THE GAME: The University of Colorado hosts the Colorado School of Mines in an exhibition women's basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events Center. Saturday's game is free to the public.
BROADCAST: Friday's game will not be carried on the radio, however a free live video stream will be available through Colorado's Pac-12.com video player. All CU women's basketball home games that are not televised will be available through Pac-12.com at this link:
Non-televised Pac-12 road games are scheduled to be available on the opponents' video player, free of charge.
SEASON PREVIEW: The first three years of the Linda Lappe era could be summed up by the following question...Can you top this?
Since returning to her alma mater in the spring of 2010, Colorado has enjoyed a steady climb, improving its record each year while achieving new heights along the way.
After several years of sub-par performances, the Buffaloes made back-to-back WNIT appearances in 2011 and 2012. Last season, Colorado broke through with a 25-7 record, 13-5 in Pac-12 play, one of its finest seasons in over a decade. In the end, Colorado was rewarded with its 13th NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2004.
Now the question...what's next for the Buffaloes in 2013-14? While Colorado can use experiences from last year to build on, the Buffaloes and Lappe have the perspective of taking it day-by-day this year and working to get better in the present.
"It's a different season," Lappe said. "Sometimes we can look back and remember how we accomplished something. Every team has its own identity and this team's has yet to be determined. Last year we beat teams we should beat and did some good things. But we have to be able to take care of business this year and then raise that level...how do we build on that and keep going forward?"
"Everything gets harder. It's easier to get to the top when you are not very good than it is to stay at the top. So we have to keep getting better. We're very hungry to reach our goals, understanding how hard we have to work every day."
Colorado's success last year can be attributed in part to taking care of business; beating the teams they were supposed to beat. The Buffaloes were a sparkling 24-1 against unranked opponents, with the lone loss coming in the NCAA Tournament against a Kansas team that had arguably underachieved during the regular season after a Sweet 16 Appearance in 2012.
While Colorado will strive to maintain that success rate against the majority of the country, the next step is to attack that next tier. Six of Colorado's seven losses came against ranked teams and five of those were ranked in the top seven.
Defensively the Buffaloes should be solid once again, and not surprisingly as aggressiveness on that end of the floor has become a trademark of the program under Lappe. Colorado is coming off of one of the greatest defensive seasons in program history, setting school records for scoring defense (54.5 ppg) and opponent field-goal percentage (.350). Senior guard Brittany Wilson emerged as one of the top defenders in the Pac-12, being named to the league's all-defensive team.
On the offensive side, Colorado should be fairly balanced and as good in the low post as it has been in years. Arielle Roberson, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, is Colorado's top returning scorer (12.1 ppg) and rebounder (6.2 rpg). She also led the Buffaloes in trips to the free-throw line (97-of-142) and hit 41 percent from 3-point range (21-of-51).
The Buffaloes also return three other starters with loads of experience. Senior center Rachel Hargis started 31 games in the low blocks before missing the NCAA game against Kansas with a knee injury. At a solid 6-4, she gives the Buffaloes a strong physical presence down low. Hargis led the team in blocked shots (34) while averaging just over four points per game.
CU's back court duo of Wilson and junior Lexy Kresl have the ability to score in bunches. They rank 10th and 11th respectively in career 3-point field goals and individually can light it up at any time.
Senior Ashley Wilson and junior Jasmine Sborov have experience as a starter and off the bench; both have consistently provided energy throughout their careers regardless of roles.
While neither Ashley Wilson or Sborov have eye-popping statistics, they possess a trait that can be attributed to most of the Buffaloes, versatility. Sborov can play all five positions on the floor, giving Colorado a lot of different looks. Wilson's energy off the bench as been contagious over the past three years, and despite her 5-8 frame, crashes the boards as well as some with several inches on her.
The Buffaloes have built themselves up to have plenty of depth from the outside. Lauren Huggins, who missed all but five games last year due to an injured leg, regained that year of eligibility through an NCAA medical hardship. Huggins is dangerous 3-point shooter with range well beyond the arc.
Two new faces join the Buffaloes back court in point guard Desiree Harris and wing Haley Smith. Harris averaged 15 points and six rebounds as a senior for St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda, Calif. Smith, from Sammamish, Wash., led her Skyline High School team to the Class 4A state tournament and was the KingCo 4A MVP.
