TALE OF THE TAPE

Round Of 64 Matchup: #8 Colorado Vs. #9 Pittsburgh

By Shawn S. Lealos

The Pittsburgh Panthers and Colorado Buffaloes play in one of the closest matched games of the second round of the NCAA college basketball tournament. This is also a game where the winner gets the thankless reward of likely having to face the top ranked team in the entire tournament in the Florida Gators. Both reached the tournament as bubble teams who proved just enough to reach the Big Dance.

#8 Colorado
#9 Pittsburgh
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Coaching
Tad Boyle arrived in Colorado in 2010 and one year later had his Buffaloes in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003. This year, he has Colorado there for the third consecutive season for the first time in program history. Boyle has won more post-season games than any coach in school history.
Winner In many matchups, Boyle would be the better coach on the court, but Pittsburgh has Jamie Dixon. Taking over the reins in Pittsburgh in 2003, Dixon has won more games in his first seven seasons than any coach in NCAA history. He lost five players heading into this season and still managed a nine seed in the Big Dance.
Offense
It looked like the Buffaloes season was over when the “backbone” of the team, Spencer Dinwiddie, tore his ACL in January after leading the Buffs in scoring and assists in 2012-13. However, both Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson helped make up for the loss and Colorado turned things around. Askia Booker is also a big contributor on this offense, which is now much more varied.
Winner Two players led Pittsburgh into this tournament: Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna. The duo combined for 30.5 points and 13.6 rebounds a game this season. They led a disciplined offensive unit, but it might not be as deep as they need to make it far in this tournament.
Defense
The Buffs play well on the boards, averaging 25.9 rebounds a game, but that is all they do well on the defensive side of the ball. That said, Colorado has improved recently on defense over the last month of the season, with the team playing its best ball throughout the Pac-12 tournament. If they can play like Boyle coaches them to, they can give Pittsburgh a run for their money.
Winner While Pittsburgh has their two big scorers on offense, they are a defensive team at heart. They play a strong physical defense and often use double teaming, which could really shake up a Buffs team missing their top scorer. If the Panthers start double teaming players like Scott, they could really control this game. Pittsburgh ranks 22nd in the NCAA in points allowed.
Bench Depth
When Dinwiddie went down, it stripped the Buffaloes of their bench strength. No one on the bench averages over five points a game, and if Colorado wants to win, they will have to rely on their starters. The bench is just too young and inconsistent this season.
Winner The Panthers look almost identical to Colorado when it comes to the bench—they have only two players who play solid minutes, neither of which really contribute much in the way of points or rebounds. Neither team has a solid sixth man, both possessing underwhelming benches. If anything, Pittsburgh is a bit stronger here thanks to their coaching.

The Winner Is

(credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Winner #9 Pittsburgh
4 out of 4

The CU Buffs are the higher ranked seed in this game, but that is more because of what they accomplished with Spencer Dinwiddie and the gutsy play they saw after he went down for the season. However, they really don’t have the firepower to beat a disciplined Pittsburgh Panthers team. This game should be a quality win for Pittsburgh, but both teams will be finished when they face Florida in the next round.

-Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience in the media He covers all things college basketball. Find his work at Examiner.com.

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