ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida assistant coach Matt McCall sat on press row at halftime of the game between Pittsburgh and Colorado. He looked far more relaxed than most assistant coaches do while scouting a potential NCAA tournament opponent. Someone asked which team he had. “I’ve got Colorado,” McCall said. In other words, he didn’t have much to do for the next hour.
At that point, the No. 8-seeded Buffaloes were down by 28 and hadn’t even recorded an assist. Colorado finished the game with five assists, but the ninth-seeded Panthers still thrashed the Buffs 77-48, advancing to face the winner of the game between Florida and Albany in the South region. Pittsburgh forward Talib Zanna, days after making the All-ACC tournament team, led the Panthers with 18 points. Zanna made 6 of 7 field goal attempts and all six of his free throws. Pitt, which has won six of its last eight, looked absolutely ready for an all-but certain date with the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed on Saturday.
Colorado? That’s another story. This tweet pretty much sums up what everyone at the Amway Center was thinking as the Panthers obliterated the Buffaloes on Thursday.
Colorado went 8-10 after losing star guard Spencer Dinwiddie to a torn ACL at Washington on Jan. 12. Before Dinwiddie's injury, the Buffaloes were on pace for perhaps the most successful season in school history. Colorado was 15-2 with a resume-defining win over Kansas, which ended with an Askia Booker buzzer-beater from almost 30 feet. After losing Dinwiddie, the Buffs struggled. And on Thursday, they cratered. Pittsburgh led 13-0 more than five minutes in before Colorado even put the ball in the basket. The selection committee is supposed to take injuries into account when determining seeds, but Dinwiddie’s injury must have escaped the group’s notice.
If the Panthers can play like they did on Thursday, they should match up well against Florida. Pitt defended for the entirety of the shot clock on most possessions. After rebounding Colorado's missed shots, the Panthers pushed the ball past the wheezing Buffaloes for easy baskets on the other end. That is also how the Gators suffocate opponents, and the mirror-image factor could present a challenge for the No. 1 seed.
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