Newly ranked No. 25 Colorado prepares for test from Milwaukee

Colorado passed the first two tests of its young season, which earned it the No. 25 ranking in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.

The Buffaloes will defend their new status when they host Milwaukee on Tuesday night.

Colorado (2-0) joined the rankings for the first time since the end of the 2020-21 season when it finished 22nd at the conclusion of season.

It will be the sixth meeting between the schools and the Buffaloes have won the previous five, four of which were in Boulder, Colo., including the last matchup in 2021 when the hosts prevailed 65-54.

Colorado struggled in the first half of this season’s opener, leading Towson by just four points, but since then it has outscored opponents 142-96. The Buffaloes led wire to wire in a 95-63 win over Grambling on Friday night.

Colorado outrebounded the Tigers 41-24 and held them to 38.9 percent shooting.

“To play at Colorado, you have to defend and rebound, and that’s what we do,” said J’Vonne Hadley, who produced 17 points and eight rebounds in the win over Grambling. “And we do pride ourselves on that. And we will take pride in defending, especially, and then boxing out and rebounding is another thing that comes with that.”

While the opponents aren’t from Power 6 conferences, Colorado coach Tad Boyle has scheduled teams that will compete for their conference titles.

“What we’ve tried to do with Towson, Grambling and Milwaukee is identify teams that are going to play at the higher end of their conference, be in the top if not two to three, top four or five,” Boyle said after the win over Grambling.

If the Buffaloes are going to beat the Panthers, they will have to stop BJ Freeman.

The junior guard is in his second season with Milwaukee (1-1) after playing for Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. Freeman led the Panthers in scoring (18.2 points a game) and tied for the lead in rebounds (5.1 per contest) in 32 games in 2022-23.

He has started this season well, putting up 33 points and 10 rebounds in a 79-69 loss at Providence on Saturday night.

“It was a tough environment. We always want to win, but we will learn and move on,” Milwaukee coach Bart Lundy said after the defeat. “You can take so many lessons from this. It’s good for our team growth and individually, a lot of guys are starting to figure things out.

“We have a chance to be a really good team. If we come out and rebound better from the start, we could have won that game.”

The Panthers started four juniors and a sophomore against the Friars. Their top scorer off the bench in the game was another junior, Erik Pratt.

After the Tuesday game, both teams will take part in the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, Fla., starting Nov. 20, but will not face each other. Colorado will compete in the Beach Bracket while the Panthers are in the Ocean Bracket.