The No. 7 seed Illinois Fighting Illini and No. 10 seed Colorado Buffaloes will meet in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and this matchup has upset written all over it.
Both teams are coming into the game with losses.
Colorado lost to Arizona State, 79-69, in the Pac-12 Tournament, and Illinois fell to Indiana, 80-64, in the Big Ten Tournament.
The teams are 20-game winners on the season, however. Illinois holds a 22-12 record, and Colorado owns a 21-11 mark
Where: Austin, Texas, at Frank Erwin Special Events Center
When: Friday, March 22, 4:40 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Illinois -2.0
Colorado center Shane Harris-Tunks has an ankle injury, according to USA Today. He is listed as probable against Illinois.
Illinois has no reported injuries.
Matchup to Watch: Fighting Illini frontcourt vs. Andre Roberson
Colorado’s Andre Roberson is a beast on the boards. He’s averaging 11.3 rebounds per game, which puts him at second in the country.
Illinois is not a great rebounding team, pulling down 33.5 rebounds per game, which puts that at 218th in the country.
For any hope of halting an upset bid, Illinois will need to keep Roberson in check. They need to box Roberson out to keep him from dominating the boards.
If they do this, that will force Buffaloes’ sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie to win the game.
Key Player for Colorado: Sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie (15.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.0 APG)
Dinwiddie needs to have a big game for the Buffaloes if they are to have a chance at upsetting Illinois. Much of the defense’s attention will be attempting to limit Roberson’s rebounds in the paint, leaving it up to the sophomore to do his thing.
He’ll need to get creative and find Roberson open in the paint.
Key Player for Illinois: Tracy Abrams (10.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.3 APG)
Sophomore guard Tracy Abrams will have a tough matchup against Dinwiddie, but should be able to handle him.
Abrams is a good defender, averaging 1.4 steals per contest. If he’s able to keep Dinwiddie, who averages 2.2 turnovers per game, in check it will be catastrophic for the Buffaloes.
Stat to Watch: Shooting Percentage
At a neutral location, it’s often time difficult for a team to get used to the different rims. The team that shoots the highest percentage will win this one.
Colorado shoots at 43.6 percent, while Illinois owns a 41.6 shooting percentage.
In a tournament setting, you can throw these stats away. One team can get hot or come out cold. The only thing that is certain is that the teams need to come out of the gates hot.
Prediction: Colorado 64, Illinois 62
I’m picking the upset in this one. The rebounding advantage held by Roberson and the Buffaloes will be enough to upset and move on to the next round.