buffs' last meeting against Seattle was perhaps the low point. Relegated to the College Basketball Invitational in 2015 after a disappointing 15-17 regular season, CU suffered a 72-65 season-ending defeat at Seattle — a loss many Buffs cited as a springboard to a 2015-16 campaign that saw the program return to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in five seasons.
With a December home date against Xavier essentially cancelling out last season's neutral-court opener against Iowa State, Notre Dame could prove to be a significant upgrade against the next-best opponent from CU's nonconference slate in 2015-16, SMU.
Unlike this past season, when CU suffered narrow defeats against Iowa State and SMU, the Buffs hope to turn the tables in matchups against Xavier and Notre Dame likely to draw wide national television audiences. A possible matchup against Texas would only bolster what looks to be a somewhat improved strength-of-schedule rating for the Buffs.
"It's a challenging one," Boyle said. "I don't usually compare year-to-year because that's hard to do. But last year we played SMU, which was a top-10 caliber team, and know we get a really good Notre Dame team. It's a heck of a schedule and it's going to be a heck of a challenge."
Pat Rooney: twitter.com/prooney07