NCAA Tournament: 5 Reasons Why Colorado Can Make a Run to the Sweet 16
Fear the Buffaloes?
After a tense 30 minutes passed on Selection Sunday, without Colorado's name appearing in the first two regions, those present in Tad Boyle's living room were having worrisome flashbacks to 2011 when the Buffs were surprisingly snubbed. However, all was right in the room just minutes later as Colorado flashed on the screen as a No. 10 seed in the East region, matching up with No. 7 Illinois.
The question now is can Colorado make a run to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament?
They have all the potential to make a run to the sweet 16 but the team that steps on the floor on Friday has to be the good Colorado team that upset the likes of Arizona, Oregon and Cal during the regular season. To do that they have to be the team that plays with a sense of urgency and the group that plays loose. As the lower seed they certainly have the ability to play loose and get out to a quick advantage.
Flashback just a season ago, when Colorado upset UNLV in the second round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed, and you realize the ability that the Buffaloes have to play the spoiler card and shake up the brackets. Colorado was coming off of a conference tournament championship a season ago, so they were playing with extreme confidence, but even though the Buffs were bounced in the quarterfinals of the Pac 12 tournament this year doesn't mean they can't make a similar run in this year's version of the big dance.
Illinois and the top No. 2 seed Miami stand in the way but if Colorado can make a run to the sweet 16 this season it will be because of these five reasons.
Defense and Rebounding
Tad Boyle's mantra from day one has been defense and rebounding so if Colorado advances past the first weekend it will most likely be driven by those two factors. Colorado will need to win the rebounding battle and they'll want to hold their opponents under 40% from the field in order to sweep the weekend.
A positive that Colorado has going for them is their defensive efficiency and their defensive free throw rate. The Buffs are in the top 26 in the country in defensive efficiency at 89% and they are the fourth best team in the country at limiting opponents free throw attempts.
Both of those stats bode well for a team that sometime struggles on the offensive end of the floor. As the saying goes, defense wins championships.
Head Coach Tad Boyle
In only his third season in Boulder Boyle has already done more for Colorado than any other coach of the program in 50 years. He's led them to back-to-back tournament appearances, a third straight 20 win season and even notched a tournament win last season with the upset of UNLV.
But if Colorado advances to the sweet 16 this season Boyle will have to manage and coach his players better than he has all season. He'll need to manage his rotations effectively because at times this season he's had a lackluster offensive group of players on the court. If the opposing team can get on a run while the starters are on the bench Colorado will be sent home early.
Boyle has already proven his worth in his few years in Boulder but he has a chance to cement a legacy with a 2-0 weekend.
As he's known to the Colorado fan base, 'The Mayor' will have to play some of his best basketball of the season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He is a lock-down perimeter defender and going up against Illinois' Brandon Paul he'll have to be up to the challenge like he has been all season against some of the better guards in the country. Dinwiddie is long, athletic and poses a tremendous barrier for offensive players to try and get through.
On the other side of the court Dinwiddie leads the Buffs in scoring and assists and they frankly go as he goes. When he is playing aggressively and getting to the free throw line, Dinwiddie is in the top five in the country in free throw attempts, Colorado is tough to beat.
Neutral Court Tournament Success
Colorado has plenty of success in a tournament setting and they hope that string of play carries into this weekend. Since the Pac 12 tournament from last season Colorado is 9-2 in neutral court tournament games. 4-0 in the Pac 12 tournament, 1-1 in the NCAA Tournament, 3-0 earlier this year in the sweep of the Charleston Classic and then a 1-1 performance last week in Las Vegas at the conference tournament.
The Buffs have a hard time scoring on the road but it seems like neutral court tournament games don't have the same effect on their poor offensive numbers. They play well in tournament games with little time in between to dwell on the negatives from the previous games. For a player like Askia Booker, who has been in a major slump for the majority of the season, tournament games play to his advantage and it's an opportunity for him to break out of his shooting woes.
Andre Roberson's Presence on the Boards
If anybody watched Colorado's Pac 12 quarterfinal game against Arizona last week they'll tell you that Roberson was the Buffs best player on both sides of the ball. He was extremely active on the boards, fighting for loose balls and scrapping for putbacks around the rim.
It was not clear how effective Roberson would be after missing the final two games of the season with a viral illness but it actually seemed to have helped him. He looked rested and had an extra spring in his step, something that will come in handy this late in the season with pretty much every player dealing with bumps and bruises. He's one of the nation's top rebounders and against a pure jump shooting team like Illinois, and an offensive rebounding juggernaut in Miami, Roberson's presence on the boards will have to be top-notch.