Heading into the NCAA tournament, the Colorado Buffaloes appeared ripe for an early exit as top prognosticators favored the 12-seed Georgetown Hoyas in the first-round matchup.
But Colorado opened on fire, draining six 3-pointers over the first 12 minutes en route to an early double-digit lead. In total, Colorado hit 16 threes on Saturday afternoon, setting a Pac-12 single-game record for three-pointers in the tournament, while cruising to a 96-73 win.
Now, Colorado hopes to use the momentum from Saturday’s dominating victory on Monday night when the Buffaloes take on 4-seed Florida State in an East Regional second-round game. After the Seminoles opened as a 2-point favorite on the Vegas Consensus line, the line moved one point in the Buffaloes’ favor early Sunday morning, before returning back to 1.5 points for several hours on Sunday afternoon.
Colorado is looking to make its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1969, while the Seminoles are attempting to make their third straight trip to the regional semifinals. Over the first week of March Madness, sports bettors in the Centennial State have backed the Boulder university at an inordinately high rate.
With 96 points on Saturday in Indianapolis, Colorado set a school record for points in an NCAA tournament game. Colorado appeared to produce the most points of any team in the first round, a popular bet at several sportsbooks nationwide, until Gonzaga put up 98 in a blowout win over Norfolk State on Saturday night. The Buffaloes shared the ball effectively from the outset, recording 16 assists on their first 17 made field goals.
Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV finished with 13 assists and zero turnovers against the Hoyas, becoming the first player to accomplish the feat in a tournament game since 2008. Wright is the only player in Pac-12 history to score 1,600 points, hand out 600 assists and pull down 600 rebounds over a four-year career. Wright, who earned a spot on the Pac-12’s all-conference first team for the third consecutive season, also ranks in the Top 10 in school history in career points.
Wright will again lean on several Buffs underclassmen for a balanced attack. On Saturday, freshman forward Jabari Walker finished with a game-high 24 points on 90% shooting from the field. Walker, the son of former Los Angeles Lakers forward Samaki Walker, hit all five of his 3-point attempts in the victory over the Hoyas.
In total, four Buffs players finished in double figures in Saturday’s win. Senior guard D’Shawn Schwartz scored 18, while junior guard Eli Parquet added 10. Schwartz connected on four of his five 3-point attempts in the opening half.
Scouting Report: FSU-Colorado — McKinley Wright vs. Balsa Koprivica in pick-and-roll switches, Colorado's blocker-mover + how FSU defends UVA, continuity ball screen + high/low concerns, Jabari Walker as an X-factor, key sets/stats, plus a whole bunch more https://t.co/pZHKGHoSQF
— Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) March 21, 2021
The Seminoles, meanwhile, rank 36th in Division I in scoring offense, averaging 78.3 points per game. In order to advance, Colorado will need to handle a talented Florida State backcourt with lengthy guards in M.J. Walker and Scottie Barnes. Walker, who leads the Noles with 12.5 ppg, is shooting 43.6% from beyond the arc.
At 6-foot-9, Barnes has drawn comparisons to Anfernee Hardaway for his ability to see over the defense. Walker and Barnes are Florida State’s only McDonald’s High School All-Americans since 2015 when former Noles guard Dwayne Bacon participated in the game. Colorado must also slow down Noles forward RaiQuan Gray, who averages 12.2 ppg and a team-high 6.6 rpg.
As of Sunday evening, bettors backed Florida State (-1) on 61% of all tickets at FanDuel sportsbooks nationwide. Still, bettors supported Colorado on 56% of all moneyline wagers. The total stood at 140.5.
Buffs’ futures bets
If Colorado prevails over the Noles, the Buffs are still facing long odds to make the Final Four. The winner of the Buffs-Noles matchup will face either 1-seed Michigan or 8-seed LSU in the Sweet 16. As of Sunday evening, Michigan remained as the favorite at FanDuel to win the East Region with odds of +200. The Wolverines were followed by Alabama (+240), Florida State (+650), and Colorado (+700).
FanDuel listed the Buffs at +164 to make the Sweet 16, prior to the start of the tournament. The odds on the Buffs to make the Final Four have declined somewhat, as FanDuel gave CU odds of +750 to win the East before the opening game of the tournament.
When senior guard McKinley Wright is on point and freshman Jabari Walker is rolling from 3-point range, these Buffaloes are a whole different animal, capable of stampeding deep in the NCAA Tournament bracket. https://t.co/bigu3gufOo
— Denver Post Sports (@DPostSports) March 21, 2021
In addition, BetMonarch had odds of 16/1 on Colorado to make the Final Four before the tournament started. Monarch also had odds of 100/1 on the Buffs to win it all immediately after Selection Sunday. As of Sunday evening, CU had odds of 40/1 at BetMGM to win the national championship.
Colorado has made the Sweet 16 eight times in school history, but not once since 1969. The Buffs have made the Final Four twice, the last in 1955, when a San Francisco team led by Bill Russell prevailed 62-50 in the national semifinals.