AIR FORCE (Mountain West Conference) Plays CU: Sunday, November 25[SUP]th[/SUP] at Boulder, CO (6:00 pm/Pac-12 Networks) Last year, the Buffs went down to Colorado Springs and escaped with an overtime win in a game that might have single handedly set the game of basketball back 10 years. When you play Air Force, you know you’re in for a game in which your opponents will not give up and will fight the entire time, and that’s exactly what the Falcons did to the more talented Buffs. Halfway through last year, the Falcons fired head coach Jeff Reynolds and replaced him with Dave Pilipovich. Less than a month later, they removed the interim tag, and Pilipovich led the team to a 2-6 finish. While it doesn’t sound like much, the Falcons did appear to be tougher down the stretch as they embraced Pilipovich’s “TNT” plan – toughness and togetherness. The Falcons are led by senior wing Michael Lyons who was a second team All-Mountain West pick last year for scoring 15.6 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. After Lyons however, the cupboard gets a little bare. The Falcons have Mike Fitzgerald to help on the wing and Taylor Broekhuis in the post, but there’s not much else there. Barring a surprising turnaround, the Falcons will be improved but still will be in the bottom half of the MWC. WYOMING (Mountain West Conference) Plays CU: Saturday, December 1[SUP]st[/SUP] at Laramie, WY (8:00 pm/TBA) If Tad Boyle doesn’t make the team sit down and watch last year’s Wyoming game over repeatedly on the drive up to Laramie, he’ll have failed. I can honestly not think of a single game that made me more upset last year than the game that CU blew against Wyoming. Wyoming came into the Keg and kicked the Buffs asses with a fury. This year, the Buffs go up to Laramie to try to return the favor. The Cowboys will spend part of their non-conference schedule trying to find a replacement for PG JayDee Luster who was the MWC’s defensive player of the year. While they are dealing with that though, they will be able to rely on Luke Martinez who made a conference best 81 3-pointers last season en route to averaging 11.8 points a game. Combine that with post presence Leonard Washington (12.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), and the Cowboys have an inside out presence that will require some work to cover. The Cowboys aren’t expected to be as good as last season’s squad, but Laramie is a rough place to play – and one of the rare opportunities in which the Buffs will actually be going UP in altitude for a game. All of that combines to make this a hard game for the Buffs, but one that a road victory could help pave the path to the Big Dance down the road. COLORADO STATE (Mountain West Conference) Plays CU: Wednesday, December 5[SUP]th[/SUP] at Boulder, CO (8:30 pm/Pac-12 Networks) This one means war. After last year’s heartbreaking loss in Ft. Collins in which the Buffs missed roughly 13,859,294 free throws, the Buffs will be looking for revenge this year – and this arguably is CU’s biggest non-conference game. I hate to call any game a “must win”, but if CU is going to go dancing this year, they must beat the Rams in the Keg. Even though CSU lost their head coach as Tim Miles committed career suicide by leaving to go to Nebraska, they arguably might have upgraded at the coaching position with Larry Eustachy. Combine that with a team that went dancing last year and is returning three starters from that squad. While the Rams will have Wes Eikmeier leading them again, there is some question on whether Pierce Hornung will be able to contribute. Hornung is a vital player to the Rams hopes who was struggling with a back injury this off-season, and Eustachy hasn’t ruled out redshirting him if he’s not healthy. Luckily for Eustachy, he has senior transfer Colton Iverson (previously from Minnesota) who should be able to hold down the post for the Rams this year. The Rams have an incredible backcourt with Eikmeier, Dorian Green and Jesse Carr, so the key for the Buffs will be perimeter defense. If CU can slow them down, that could give them a big win over a team that will be dancing come March. KANSAS (Big 12 Conference) Plays CU: Saturday, December 8[SUP]th[/SUP] at Lawrence, KS (Noon/ESPN2) Arguably the two biggest games for the Buffs in their non-conference schedule come on back to back games. A 1-1 split over these games should leave Buff fans feeling good. 0-2? Time to get a little nervous (obviously, it goes without saying that a 2-0 sweep will lead to me booking final four tickets. I’m nothing if not rational). In all seriousness, this is a phenomenal experience for the team. They’ll be going into a very hostile environment (arguably the toughest environment they’ll face all season) against a very talented, well coached team. While they lost Thomas Robinson (who was arguably the best player in college basketball last season) and Tyshawn Taylor, but they gain some valuable freshmen including PF Perry Ellis who was a top 25 recruit in the nation last year. This Jayhawks team is incredibly balanced, which will be a dramatic contrast to last season when Taylor & Robinson dominated the team. While they will miss those two in crunch time, it should make them a better team overall, and harder to defend. The big question is who will connect from outside for the Jayhawks. Right now, it’s looking like they’ll start seniors Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford along with freshman Rio Adams in the backcourt. None of the three are great outside marksmen (Johnson shot 32% from three last year and Releford 33%), so if the Buffs can clog the middle and the Hawks are clanging them, they have a chance at the upset. More likely though, the Buffs need to use this as a learning experience and building block for the rest of the season. I’m hoping the team can keep it close and make us proud, and then we extract revenge on the Beakers the next season when they have to come to the Keg.