The Buffaloes were not expected to still be in contention for their first NCAA National Championship, but a spirited run through the Pac-12 Conference Tournament and an upset of the sixth-seeded UNLV Runnin' Rebels on Thursday has the stampede continuing on. Coach Tad Boyle has already done a remarkable job this season, as he led the team to its first consecutive 20-win seasons in program history despite being picked to finish 11th out of 12 in the conference in the preseason. To reach their first ever Sweet 16, the Buffaloes have some clear issues to address from their opening game versus the Runnin' Rebels. Colorado turned the ball over 23 times and made only 17-of-27 at the charity stripe against UNLV. The Buffaloes are a very athletic, and defensively disciplined team. They were able to limit UNLV, which ranked 24th in the NCAA in scoring offense, to 64 points on 32.4 percent shooting.
Baylor had its hands full with the feisty 14th-seeded Jackrabbits of South Dakota State in its second round game, but managed to escape with a 68-60 victory. The Bears reached the Elite Eight in 2010 under Scott Drew, and have a much more talented bunch this season. Baylor's very athletic lineup pushed past South Dakota State by wining the rebounding battle, 35-23, and outscoring the Jackrabbits by 10 points in the paint. Baylor, which came into the tourney ranked 9th, has established itself as an elite program and is one win away from breaking the single season school record for wins. The Bears have yet to lose outside of the Big 12 this season and they have outscored their opponents by an average of 9.9 ppg.
The Buffaloes, formerly of the Big 12, have a 15-9 record all-time versus Baylor, including a 4-1 mark on neutral courts. These programs met in the NCAA Tournament once before, in the 1946 Third Place game, which Colorado won 59-44.
Colorado received a huge lift off the bench from its freshman point guard Askia Booker versus UNLV, as he scored a career-high 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor. Booker's timely outburst was accompanied by expected strong play from Carlon Brown and Andre Roberson. Brown, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Pac-12 Tournament, scored 12 points which included a forceful dunk to stop a 14-0 run by UNLV. Roberson, as usual, made a huge impact on the both ends and ended with a double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds. Austin Dufault is the third leading scorer for CU and added 14 points versus the Runnin' Rebels. With the a talented freshman guard Spencer Dinwiddie also in the mix, the Buffaloes suddenly have a complete and dangerous lineup.
The Bears' lineup is also complete and just as dangerous as any other in the field. Sophomore sensation Perry Jones III is leading the pack with team-high averages of 13.6 points and 7.8 boards per game. Point guard Pierre Jackson is the true game changer for Baylor. The junior guard's quickness and fearless style of play makes him very difficult to defend, and defenses are hesitant to leave his shooting guard Brady Heslip to help as he is a lights out three- point threat. Heslip knocked down 5-of-10 from distance versus South Dakota State to keep Baylor alive. Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy team up with Jones III in the frontcourt, and while neither of them played particularly well versus SDSU, they both carry double-digit scoring averages. A.J. Walton was benched this season after 48 consecutive starts, but the move has been helpful and gives BU a floor general off the bench when needed.