Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Second-round action in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament will continue on Thursday afternoon at the Amway Center in Orlando when the ninth-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers tangle with the eighth- seeded Colorado Buffaloes.
Pittsburgh (25-9) went 11-7 in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and while its resume was considered suspect by some, it managed to cement its status as an at-large selection after downing North Carolina in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament (80-75). The Panthers are one of only seven teams to make the tournament in 12 of the last 13 seasons, which includes an Elite Eight run in 2009.
Colorado (23-11) endured a tough Pac-12 Conference schedule and came away with a 10-8 league mark, although it went a combined 0-5 against Arizona and UCLA. Its biggest resume builder was a 75-72 home victory over Kansas in December when the Jayhawks were ranked No. 6. The Buffs are making their 15th appearance in the Big Dance, compiling a record of 10-14.
The teams met just once before, back in 1931, with Pittsburgh outlasting Colorado in a sluggish 25-23 affair.
The Panthers had a great opportunity to further bolster their resume in the ACC semifinals but ultimately fell on the wrong end of a 51-48 decision to eventual-champion Virginia in a game they never led in the second half. The team was stifled by the Cavaliers' elite defense, as it shot only 36.7 percent from the field. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna were solid despite the setback with 15 points apiece, with Zanna adding nine rebounds as well.
Pittsburgh's offense can usually be counted on for stellar production, as it shoots 46.1 percent from the field this season for 72.5 ppg, and it is able to pair that strong shooting attack with an equally impressive defensive effort (.413, 62.4 ppg). The squad also lives comfortably in the green in terms of its rebounding (+6.3) and turnover (+1.7) margins. Patterson is one of the nation's premiere swingmen with 17.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.3 apg and 1.4 spg. Zanna is a mainstay in the paint with 12.9 ppg and 8.8 rpg, while Cameron Wright brings 10.6 ppg and near two steals per contest to the table.
After advancing to the semifinal round of the Pac-12 Tournament following wins over USC and Cal, Colorado fell flat against Arizona in a 63-43 setback, as it shot a mere 29.4 percent from the field. Askia Booker (12 points) and Xavier Johnson (11) were the only players to register in double figures, but the duo combined to make just 8-of-25 from the floor.
The Buffs aren't the most electric offensive team, they shoot just 43.7 percent from the field for 70.9 ppg, but that production combined with a strong +6.2 rebounding margin has been enough to support a solid defense (.429, 67.9 ppg). Josh Scott acts as an anchor in the frontcourt with 14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 1.2 bpg, while boasting great percentages from the field (.510) and the foul line (.809). Booker (14.0 ppg) hands out 3.4 apg and Johnson (12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) rounds out an impressive scoring trio.