Austin, TX (Sports Network) - In the second round of the NCAA Tournament's
East Regional the battle-tested Illinois Fighting Illini will square off with
the Colorado Buffaloes at the Erwin Center on Friday afternoon.
A surprise run to the Pac-12 title game pushed the Buffaloes into the NCAA
Tournament a year ago. This season the Buffs grabbed a spot via an at-large
bid. The back-to-back appearances for the Buffaloes, who enter as a 10th seed,
marks the first time in 50 years they have accomplished the feat. Colorado
went 5-5 against NCAA Tournament teams this season but is coming off a 79-69
setback against Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Illinois, a seventh-seed, has a long history in the NCAA Tournament as its 30
appearances are second to only Indiana (37) among Big Ten schools. Illinois
also earned a spot in the tournament field with an at-large bid after a season
where it posted impressive wins over Gonzaga and Indiana which are each No. 1
seeds in the event. Illinois did stumble down the stretch however, with losses
in four of the last six games, including an 80-64 rout by the Hoosiers in the
Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
These teams have not met since 1987. Illinois has won three of the four all-
time meetings. The winner of this matchup will take on either two-seed Miami-
Florida or 15-seed Pacific on Sunday.
Colorado clawed its way back against Arizona after trailing by as many as 13
points in the second half. The Buffaloes cut that deficit to 71-69 with just
over a minute remaining but missed their final four field-goal attempts to
allow the Wildcats to escape with the victory.
The Buffaloes are paced by a talented starting rotation led by high-scoring
guard Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6 ppg) and the versatile Andre Roberson (10.9 ppg,
11.3 rpg, 2.2 spg, 1.3 bpg). Dinwiddie can score in a multitude of ways and
has had at least 17 points in five of the last six games. Roberson was second
in the regular season in rebounds and is a double-double threat every night.
The 6-foot-7 forward is also a talented defender that forces turnovers and
protects the rim. Askia Booker (12.4 ppg) and Josh Scott (10.3 ppg) provide
additional offensive punch, but the Buffaloes have little depth coming off the
Although the Illini managed to take down the Hoosiers once in the regular
season, the teams didn't look as evenly matched in the Big Ten Tournament. The
Illini shot just 34.5 percent from the field, while being dominated inside in
rebounds (38-26) and points in the paint (40-24).
In this contest the Illini will answer Colorado's Dinwiddie with the talented
Brandon Paul (16.6 ppg) who is also an explosive scorer out of the backcourt.
Paul netted 16 points against Indiana and has been pouring it on of late,
averaging 20 points per game over the last four contests. D.J. Richardson
(12.4 ppg) and Tracy Abrams are both solid scorers as well. Illinois doesn't
shoot very well as a team in general as they rank ninth in the Big Ten in
field-goal percentage (.416). Rebounding is also a weak spot, ranking 10th in
the conference in that regard (33.5 rpg).
The Sports Network