So now that they’ve slipped, should we expect a fall?
As chants of “Overrated” trickled down the Arena-Auditorium rafters in Laramie, Wyo., the Buffs had to have felt the weight of it all finally wear them down.
A 76-69 loss to Wyoming begins a rocky start to the four-game stretch that had coach Tad Boyle so worried before the season. It also means CU will likely drop from the sweet air of the ranked when the new AP poll comes out on Monday.
The Buffs came across their first true road game against a program that has now beaten them in six straight. Wyoming, who beat Boyle’s team last year at Coors Events Center, owns CU like a pair of everyday-worn jeans. And the Cowboys will wear this win, highlighting it on their résumé for the selection committee in March.
Boyle and company, though they admit they are far from their potential playing level, are now the hunted. To hear the “Overrated” chants means they’re rated in the first place.
On Saturday night they weren’t just playing Wyoming: They played against the raucous Wyoming fans, a 27-13 foul differential not in their favor, and most of all – themselves. In a loud road environment the fouls will often rain heavy against an athletic and aggressive frontcourt like CU’s. Starting big men Andre Roberson and Josh Scott came into foul trouble early, and both eventually fouled out along with Sabatino Chen.
But the Baby Buffs didn’t help their chances, as Wyoming outscored them in the paint and turned them over. Though Boyle has been harping for more assists and less turnovers from his young guards, they failed again to meet his wishes, committing 17 turnovers.
Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie combined for 40 points, but no one else had more than seven. When your team’s leading scorer shoots 15 percent from the field, as Askia Booker did, it’s going to be hard to win anywhere – in Wyoming or on the hoop hanging over your garage.
As the Buffs come back to Boulder with a scratch on their shiny body of work, they get ready to greet some rude visitors. Undefeated rival Colorado State, led by 6 ft. 10 in. Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson and Pierce Hornung, will challenge that athletic Buffs interior. Then they go back on the road to face No. 10 Kansas and yet another Mountain West team in Fresno State.
Where the Buffs could struggle, as they did on Saturday, is if CSU and Kansas take advantage of their aggressive frontcourt defense in the form of fouls. If Roberson and Scott foul out against either team, leaving reserves Xavier Johnson and Shane Harris-Tunks as the last bastions, the team will falter again.
Before the Buffs enter conference play, the next few games could come to determine if they get climbing again through “W's” in their schedule. Stumbling into conference play could be an irreversible slip for this young team.
For Boyle’s squad the next three games are critical. How will they respond to their first loss? The pressure that comes along from this doubt weighs more and more as the climb up a daunting schedule crosses rockier paths. Great ones meet this pressure and overcome it. The others slip.