Who: 7 Illinois (22-12) vs. 10 Colorado (21-11)
When: Friday, 1:40 p.m. PT
Where: East region - Austin, TX
The 7 vs. 10 matchups are always some of the best in the tournament every year and this one features one of the most talented teams from the Pac-12 facing off against the Illini who are led by star, senior guard Brandon Paul who is trying to extend his college glory. With Colorado being one of the tougher teams in the Pac-12 and Illinois coming from the grind-it-out Big Ten, this should be a hard-fought game where the team that walks away with the victory simply being the team that wants it more.
Who are the stars?
Brandon Paul Sr. G Illinois 6'4 200
One of the best shooters in the nation, Paul was one of the top scorers in the Big Ten and is the senior leader for the Illini. The Illini may only go as far as Paul can take them, and that might be a good thing for Illinois, as the clutch senior has proven to be an excellent competitor towards the end of the game.
Andre Roberson Jr. F Colorado 6'7 210
The nation's second-leading rebounder, Roberson is a guy who hits the boards hard and makes up for not being the biggest guy on the floor by being smart, crafty, athletic and hard-working. Not just a great rebounder, Roberson was the Pac-12 defensive player of the year and even has a solid offensive game on top of all of that.
Spencer Dinwiddie So. G Colorado 6'6 200
A 6'6 point guard, Dinwiddie is one of the most interesting athletes in the Pac-12 and is a versatile players that can shoot from the outside and get to the basket and get fouled. A matchup nightmare, Dinwiddie is one of the leading scorers in the Pac-12 and a matchup nightmare for opposing guards.
Can Roberson control Paul?
Even though he plays the power forward position, Roberson will likely be called upon to uphold his defensive prowess and shut down Paul. Roberson's athleticism and perimeter skills allow him to play defense well outside, but containing the Illini star is a tall task for anyone, but if he can, it seems very unlikely that the Illini can pull off the win. Roberson was actually fighting an illness toward the end of the regular season, but it sounds like he has fully recovered and should be up for taking on the challenge.
Can Colorado score against the Illini's tight defense?
The Buffs played a number of low-scoring games in the Pac-12 this season, but will they be ready for the truly slowed down, defensive attack of the Illini? The Buffs have had trouble scoring at times this year, especially inside, and the Illini's defense, which is great at getting opponents to turn the ball over, could severely limit their already questionable scoring abilities.
You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want Colorado to win?
The Pac-12 doesn't have great matchups in the first round. Oregon and Cal are 12 seeds and definite underdogs and many are predicting that Arizona and UCLA will get upset in the first round. There is a realistic chance that every Pac-12 team could be knocked out in the first round, and when looking at the matchups, I think that this might be the most favorable one that anyone in the conference got. I don't think this will happen, but this might be the only game where the Pac-12 is able to get a win, so the Buffs better deliver.
I think this will be a low-scoring game that Roberson's locking down of Paul makes somewhat comfortable from the beginning for Colorado, though never too comfortable because of the Buffs' own offensive problems and Illinois' stingy defense. Making scoring tough for the Illini without Paul thriving, the Buffs won't have to put up a ton of points to get the win and Roberson will dominate the offensive glass and allow Dinwiddie to score enough to give Colorado the win in a game that goes down to the final seconds.
Colorado 54 Illinois 50