I-25 Road Trip On Tap

The Colorado basketball team (3-2) begins a 90-mile tour of the Front Range Tuesday. The Buffs will travel to Denver to play the University of Denver (2-2) Tuesday evening (7 p.m. tip), then head to Colorado Springs and take on host Air Force (5-2) Thursday (7 p.m.). Inside, notes in advance of the road trip.

There's a great deal of connection between CU head coach Jeff Bzdelik and the two road games this week. Bzdelik, of course, left Air Force in April to become coach in Boulder. His former top assistant, Jeff Reynolds, now is head coach at the Academy. Meanwhile, the coach who preceded Bzdelik at Air Force, Joe Scott, is in his first year as head coach at DU.

"This will be a great learning experience for our players because what we need to do here is build an environment conducive to winning," Bzdelik said Monday before his team left for Denver for the evening. Creating a winning environment is Bzdelik's theme of late.

He explained that he thinks roughly 35 teams in the country have elite talent. CU isn't one of them. The rest are measured by something more intangible.

"What separates them is the inner strength, the indomitable will, the willingness to sacrifice for a greater cause and to play unselfishly at both ends. That's not just coach-speak, that's the truth. That's what separates (some) when all those teams have equal talent," he said.

Bzdelik led Air Force to the NCAA tourney in 2006 and to the NIT after last season. He said that program already exudes the kind of mental toughness he wants to engender at CU because "the Cadets live it every day."

• For logistical reasons, the Buffs will not come back home to Boulder until after the Air Force game Thursday evening. As they did when they traveled to Wisconsin for their recent tournament, tutors will travel with the team and there will be mandatory study sessions for the players. Bzdelik said next fall's schedule is nearly complete, and the team won't miss any days of school.

• Sophomore Xavier Silas missed the win over Colorado Christian last week due to a bruised knee. He is 100 percent and should be in the starting lineup Tuesday.

• Senior Marcus Hall has a dental appointment Tuesday to replace the two front teeth that were knocked out during the Wisconsin tourney. He'll be in the lineup this week.

• Bzdelik tried to light a fire under sophomore Dwight Thorne by keeping him on the bench in the game vs. Wisconsin. The motivation technique appeared to work as Thorne had a good game in the win against CCU. Bzdelik said Thorne has continued to play with more assertiveness in practice the past week, too.

• Both the DU and AFA games will be televised on FSRM.

• The Buffs conclude the week Sunday when Stanford comes to Boulder for a 2 p.m. game.

• 2008 recruit Austin Dufault, the 6-8 player from North Dakota, has been nominated to be a McDonald's All American. The process for being named a McDonald's A-A continues with three rounds of voting in the coming months. The final team is announced early next year.

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