Matchups To Watch In Saturday's Buffs-Hoyas NCAA Opener
INDIANAPOLIS — From the day he took the reins at Colorado some 11 years ago, Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle has always insisted that his program be constructed on the foundational tenets of defense and rebounding.
The 22-8 Buffaloes will need to be at their best in both areas Saturday when they square off with 13-12 Georgetown at 10:15 a.m. in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse (CBS).
The Hoyas hit the boards in a big way, averaging 40.2 per game (13th in the nation), while out-rebounding opponents by an average of 5.1 per game (38th in the nation).
Offensively, Georgetown averages a middle-of-the-road 71.4 points per game — but Hoyas have four players averaging double figures, meaning containing one big scorer likely won't be enough. As Boyle has stressed this week, the Hoyas can score inside and out, and they average more than eight 3-pointers per game.
Limiting those 3-pointers will be a key for the Buffs. While the Hoyas are dangerous from long distance, one of their weaknesses may be their short and mid-range game. Georgetown shot just 46 percent from 2-point range this year, 295th in the nation.
But there are plenty of other statistics in the Buffs' favor. As The Athletic's Peter Keating and Jordan Brenner pointed out earlier this week, the Buffs are one of just a handful of teams in the country this year who were above average in offensive and defensive rebounding, along with forcing and avoiding turnovers.
The Hoyas, meanwhile, saw more than one in every five possessions end in a turnover.
But, as the old axiom goes, the NCAA Tournament is usually about matchups — and there should be some good ones to watch Saturday:
— CU point guard McKinley Wright IV vs. Georgetown PG Dante Harris. Wright is simply one of the best and most complete point guards in the nation. He leads the Buffs in scoring (15.5), assists (5.6) and steals (1.1) and is fourth in rebounding (4.3). He also took his game up a notch down the stretch, averaging 19.7 points over the last seven games. Harris, the Most Outstanding Player in the Big East tournament, isn't a big scorer (8.0 ppg), but runs the offense with great efficiency and is considered a solid defender.
— CU guard Eli Parquet vs. Georgetown guard Jahvon Blair. This one's a classic great defender vs. outstanding scorer matchup. Parquet was voted to the Pac-12 All-Defensive team; Blair leads the Hoyas in scoring (15.8 ppg) and 3-pointers (65 this year). Parquet's task will be to move Blair off the 3-point line and make him earn tough twos.
— CU big men Dallas Walton and Evan Battey vs. Georgetown center Qudus Wahab. The Hoyas' 6-foot-11, 237-pound sophomore center averages 12.4 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting nearly 60 percent. It will be up to Battey and Walton to keep him off the boards, especially on the offensive end, where Wahab corralled 63 boards this year. Wahab did have his share of foul troubles this year — he fouled out against Villanova in the Big East tournament — and the Buffs will likely test him inside early.
— CU's Battey, D'Shawn Schwartz and Jeriah Horne vs. Georgetown guard-forward Jamorko Pickett. A 6-9 versatile player who can score inside and out — he hit 40 3-pointers this year and averages 7.4 rebounds — Pickett will be a test for whoever is on him.
— Colorado coach Tad Boyle vs. Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing. Yes, if you haven't paid attention this week, the Hoyas' coach is a national darling. A Hall of Fame player, Ewing built a legion of fans in the media in his playing days and they are loving the storyline around his team. But Boyle has been around the block a few times in his coaching career — and rest assured his players will know this is a huge opportunity for Colorado to earn some national respect.
Georgetown and Ewing no doubt make for a great narrative. But a Colorado win would turn some heads toward a program out West that is deserving of some attention. Guaranteed, the Buffs will be well-aware of that fact when they take the floor.