The Buffs are a disappointing 3-6 on the season so far. In years past, hosting teams like TCU and Central Florida — CU's next two opponents — at the end of the non-conference schedule have meant marks in the win column. But this CU team is going to have to step up its level of play to get victories over the MWC and C-USA clubs, both of whom are currently above .500. As well, Texas Christian will have played three games, and Central Florida five games since the Buffs last laced them up against an opponent.
After that, a very talented Texas team visits Coors Jan. 6 to begin Big 12 play.
Head coach Ricardo Patton has made defense a point of emphasis in practice since the Buffs' most recent game, a 72-69 loss at home to Colorado State.
"I think we've allowed teams to shoot too high of a percentage," Patton said after Tuesday's morning practice. "I think we've shown the ability, for the most part, to be able to score. We've had droughts, but every team has droughts. But defensively is where I'm most concerned with."
Opponents have shot 46.5 percent from the field, and 40.6 percent from 3-point range. The Buffs, meanwhile, are averaging just 38.8 and 26.9 percent, respectively.
"We've been scrimmaging a lot, working on the full court press, making sure guys are in the right spot," said junior Richard Roby of recent practices.
Part of the team's defensive struggles can be attributed to its youth. The eight true freshmen are still learning the type of effort is required on defense at the college level, Patton said.
"It's clear to me that we don't have a good grasp of how hard (we have to play)," Patton said. "Our team defense is just not where it's got to get to.
"We've got eight guys who this time last year probably didn't have to play defense the way you've got to play it at this level."
Patton on Tuesday said it's too early to tell how the three weeks between games will affect his team.
"I don't think you really know until you throw it up (and play a game)," he said. "Guys will be rested, that's for sure. But it was all out of our control, so we can't do too much worrying about it."
He said the players' mental focus will be a key to getting back to speed on Saturday.
"We just have to be mentally prepared to go hard," he said. "We have to look back at some of the mistakes we've made in games and realize that we can't duplicate those mistakes. If we're mentally ready to play, we'll be fine."
Van Burck Tweaks Foot
Freshman center Marc Van Burck practiced Monday night for the first time since suffering a stress fracture in one of his feet in the Denver game on Nov. 10. But a half-hour into the practice, he heard a popping sound in the foot and had to stop. He was scheduled to have an x-ray on the foot some time Tuesday. Patton said Van Burck is out indefinitely.