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NCAA tournament team previews: Colorado Buffaloes

Josh ScottJosh Scott, an All-Pac-12 selection, helped to prove that Colorado could win without Spencer Dinwiddie. (William Mancebo/Getty)

As part of its preview of the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. For more teams, click here.

Record: 23-11, 10-8 Pac-12

RPI/SOS: 35/20

Adjusted offense / Adjusted defense: 105.7 (147th) / 96.5 (35th)

Seed: No. 8 in South

Impact player: Josh Scott, sophomore forward. 14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg

The Case For:

Written off by some once star guard Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL in January, the Buffaloes weathered a brief slide -- they dropped four of five games beginning with the one in which he was hurt -- to keep alive their once-automatic tourney hopes. In the process, they reconfigured their offense to find more shots for Josh Scott, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and budding inside force with a soft touch around the basket, and sophomore swingman Xavier Johnson, whose field goal attempts per game jumped from 7.1 to 10.5 in Dinwiddie’s absence. Both have been fairly efficient in that span, shooting 48.0 percent and 44.1 percent from the field, respectively.

But Colorado’s most frequent shooter before and after the injury has been sophomore guard Askia Booker. When Booker is on, he can score in bunches. See his 21 points on 5-of-7 three-point shooting against UCLA, or the 46 points he scored on 26 shots during a pair of wins over Washington and Washington State.

The Buffaloes are also an elite team on the defensive glass. And as their strength of schedule would suggest, they are unlikely to be caught off guard by strong competition. Outside of the Pac-12 gantlet, they knocked off Kansas and Harvard (albeit at home and with Dinwiddie) and lost to Oklahoma State (neutral) and Baylor (in Dallas).

The Case Against:

Yes, Colorado has done an admirable job treading water without Dinwiddie, but it got to the tournament thanks to the strong start it got off to with him; since then, the Buffaloes are a fairly mediocre 9-8 with a 2-5 mark in road games. Booker can score, but he is not particularly efficient while doing so, shooting 39.2 pecent from the field while being prone to the occasional bottoming-out, like his 0-for-9 performance at Washington or 1-for-8 effort at Utah. Given that he takes a team-high 30.0 percent of Colorado’s shots when he’s on the floor, if Booker is off, the offense can go down with him.

The Buffaloes also lose the battle beyond the three-point line, shooting 32.0 percent while allowing opponents to shoot 35.7 percent, so they are not necessarily well-suited to make up deficits and could be prone to finding themselves in one against a strong shooting team. And their below-average turnover percentage on offense may exacerbate their inefficient shooting.

SI Prediction: Lose in second round to Pitt

View complete bracket predictions from SI.com’s panel of experts

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