TEXAS SOUTHERN (Southwest Athletic Conference) Plays CU: Tuesday, November 27[SUP]th[/SUP] at Boulder, CO (7:30 pm/Pac-12 Networks) Our good rivals Texas Southern. It seems like the Buffs play them every year, so it only made sense to continue the rivalry again this season. And the Tigers are a team that should once again compete for a SWAC championship and a ticket to the Big Dance. They have a new coach this year after their previous coach resigned, and will now be led by former Indiana coach Mike Davis. Davis will have some talent as the Tigers have two second-team All-SWAC selections coming back this year in senior forward Fred Sturdivant and senior guard Omar Strong. Surdivant is a slasher who can get to the rim at ease, but can be pushed around down low while finding a way to average 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Strong was the team’s leading scorer, putting up 13.3 ppg last year. Strong will have help in the backcourt as well as junior guard Ray Penn is joining the team this year. Penn was previously at Oklahoma State before being dismissed from the team for violating team rules. His sophomore year was a struggle due to a shin injury, but his freshman year was filled with solid numbers. He was second in the Big 12 freshmen in assists per game (3.0 apg) and was 11[SUP]th[/SUP] in scoring (7.8 ppg). With those three, the Tigers will have a solid backcourt. They don’t have as much help up front though, so this could be a game for Josh Scott to try to demonstrate his dominance over our rivals from the SWAC. FRESNO STATE (Mountain West Conference) Plays CU: Wednesday, December 12[SUP]th[/SUP] at Fresno, CA (8:00 pm/TBA) Last season, the Bulldogs were struggling in the WAC. This year, they’re being thrown into the deep end as they start their first season in the MWC. While that is a daunting challenge for Fresno State, they do have one thing going for them this season in freshman center Robert Upshaw. The 7-foot, 250 pounder was ranked as the fourth best prospect in California and the 55[SUP]th[/SUP] best recruit in the nation according to ESPN. He can score, he can block shots, and he will be one heck of a challenge for Josh Scott to go against. The Bulldogs also have some quality guards to give Upshaw a little bit of help. Juniors Kevin Olekaibe and Tyler Johnson are both combo guards who can light it up. Olekaibe was second-team All-WAC last year and set a school record with 43 points against Seattle. The problem is that both of them are slightly undersized for the 2-guard position, so this could be a game that allows Spencer Dinwiddie to really break out. But if Olekaibe and Johnson can take some heat off of Upshaw, and Upshaw is as good as people expect, this is a dangerous game for the Buffs. NORTHERN ARIZONA (Big Sky Conference) Plays CU: Friday, December 21[SUP]st[/SUP] at Boulder, CO (6:30 pm/Pac-12 Networks) Let’s just be honest here – Northern Arizona is bad. Really bad. In the 1990s, they had four seasons of 20+ wins and even had a player drafted in the NBA Draft (Jack McClintock – random fact of the day). Now, they’re one of the worst teams in the Big Sky. To rub some salt on the wound, the Jackrabbits had to deal with drama last season as their coach resigned due to reports of him breaking NCAA rules on practice time and creating a culture of “intimidation and fear”. Their new coach, Jack Murphy, was an assistant at Memphis under Josh Pastner, so they could be on the right track, but it probably won’t happen this year. Murphy does want to take advantage of the fact that NAU plays at 7,000 feet of elevation and plans to run a fast paced game. Their two best players are probably Gabe Rogers and Stallon Saldivar (both seniors). Rogers was actually considered one of the top scorers in the Big Sky before shoulder injuries slowed him down. Saldivar is the point guard who will lead the team, and averaged almost 5 assists a game last year. Honestly, after that, it gets scary. Some reports say that NAU’s goal this year is just to make the Big Sky Tournament (only the top 7 teams make it). If so, the Buffs should have no trouble with the Lumberjacks. HARTFORD (America East Conference) Plays CU: Saturday, December 29[SUP]th[/SUP] at Boulder, CO (Noon/Pac-12 Networks) Hartford might be the one team this season that is younger than the Buffs. A roster that is made up of nine freshmen & sophomores and only two scholarship players on the roster who have played more than one season of college basketball is what the Hawks will be taking in to battle this season. That said, John Gallagher has been making progress lately. He’s only been coaching the team for two years, and was determined to build things “correctly” and not take shortcuts to wins & losses. That was tested last year when they started the season by losing their first 13 games. However, they finished up going 9-9 over the last 18 and even took conference champion Vermont to double overtime in the conference tourney before falling short. The team will be led by Yolonzo Moore II, a sophomore point guard who is already team captain. Last year he split PG duties, but this year the team is all his and he should improve on his 6.8 points and 1.1 assists a game). He’ll be getting help from two 6-foot-6 fowrards in Nate Sikma and Mark Nwakamma (thank God I don’t have to type that name regularly). Nwakamma is the more physical of the two and Gallagher is expecting him to have a breakout season after finishing his freshman year strong. Sikma is the son of former NBA player Jack Sikma and is a versatile player who did it all. He lead the Hawks in rebounding, was second in assists and third in scoring in his freshman season. The Hawks are the type of team that could make things annoying for a bit, but the Buffs should be able to get the comfortable win at the Keg against them.