Who: 8 Colorado (23-11) vs. 9 Pittsburgh (25-9)
When: Thursday 10:40 AM PT
Where: South Region, Orlando
There may be no first round match-up that features two teams that are looking to salvage "what could have been" seasons more than this one. The Buffaloes are trying to salvage a season that could have been much more successful had their best player Spencer Dinwiddie not gone down with an injury early in Pac-12 play and the Panthers are trying to salvage a season in which they lost almost all of their games in the final moments, squandering nearly all of their chances for marquee wins. These are two teams that easily could have ended up being four or five seeds had things played out a different way and they will be scrapping at each other with hopes of keeping their season going and forgetting about disappoint regular seasons.
Who are the stars?
F Josh Scott 6'10 245 So. Colorado
One of the best big men in the Pac-12, Scott became Colorado's leading scorer after Dinwiddie went down with 14 points per-game and was also in the top five of the Pac-12 in rebounding with 8.5 per-game. He is a beast down low and will be crucial for the Buffs as they take on Pitt big man Talib Zanna.
G Askia Booker 6'2 170 Jr. Colorado
Booker is Colorado's gunner on the wing that also became their best distributor when Dinwiddie went down. He's a streak shooter that can really fill it up when he gets hot and is the kind of guy who could take the game into his own hands if he starts to feel it.
F Lamar Patterson 6'5 225 Sr. Pitt
A second-team all-conference performer in a stacked conference, Patterson is a strong swingman that can get to the basket and shoot from the outside, averaging 17 points per-game. He can score, but is also a fantastic all-around player, averaging four rebounds and four assists per-game along with a steal.
Will Colorado be able to score?
Especially after losing Dinwiddie, the Buffs struggled to score, especially down the final stretch of the season, failing to score 70 points in their past five games. This is particularly concerning for the Buffs as they face off against the nation's 22nd best defense in Pittsburgh that particularly puts pressure on ballhandlers where the Buffs are still hurting without Dinwiddie.
Can Colorado shoot from the outside?
The Buffs are far from a great shooting team, especially from the outside where they are amongst the worst teams in the country. Those kind of stats are tournament death, especially in a match-up like this one where Talib Zanna will be defending their best inside scorer in Scott, making points from the outside even more important. Booker and his fellow perimeter players like Xavier Johnson are going to have to knock down some shots from the outside or they might have a very tough time scoring.
You're a Pac-12 fan, why do you want Colorado to win?
As a Pac-12 fan you should be sympathetic to Colorado's situation. If Dinwiddie had stayed healthy, I truly believe that they would have been in the UCLA range of the 3-5 seed and competed for the conference title. You have to admire the Buffs' grit and ability to rebound from their bad luck and getting a win in the tournament without their best player would be a testament to how strong the conference was this year.
I like the Buffs, they have a tough nucleus of young athletes across the board that I think are really underrated, but I don't like this match-up for them. I think the Buffs will be able to hang for most of the game, but I think their lack of outside shooting and Zanna's ability to neutralize Scott will really limit their offense and Pitt's efficient offense will give them just enough edge to give them a slightly comfortable win.
Pitt 64 Colorado 55