KJ Simpson was drenched in sweat and still regaining his breath from a practice session this week when he was asked how the Colorado men’s basketball team can toughen up in the course of a few days.
“I promise you it’s been a tough week,” CU’s point guard said. “I promise you it has. That’s on and off the court, in the weight room.”
Following a lengthy road trip that included both impressive highs as well as frustrating lows, Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle vowed to make his team tougher before they took the floor again. The result of that quest will be on display on Sunday afternoon, as CU returns to the Events Center for the first time in nearly three full weeks to take on undefeated Yale.
“Our record says we’re 3-3. That’s who we are; 3-3 is the epitome of mediocrity,” Boyle said. “I look mediocrity up in the dictionary, and it’s like ordinary. Sub-par. I told them, ‘You want to live in a high rise building that was built with mediocrity?’ I sure as hell wouldn’t. That thing’s going to come crumbling down at some point. You want something that’s sturdy. We’ve got no sturdiness.
“We’re a mediocre team right now, and we selectively play with hunger. We play with hunger at times, in stretches. We can’t be selectively hungry, but we are. That’s why we’re 3-3.”
The Buffs have a pair of top-25 wins to their credit, defeating Tennessee and Texas A&M handily to post the two wins on the trip. But losses against Grambling State, UMass and Boise State quickly snuffed the momentum of those big wins. The Buffs returned to Boulder with Boyle challenging his team to get tougher after surrendering 13 offensive rebounds against Boise in the finale of the two-week trip. In each of those losses, CU allowed the opposition to shoot at least 51% during the first half.
“When (Boyle) talks about toughness, I feel like he’s just talking about heart,” Simpson said. “We don’t play with our heart out there. Physically, we’re tough enough. It’s all about our mindset and playing with our heart. He tried to focus on that and get in our skin and make us play kind of with a sense of anger. Play with emotions but don’t play emotional. That’s just what we’ve been doing this whole week. It’s been a tough couple days though for sure.”
Yale presents a solid test for a CU team that so far has played to the level of the competition. The Bulldogs are 6-0 for the first time in 77 years and have been a terror offensively, shooting .513 overall while averaging 82.8 points.
The matchup also marks a reunion between CU graduate transfer Jalen Gabbidon and his former team. Gabbidon was the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year for Yale in 2020 and was a second team all-conference selection for the Bulldogs’ NCAA Tournament team last year. His defense could prove critical in slowing his sweet-shooting former teammates.
“We’ll do the scouting report, and Jalen will have an opportunity to add to the scouting report,” Boyle said. “Maybe something we’ve missed, or something we need to really hone-in on whether it’s a personnel thing or a team thing. I asked him at practice how he thinks they’re going to guard certain actions that we run. If I didn’t pick his brain, I wouldn’t be very smart. Not that he’s going to have all the answers, but he’s going to know what they like to do, what they want to do.”
Yale Bulldogs at CU Buffs men’s basketball
TIPOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. CU Events Center.
TV/RADIO: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — KHOW 630.
RECORDS: Yale 6-0; Colorado 3-3.
COACHES: Yale — James Jones, 24th season (358-289 at Yale and overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 13th season (257-158, 313-224 overall).
KEY PLAYERS: Yale — F Matt Knowling, 6-5, Jr. (20.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, .711 field goal percentage); G John Poulakidas, 6-5, So. (9.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, .448 3-point percentage); G August Mahoney, 6-4, Jr. (8.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg). Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, So. (18.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.8 apg); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Jr. (10.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, .490 field goal percentage); F J’Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Jr. (9.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg); G Jalen Gabbidon, 6-5, Gr. (9.8 ppg).
NOTES: Yale is off to the program’s first 6-0 start since 1945…Opponents have shot just .332 overall and .246 on 3-pointers against Yale…The Bulldogs have reached the NCAA…