CU men's hoops preview

TODAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (23-11) face the Pittsburgh Panthers (25-9) in an 11:40 a.m. MDT game at the Amway Center in Orlando.

BROADCAST: Radio -- 850 AM, with Mark Johnson on play-by-play and Scott Wilke providing color commentary. Also Westwood One (Sirius 93, XM 192), with Tom McCarthy and Donny Marshall. TV - TBS, with Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner and Kristine Leahy on the call.

STORYLINES: This is the second round of the NCAA Tournament. CU is the No. 8 seed in the South Regional, while Pittsburgh is No. 9. ... CU is making its 13th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, going 10-14 to this point. ... This is Pitt's 25th NCAA Tournament appearance, going 23-25. ... CU is in the tournament for the third year in a row, a program first. ... Pitt is in the tournament for the 12th time in the last 13 years. ... Pitt is 12-4 away from home this year, while CU is 7-9. ... Pitt's nine losses have come by a total of 45 points, with seven of those coming by five points or less. ... Pitt is 11-9 in the NCAA Tournament under coach Jamie Dixon, including 7-2 in its opening-round game. ...


Advertisement

During the past 13 years, Pitt has the fifth-best winning percentage in the country (.776). ... CU is 13-5 in postseason games under coach Tad Boyle (9-2 conference tournament, 3-1 NIT, 1-2 NCAA). ... CU's Wesley Gordon (41 blocks) and Josh Scott (40) became the first set of CU players to reach 40 blocks since Ted Allen and Donnie Boyce both did so in 1993-94. ... The Buffs have made at least one 3-pointer in 399 consecutive games. ... In the last five games, Xavier Johnson has led CU in scoring (14.0 ppg), while being third in rebounds (5.4 per game).

KEY STAT: Both teams rank among the nation's 20 best teams in rebounding margin. CU is 19-3 when out-rebounding the opposition, while Pitt is 19-4.

COACHES: Tad Boyle is 92-49 in his fourth season at CU and 148-115 for his career. Jamie Dixon is 287-95 in his 15th year at Pitt and for his career.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Xavier Talton, 6-2, So. (4.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.6 apg); G Askia Booker, 6-2, Jr. (14.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.4 apg); F Wesley Gordon, 6-9, Fr. (5.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg); F Xavier Johnson, 6-7, So. (12.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg); F Josh Scott, 6-10, So. (14.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg). Pittsburgh - G Cameron Wright, 6-4, Jr. (10.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G James Robinson, 6-3, So. (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.9 apg); F Lamar Patterson, 6-5, Sr. (17.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.3 apg); F Michael Young, 6-8, Fr. (5.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg); C Talib Zanna, 6-9, Sr. (12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg).

SERIES: Pitt won the only meeting between the teams, 25-23, on Dec. 26, 1931, in Denver.

UP NEXT: With a win, CU would face either Albany or Florida in Saturday's third round. With a loss, the Buffs would look to the offseason.

ORLANDO — — When Tad Boyle watched film of Pittsburgh, he was immediately impressed by Panthers senior Talib Zanna.

A native of Kaduna, Nigeria, Zanna is one of the main reasons Pitt is among the top rebounding teams in the country.

Boyle's Colorado Buffaloes (23-11) will have to contend with Zanna and Pitt (25-9) on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Tip-off is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. MDT from the Amway Center.

"The Zanna kid is just a beast," Boyle said Wednesday during his press conference from the Amway Center. "The way he played in the ACC Tournament, watching those tapes on film, he's a cross between probably Aaron Gordon (of Arizona) in terms of his motor and Richard Solomon (of California) in terms of the numbers he put up.

"He's a combination of those two guys, and he's a force to be reckoned with."

Zanna has averaged 12.9 points and 8.8 rebounds this season, but really stepped up his game during the ACC Tournament last week. In three games, Zanna averaged 17.0 points and 13.0 rebounds. He had 19 points and 21 rebounds in a victory against North Carolina.

With Zanna leading the way, the Panthers rank 15th nationally in rebounding margin, at plus-6.3 per game. That is slightly ahead of the Buffs, who rank 17th, at plus-6.2

"When I look at Pitt, I look at a team a lot like ours in terms of what they emphasize and what they want to be good at and what they are good at, and that's defense and rebounding," Boyle said.

Because both teams place such an emphasis on the boards, Boyle and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon both said rebounding will be the key to their matchup on Thursday.

"We've got to out-rebound them," Dixon said. "They take great pride in their rebounding and I believe we do, too."

Pitt is 19-4 this season when out-rebounding its opponents, while the Buffs are 19-3 when holding that advantage.

While the Buffs worry about Zanna, Pittsburgh knows that to win the rebounding war, it has to deal with CU's Josh Scott. The 6-foot-10 sophomore leads CU with 8.5 rebounds per game.

"We didn't face a lot of big body guys in our conference as much as I would have thought," said Dixon, whose team moved from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. "Probably the closest guy (that compares to Scott is James Michael) McAdoo from North Carolina because he's inside out a bit, likes to face up and drive it. I think he's actually a pretty good comparison. Numbers wise they're pretty similar."

Scott has gone up against some talented big men all season, including Solomon, Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski and Arizona's Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski.

He's looking forward to going up against Zanna.

"Zanna is an energetic, athletic, hard nosed big man," Scott said. "If I could compare him to anybody we've seen, he's a little bit like Aaron Gordon. He's a good player."

In addition to emphasizing rebounding this week, the Buffs are also looking to get their offense going.

CU hasn't scored more than 59 points in regulation in any of the last five games. That could spell trouble against Pitt. The Panthers are 202-16 over the last 13 years when holding opponents to 60 points or less, including 13-5 this year.

"I think the reason behind that is we have two to five minute droughts where we can't put the ball in the basket, and maybe we're taking too quick of shots," guard Askia Booker said of CU's offensive struggles. "Maybe we're rushing a shot, and that's equivalent to turnovers.

"We turn the ball over sometimes too much, and maybe we have to slow down and feed the ball to Josh or Wesley (Gordon) or Xavier (Johnson) - get in the post a little bit and let them get a close shot to the basket, or the guards have to penetrate and get in the lane and find shooters if that's the case. That's been an emphasis these past couple days, and we're going to try to do that tomorrow."

Although Pitt has enjoyed great success when holding teams to 60 or less, Boyle said he doesn't necessarily think the Buffs need to make this is a high-scoring game. They just need to be efficient with the ball.

"Obviously we want to play fast, so we want to be able to play in a high possession game, but we also understand when you get into tournament play, a lot of times the scores go down," Boyle said. "I think we have to get a feel for that when we're on the floor tomorrow and we see how the game is being called. But high possession game, low possession game, we have got to be able to execute in either one, and we're ready to play either way."

If the Buffs are efficient on offense and strong on the glass, they just might find a way to beat the Panthers and move to the next round.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/brianhowell33.