If you feel like the Colorado men’s basketball team has been snake bit by injuries at an unusually high pace, you’re not just suffering from recency bias. Even the pandemic season of 2020-21 wasn’t this unkind to the Buffaloes on a personnel front, and this year has been the program’s most frustrating season in terms of manpower issues in years.
Going into the Buffs’ home rematch against Oregon on Thursday night (8 p.m., FS1), CU players had missed a total of eight games.
That number doesn’t sound particularly gaudy, but assuming injured freshman Lawson Lovering has played his final game this season, at least 10 more games (nine regular season, one Pac-12 tournament) will push that total to 18. That total also doesn’t include head coach Tad Boyle’s COVID absence for Thursday’s game against the Ducks, or the redshirt seasons forced upon freshmen Quincy Allen and Javon Ruffin due to injuries. Technically, half-game absences from Jabari Walker and KJ Simpson, both of whom were knocked out by injuries before halftime of different games, could pad to the final tally as well.
Never mind how senior guard Elijah Parquet has yet to prove he has overcome the foot issue that has kept him out of three of the past five games.
Last year, Buffs players missed a total of just 17 games, four of which occurred during early-season COVID issues. The most damaging of CU’s absences were relatively light, with six-game midseason breaks for Jabari Walker (foot) and Dallas Walton (injury/illness).
In 2019-20, CU players missed just two games (one apiece from Tyler Bey and Maddox Daniels), and one has to go back to 2018-19 to recall a Buffs team as stricken by injury (or illness) absences as this year’s team. CU players missed 31 games in ’18-19, most of which were compiled by the 22 games missed by then-senior Namon Wright due to an injury. That total doesn’t factor in the season-ending preseason knee injury suffered by Walton, or the midseason suspension that spelled the end of Deleon Brown’s CU career.
For the current Buffs, seven of their eight games missed have occurred within the past two weeks. With associate head coach Mike Rohn in charge through at least the Oregon game, CU still refuses to lean on the recent run of injuries for how dramatically last week’s road trip to Washington became derailed. Yet it nonetheless is human nature for young players to absorb a few bruises as they attempt to roll with punches that keep landing in quick succession.
“Human nature is obviously going to make you feel like ‘Oh wow, nothing can go right for us.’ What we have to learn from that is adversity has got to make us stronger,” Rohn said. “Sometimes right at the moment, maybe you don’t recognize that. There’s nothing we can do about those things. All we can do is control what we can control. I know it’s a cliché, but there’s definitely a mental aspect to that you can’t neglect. It’s obvious. It’s an emotional thing for the players that are healthy and going through it, feeling for your teammates. But that’s our challenge. It’s a challenge, and we’ve talked about it. Coach prepares the guys for tough times, and we’ve got to find a way to be tough.”
Much like the lack of recency bias regarding CU’s run of personnel setbacks, the same can be said of the Buffs’ turnover woes.
If it seems worse this season, that’s because it is.
The Buffs go into Thursday’s game against Oregon having committed at least 16 turnovers in five consecutive games. Their average of 14.5 per game in Pac-12 games is the second-most in the conference, and the Buffs have hit their game day goal of committing 11 or less just five times in 21 games — and just once since recording a season-low six turnovers in a home win against Stanford on Nov. 28.
CU is on pace to post the highest turnover average in Boyle’s 12 seasons as head coach. The Buffs enter the Oregon game averaging 14.2 turnovers per game, which currently would barely edge the Boyle-era high of 14.1 from the 2017-18 year, the freshman season for point guard McKinley Wright IV. CU posted its best turnover mark of the Boyle era last season, Wright’s senior year, with an average of 11.4 per game.
The rankings, from highest to lowest, of CU’s turnover averages in the Boyle era (*NCAA Tournament team, including likely 2020 bid to canceled tourney):
13.3 (2012-13*, 2013-14*, 2018-19)
13.2 (2014-15, 2019-20*)
FS1 tabbed a local crew for tonight’s broadcast with Jacob Tobey and Katy Winge on the call…Since going 5-for-7 overall and 4-for-4 on 3-pointers in a Jan. 9 home win against Washington, freshman guard Julian Hammond III has gone just 2-for-17 overall and 2-for-11 on 3-pointers over the past seven games…CU senior Evan Battey is coming off a tough road trip (8-for-23 in three games) but he has continued picking his spots well from the arc, going 5-for-9 on 3-pointers in the past four games…In Pac-12 games, opponents are averaging 8.4 steals against the Buffs, the most in the league…In league games, the Buffs rank second in free throw percentage (.757) while Oregon is 11th (.639). That made a difference in CU’s road win in Eugene last week. Although the Ducks performed ahead of their curve (15-for-19), the Buffs finished 20-for-22…CU began Thursday at No. 92 in the NET Rankings and No. 96 at KenPom.com. Oregon is No. 58 in the NET and No. 52 at KenPom.