Colorado meets Pittsburgh today in one of the less glamorous games of the second round of the NCAA tournament in Orlando, FL. The battle between the Buffaloes and Panthers also promises to be one of the more hotly contested games today.
Colorado is making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fourth straight post season appearance under fourth year head coach and Colorado native Tad Boyle. Boyle has been the perfect fit for the Buffaloes and has raised this program from the ashes to one that is ascending in every way. Wins, fan support, recruiting and respect for the former doormat of the Big 12 are all on the rise.
Pittsburgh, led by Jamie Dixon is where Colorado wants to be, or more accurately the next step Colorado hope to take. Dixon is about a good a college basketball coach as there is, and he has led Pitt to the tournament 10 straight years while at the helm. He knows what he is doing when the NCAA tournament arrives so Pitt will be a tough out for anyone, especially Colorado. Pitt plays tough, physical defense and prevents penetration. Unfortunately for the Buffs that is where most of their offense comes from. With Spencer Dinwiddie out for the season with a torn left ACL, Colorado has a difficult time scoring from the outside. It will not get easier against Dixon’s team.
What the Buffs do have though is a determined team that started the season in the Top 25 and persevered despite Dinwiddie’s injury. They also have a clear advantage in strength of schedule in comparison to Pittsburgh. While both play challenging conference schedules, Colorado’s out of conference schedule was far superior, making them the more battle tested team. However, Pittsburgh is getting it together in their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. After a season of adjustment to the ACC Pitt has won three of their last four including a victory over No.15 North Carolina and a last second loss to the East region’s No. 1 seed Virginia.
For Colorado to win they will have to contain senior forwards Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. Patterson led Pittsburgh in both scoring and assists and was second on the team in rebounding while Zanna chipped in nearly 13 points and nine rebounds a game. Boyle claims his team is ready to win after bowing out of the tournament in the first round last season. For that to happen they will need big games from junior guard Askia Booker and sophomore forward Josh Scott to keep the Pitt defense honest.
Apparently the oddsmakers in Las Vegas disagree with Boyle and the NCAA selection committee that made Colorado an eight seed and Pitt a nine seed because the Panthers are a five point favorite. Unfortunately for the Buffs Vegas has a tendency to be right on these kind of matters. Colorado is progressing but they have gone as far as they can go without Dinwiddie and defeating Pittsburgh without any outside threat will prove to be too much. Dixon and his Pitt Panthers move on to the next round in a low scoring affair, 59-54.
Commentary by Mick Varner