The 11th-seeded Colorado Buffaloes are set seeded UNLV Runnin' Rebels in a South Region matchup in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at The Pit.
Colorado earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance by winning four straight games in its first ever Pac-12 Conference Tournament to claim the crown. The Buffaloes were in fifth place in the league standings at end of the regular season and had no hopes of an at-large bid. Second year coach Tad Boyle still has to be commended on his job, as his squad was picked to finish in 10th place in its new conference. With a surplus of momentum and nothing to lose, Colorado has a chance to make some headlines in its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. The Buffaloes will need to continue their tenacious defensive effort, which carried them through the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.
UNLV is lacking momentum at the moment. The Runnin' Rebels have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games and have not won away from home since Jan. 28. Despite its recent struggles, UNLV has shown the ability to produce quality wins, as it defeated Nevada, North Carolina, California, and San Diego State during the regular season. First-year head coach Dave Rice guided his team to a perfect home record during the regular season behind a very efficient offensive attack. UNLV is making its third straight and 19th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Runnin' Rebels will be looking to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1991 and win the National Championship for the first time since 1990.
UNLV holds a 4-1 lead in its all-time series with Colorado. The rivalry has been idle since Dec. 22, 1981 when the Buffaloes earned a 65-59 triumph over UNLV.
The Buffaloes' defense is going to be their key to success. Colorado limits opponents to 62.5 ppg. Offensively, Colorado will be dangerous if Carlon Brown continues to shine. The senior guard earned the Pac-12 Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player after averaging 15.8 points per game on 50 percent shooting while also grabbing 4.8 rebounds. Brown made big play after big play in the conference tourney while Andre Roberson continued to be a force on the inside. Roberson led the Pac-12 in rebounding with 11.1 boards per game and recorded 19 double-doubles over the course of the season, which is the fifth most in the nation. Senior forward Austin Dufault is adding 11.0 ppg. Freshman shooting guard Spencer Dinwiddie caught fire and went 4-of-4 in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game, if he can carry that into the Big Dance it will have a huge impact on the Buffaloes' chances.
The Runnin' Rebels are going to be difficult to stop. They are scoring 76.7 ppg and dish out 17.7 assists per game, which is the third highest average in the nation. UNLV has a stable frontcourt in forward Mike Moser and center Brice Massamba. Moser holds a double-double average of 14.1 points and 10.6 boards per game while Massamba connected on 62.9 percent of his attempts from the floor. Chace Stanback is a streaky shooter, but when hot can make UNLV unstoppable. Point guard Oscar Bellfield will be the key to success. Bellfield's ability to see the floor made him the Mountain West's all-time career assists leader.