Xavier Johnson goes up for a layup past Arizona's Soloman Hill on Thursday, March 14 at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. (Kai Casey/CU Independent File)
Xavier Johnson goes up for a layup past Arizona's Soloman Hill on Thursday, March 14 at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. (Kai Casey/CU Independent File)

Buffs March Madness preview

The University of Colorado men’s basketball team will go to Austin, Texas on Friday, March 22  to compete against the Illinois Fighting Illini in the first round of the NCAA tournament.  The Buffs will enter the tournament as a No. 10 seed and the Illini have been selected as a No. 7 seed.

Xavier Johnson goes up for a layup past Arizona's Soloman Hill on Thursday, March 14 at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. (Kai Casey/CU Independent File)
Xavier Johnson goes up for a layup past Arizona’s Soloman Hill on Thursday, March 14 at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas. (Kai Casey/CU Independent File)

The Buffs finished the regular season with a 21-11 record after competing well in a tough Pac-12 conference.  They fell to Arizona in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament last week, 79-69.

The Fighting Illini ended with a 22-12 overall record in the regular season, and lost to Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten conference tournament.

Looking forward to Friday’s matchup, the Buffs should walk away with the decisive victory provided that they can prevent Illinois from lighting up from the 3-point range.  The Buffs can accomplish this feat if they play tight man-on-man defense and don’t give Illinois any opportunities to shoot from behind the arc.

After Illinois’ starting center left for the NBA last year, their performance in postseason play has significantly decreased.  If the Buffs can maintain the strong defense that they’ve had over the majority of the season, they should be able to push past this weakness in the Illini’s offense and come out with the win.

The winner of this matchup will face the winner of the Miami-Pacific game, which will most likely be Miami.  After a stunning 27-point victory over Duke midway through the season, the Miami Hurricanes have climbed through the rankings and proven themselves as one of the nation’s top teams.

If the Buffs defeat Illinois and advance to the second round to face Miami, their NCAA appearance may end there.  Miami will be a tough team to beat, especially at this early stage of the tournament.  Anything can happen, though, they don’t call it “March Madness” for nothing.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alissa Noe at Alissa.noe@colorado.edu.

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