The price of poker is going up in Puerto Rico.
That’s how Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle described the challenge his team faces this week at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, starting tonight against Wichita State at 5:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Boyle’s Buffs are coming off an 85-57 victory over Division II Fort Lewis College. CU clearly wasn’t at its best against the Skyhawks, but they still managed to look impressive, with Austin Dufault and Andre Roberson each recording double-doubles.
“I thought we really played well tonight,” Boyle said after the game. “Overall, I was pleased with how we played, especially given how many new guys played, some that haven’t played in quite some time in a college basketball game. The good thing is you can win by this margin and still have room for improvement.”
The game didn’t come without issues for the Buffs. Colorado gave up nine offensive rebounds to the much smaller Skyhawks.
Additionally, CU was guilty of two technicals — one on Ben Mills for dunking in pre-game warmups, and another on Shane Harris-Tunks for arguing with officials.
“We’ve got to handle our frustration better,” said Boyle. “Our freshmen have to [handle their frustration], I thought Shane got frustrated. We’re going to run into more potent offensives, tougher defenses and bigger bodies [in Puerto Rico]. We’ve got to be ready to handle that emotionally and mentally.”
When CU opens play in Puerto Rico tonight against the Shockers, they will get a glimpse of the talent that Boyle speaks of. Wichita State features an exceptionally balanced attack that highlights many of the same players that led the Shockers to an NIT championship last season.
Should the Buffs defeat Wichita State, they’ll face the winner of the Maryland-Alabama game. Either matchup would certainly be intriguing.
Last spring, the Crimson Tide ended CU’s season in the semifinals of the NIT. The Buffs would be eager to achieve revenge against athletic Alabama. The Crimson Tide are an athletic bunch, ranked in the top 20 in the nation. They pride themselves on their ability to get deflections on defense, translating into easy points in transition.
First-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and Boyle are best of friends, going back to their days as teammates at Kansas.
Boyle coached under Turgeon at Wichita State, and the two faced each other last season, as Turgeon (then at Texas A&M), edged out Boyle’s Buffs in overtime. While he would never admit it, Boyle would love a rematch with his friend.
Other schools in the eight-team field include Purdue and Temple, both of which are receiving votes in the top 25, as well as Iona and Western Michigan.
“I would rather ease into the schedule,” said Boyle. “But we don’t have that choice. The first two and a half weeks of the season we are going to learn a lot about our team and where we need to improve, but I would rather learn from winning than from losing.”
If CU ends up learning by virtue of the former rather than the latter, then the Buffs could be in for a very successful season in the Pac-12, which isn’t exactly a juggernaut in men’s basketball. Boyle and his staff certainly hope this is the case.