On more than a few occasions early last season, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle lamented what turned out to be an overly-aggressive nonconference schedule for the Buffaloes.
With prized recruit Cody Williams joining the rotation this year and an expectation of competing for an NCAA Tournament berth, Boyle believes a better early-season balance has been struck for the upcoming 2023-24 season.
Last week, CU announced its nonconference schedule, which begins on Nov. 6 at home against Towson and features two games at the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, plus a marquee neutral-floor showdown against Miami in Brooklyn. Unlike last year, the Buffs will have more of an opportunity to ease into the schedule.
“Nonconference schedules aren’t ever perfect and you don’t always get what you want. You kind of get what you can get,” Boyle said. “But with our MTE — Richmond, which is a good Atlantic 10 team, and obviously either UNLV or Florida State — and then the game with Miami. I feel good about it how it is. But you never know until you’re looking backwards.”
Last year, as the Buffs adjusted to life without Jabari Walker and Evan Battey, they opened at home before immediately hitting the road for games at Grambling State and Tennessee, which was billed as a neutral floor-game but felt more like a CU road game in Nashville.
The Buffs spent the second week of the season playing three games at the Myrtle Beach Invitational. By the time CU played at home again, 20 days had passed since the opener. CU enjoyed a pair of their top performances of the season during that run, defeating Tennessee and Texas A&M, but the Buffs also turned in two of their more frustrating efforts in losses against Grambling and UMass.
This time, the Buffs will get to play three games at home — Towson, Grambling State and Milwaukee — before traveling to the Sunshine Slam. CU returns home to play Iona (Nov. 26) before visiting CSU (Nov. 29). The Buffs host Pepperdine (Dec. 3) as the final tune-up before taking on Miami at the Barclays Center on Dec. 10.
The nonconference slate finishes back at home against Northern Colorado (Dec. 15) and Utah Tech (Dec. 21).
Boyle admitted he would prefer getting another power conference foe into the Events Center as part of the early schedule, but has encountered a multi-faceted dilemma. First, it remains difficult enticing power conference programs to play nonconference games at altitude. Like the Pac-12, the Big Ten, Big East, and ACC all play 20-game league schedules. Showcases like the Big Ten/ACC challenge, combined with multi-team events, quickly fill up the ledger on nonconference schedules.
And finally, Boyle has professed a recent preference for compiling schedules on a year-to-year basis, given the uncertainty of what next-season rosters will look like in the transfer portal era. Getting a power conference team to Boulder likely would require a home-and-home agreement.
“I’d like to get another Power 5 or bigger basketball name in the nonconference at home, but getting people to come to Boulder, Colorado, right now is really hard,” Boyle said. “We’re at Colorado State, which is going to be a hard game, obviously. Miami is a Final Four team. And then the Florida tournament. So we’ve got plenty of challenges. Pepperdine is a good program.
“The majority of the power leagues have gone to 20-game league schedules. Then you throw in all the challenges, like the Big East/Big 12 challenge. In the Pac-12, we’re left out of those challenges. If I’m looking at another power school, they’ve got 20 games in their league, they’ve got an MTE, and they’ve got a challenge game against a good, quality opponent. They’re not looking for home-and-homes. That’s what makes it difficult for us.”