Colorado has an experienced front court. While Hargis has been a mainstay in the post for three years, junior Jen Reese and Jamee Swan look to continue to provide valuable minutes at one of the forward spots.
"Post play has really started to become a strength, even last year as we went through the season," Lappe said. "Our strength and toughness is much better and you can see that on the floor."
Reese was one of the best bench players in the Pac-12 last year. She ranked third on the team in scoring and earned honorable mention to the All-Pac-12 team. Swan progressed nicely as her freshman season went along, hitting 45 percent from the field and ranking second on the team in blocks (28) and fourth in rebounds at 4.5 per game.
Entering the mix this year are a pair of 6-2 post players. Zoe Beard-Fails averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds for Georgetown Day School in Washington, D.C. Bri Watts, a Fresno, Calif., native helped her Clovis West High School team to a sectional title as a senior. Both players add a strong and physical presence to the Buffaloes front court.
Colorado's incoming freshmen have the unique opportunity of already having played for the Buffaloes. During the tour, which included stops in Lake Como, Venice, Florence and Rome, Colorado played in three competitions, where all four saw significant time on the court. The experience also provided the young Buffs with an extra 10 days of practice prior to the trip as well a chance to bond with their new teammates.
One of Colorado's challenges will be to replace two-time All-Pac-12 and honorable mention AP All-American guard Chucky Jeffery, one of the most dynamic players in team history. Jeffery, who averaged 13.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a senior, finished her career in numerous career top 10 lists at Colorado including points, rebounds, assists and steals.
No one player is expected to replace Jeffery, and Lappe feels the Buffaloes collectively are certainly up to that task, each stepping up to take on different roles.
"We have players that are confident to do that," Lappe said. "They've all worked really hard and realize they may need to play a different role than they did last year."
Colorado once again has a competitive schedule that features games against 12 opponents that advanced to postseason play a year ago. That mix includes a rematch with 2013 NCAA runner-up Lousiville on Dec. 21. The Buffaloes also have nonconference home games against Big Ten foes Iowa and Illinois
"We have a really tough nonconference schedule," Lappe said. "We play some quality teams at home and on the road, and visit some neat venues like The Pit (New Mexico) and the Yum Center (Louisville). It should be a great experience for our players.
"With our schedule, are players certainly won't get bored. They will be intrigued about each game; we'll really understand what it means to be ready and prepared each time out."
ABOUT THE OREDIGGERS: The Colorado School of Mines is an NCAA Division II school located in Golden, Colo., and competes in the prestigious Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a league Colorado was once part of during the first half of the 20th century.
The Orediggers are coming off a 15-14 season in 2012-13, placing sixth in the RMAC at 12-10. Senior forward Allie Grazulis was the only player in the RMAC last season to average double digits in scoring and rebounding. She led that circuit in rebounding at 10.3 per game while scoring 10.5 points per contest. Junior guard Taylor Helbig is the team's leading returning scorer at 13.4 points per game. She ranked third in the RMAC with 62 3-point field goals in 2012-13.
The Orediggers have been picked to finish eighth in the 2013-14 RMAC Preseason Coaches Poll. Mines opened its exhibition season with a 95-47 loss at Colorado State on Oct. 28. Senior guard Courtney Gallo led the Orediggers with 19 points, shooting 7-of-13 in that game. Freshman guard Laura Tyree scored 10 points.
BUFFS IN EXHIBITION: Colorado is a perfect 23-0 in exhibition games, outscoring its opponents by 31.3 points per game (86.0 to 54.7). The Buffaloes have played at least one exhibition game in all but one year (2009) since 1997. CU's exhibition games have featured a mix of NCAA II schools, foreign teams and traveling all-star teams. CU's closest exhibition contest came in 1997, a 77-72 win over Athletes in Action. Colorado's last exhibition was an 87-38 decision over Western State Colorado University prior to the start of the 2012-13 season.
This will be the fourth time Colorado and Colorado Mines have hooked up in an exhibition game. The two teams squared off in three straight exhibitions from 2005-07 with the Buffaloes winning by an average score of 64-32.