Faster! Buffs Want To Push Pace

When the Buffs face Florida A&M Thursday afternoon in the first game of the America's Youth Classic in Madison, Wis., head coach Jeff Bzdelik wants a more up-tempo style than what his team managed in their opening loss to New Mexico.

Colorado is in Madison, Wis., this week where they'll play three games in three days in the America's Youth Classic Tournament. CU's first opponent, Thursday afternoon, is Florida A&M, a team which played in the 2007 NCAA Tournament after winning the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference.

Since losing in their opener last week to New Mexico, pushing the pace up the court has been an emphasis in the Buffs' practices.

"That's all we did in practice is push the ball," sophomore Xavier Silas said on Tuesday. "I think we were walking it a lot last game. Now we're getting it out of there – pitching it to a wing, getting into the offense."

Once in the half-court offense, the Buffs are hoping to find more of a flow. But it may take a while. Still, for the CU players who were in the program last year when Jeff Bzdelik's Air Force team — running the type of offense CU is implementing this season — handily beat the Buffs, finding the flow is attainable.

"There's no uncertainty for the people who were here last year," Silas said. "We saw it when (Air Force) came and played us last year. We know we can get it down like they got it down.

"I was just in the office watching Air Force tape," Silas continued. "We have different sections of our offense, and they just went into sections without even thinking. We go into one section and stop, then go into another section and stop."

He said he and his teammates are working toward the point where they don't have to think about where to go and what to do once their in the half-court set.

As for the chance to play three games in three days, it may be just what the doctor ordered.

"We need to play games right now against other people," Bzdelik said. "I think we learned a real lot from our New Mexico game. We've had a couple of great practices since then. We just needed to see and experience (a game)."

Bzdelik inherited most of this year's non-conference schedule, including the trip to this week's tournament. While Bzdelik doesn't like the fact the Buffs travel to Air Force, Denver, Colorado State and Wyoming in the span of a month, he's glad for the tournament play. Contracts have not yet been signed, but Bzdelik is working on getting Colorado into non-conference tournaments in coming seasons, as well.

After the Buffs tip-off with Florida A&M Thursday afternoon (4:30 p.m. MT), they face Savannah State Friday (3:30) and go up against host Wisconsin Saturday (6 p.m.).

Asked about the coming opponents, Bzdelik replied, "I'm more concerned about us and doing what we're supposed to be doing."

Players to Watch
Florida A&M (1-0) appeared in the NCAA tourney play-in game, losing to Niagara last March, after winning the MEAC. They've been picked to finish middle of the MEAC pack this season. Forward Akini Akini, a 6-10 senior, scored 19 points in A&M's opening win.

Savannah State (1-1) is coming off a 2-28 season, and features a handful of juco transfer players trying to help the team rebound from that two-win misery. Guard Raye Bailey leads Savannah State in scoring so far.

Wisconsin is expected to vie for the Big Ten title this season. Forward Alando Tucker is one of the most explosive players in the Big Ten and averaged 19 points a game a season ago.

Patterson Update
It's still not clear when 6-11 freshman Caleb Patterson will work his way to playing time for the Buffs. But Bzdelik said Tuesday he hasn't considered redshirting Patterson. Bzdelik said Patterson had an excellent practice on Monday. There's no question about his scoring ability, but he's still learning how to play defense. Patterson, who comes from a town of 400 in Oklahoma, is still adjusting to his surroundings off and on the court, too.

"Caleb's going to be an excellent player ¬— it's just that adjustment to school, daily life, the speed of the game, the intensity of the game, the size of the game, quickness of the game. These are things he's never experienced," Bzdelik said.

On the other end of the spectrum is freshman Cory Higgins, who played his way into the starting lineup before the season began. Higgins' father, Rod, was roommates with Michael Jordan early in Jordan's career with the Chicago Bulls, and Jordan has been a part of Cory's life since he was born.

The CU freshman has spent many summers in the gym playing pickup with NBA players. His maturity was obvious to anyone who saw him play in CU's two exhibition games, or in the opener vs. New Mexico, when he held UNM's leading returning scorer, J.R. Giddens to four points.

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