No. 25 CU Buffs men’s basketball, Cody Williams ready for Milwaukee

Colorado’s Cody Williams is expected to return from a brief injury absence when the 25th-ranked Buffaloes host Milwaukee. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

It was a banner Monday for fans of the Colorado men’s basketball team.

For the first time since late in the 2020-21 season, the Buffaloes cracked the Associated Press top 25, squeaking into the first poll of the regular season at No. 25.

More importantly in the big picture for CU, Cody Williams is back in the mix.

Williams practiced on Monday, and afterward head coach Tad Boyle said the standout freshman will be back in the rotation when the Buffs put their early 2-0 mark to the test in a Tuesday night home date against Milwaukee. Williams missed Friday’s victory against Grambling State due to a minor injury, and his services might very much be needed against a Milwaukee team that won 22 games last year and returns four starters.

“They play 11 or 12 guys, they have some good transfers and some guys they recruited and developed,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “This is not going to be a cakewalk. We’d better be on-point offensively and defensively, because they really pressure and try to turn you over. They want to shoot a lot of threes. They want to play fast. The difference between Milwaukee and (previous opponents) Towson and Grambling is their depth, and quality depth. They’ve got some dudes.”

As for the Buffs’ ranking, it is the first time CU has cracked the top 25 since the final three polls of the 2020-21 season, with the Buffs peaking at No. 22 in that season’s final poll. With the CU women jumping all the way to No. 5 this week after toppling then-No. 1 LSU last week, it is the first time both CU teams have been ranked simultaneously since Jan. 13, 2014, although that shared glory should be reviewed with a note of caution.

Following that shared top 25 ranking nearly 10 years ago, the women quickly fell out of the top 25 while fading down the stretch to a 6-12 mark in the Pac-12. And the men soon dropped from the top 25 in the wake of Spencer Dinwiddie’s season-ending knee injury, which occurred a day before that Jan. 13 poll was released.

“It’s cool, but we don’t really care,” CU guard KJ Simpson said. “It shows that all the hard work has paid off and it’s not for nothing. Especially with the talent we have on this team. We definitely consider ourself at least top 25. But we’ll just continue to do what we do, and hopefully as we go along we’ll get better.”

Milwaukee visited the Events Center just two years ago for the first matchup between the programs in 20 years, with CU posting a 65-54 win on Dec. 10, 2021. But the Panthers endured a coaching change after that season, and guard Markeith Browning II is the only  player still on the roster from that team.

Despite opening the season against a Division III foe, the Panthers have shot just .269 (14-for-52) from 3-point range through two games. Still, Boyle has cautioned his club about getting too comfortable defensively against a squad quite capable of suddenly finding the mark from long range.

“They brought in 13 new guys last year. They’re talented,” Boyle said. “They want to shoot a lot of 3s. Their coach has been quoted as saying they want to get up 30 3s a game. We’d better be able to guard the 3-point line. And transition defense — they’ll shoot a lot of them in transition. So we’ve got to be on-point. We can’t be lazy in transition.”

Milwaukee Panthers at No. 25 CU Buffs men’s basketball

TIPOFF: Tuesday, 7 p.m., CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Network; KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM

RECORDS: Milwaukee 2-0; Colorado 2-0.

COACHES: Milwaukee — Bart Lundy, 2nd season (23-13 at Milwaukee and overall). Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (274-171, 330-238 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Milwaukee — G/F BJ Freeman, 6-6, Jr., (33.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, .448 3%); G Erik Pratt, 6-5, R-Jr. (10.0 ppg); G Kentrell Pullian, 6-0, Jr. (9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .542 FG%). Colorado — F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (17.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, .722 FG%); G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (17.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.5 apg); F J’Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg); G Julian Hammond III, 6-2, Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5.0 apg); F/G Luke O’Brien, 6-8, Sr. (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

NOTES: Highly-touted freshman Cody Williams is expected to return to the rotation for CU after missing last week’s win against Grambling due to an injury. Williams went 1-for-4 with four points, four rebounds and three assists in his collegiate debut a week ago against Towson. … Milwaukee was picked second in the Horizon League in the preseason coaches’ poll. … Freeman didn’t play in Milwaukee’s opener against Division III Wisconsin-Stout, but went off for 33 points and 10 rebounds in the Panthers’ loss at Providence on Saturday. … Simpson and Hammond have combined for 21 assists with only four turnovers so far. … CU leads the all-time series 5-0. … After playing their first three games in nine days, the Buffs will have a slight lull before embarking on their first road trip of the season at the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, Fla. The Buffs will play their first game on Nov. 20 against Richmond and will face either Florida State or UNLV the following day.

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