Pac-12 teams have shined in the 2021 NCAA Tournament so far. Colorado hopes to keep the momentum going when it faces Florida State in the second round on Monday.
The fifth-seeded Buffaloes (23-8) dominated Big East Tournament champion Georgetown for the better part of 40 minutes on their way to a 96-73 first-round victory over the No. 12 seed Hoyas. Colorado flat-out sizzled from the perimeter. The Buffaloes went 16-of-25 from 3-point range and got 24 points from Jabari Walker, along with 12 points and 13 assists from McKinley Wright IV.
The fourth-seeded Seminoles (17-6) looked much more vulnerable in their 64-54 first-round victory over UNC Greensboro. Florida State did not make a single 3-pointer in either half and struggled to get on track offensively for long stretches. Leading scorer M.J. Walker was held to just four points. Still, stingy defense came to the rescue for the Seminoles, and they improved to 16-0 this season when holding teams to 75 or fewer points. Florida State closed the game on a 13-4 run to seal the win.
East Region: No. 5 Colorado (23-8) vs. No. 4 Florida State (17-6)
Time: Monday, March 22 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum (Indianapolis)
Spread: Florida State -1.5
Keys for Colorado
Guarding the perimeter tough is essential. Florida State's futility from long distance against UNC Greensboro was a mirage. The Seminoles rank in the top 10 nationally in 3-point percentage. They have one of the most explosive offenses of any team not named Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament and average 78.9 points per game. Colorado struggled to defend the perimeter against Oregon State and it cost the Buffaloes a Pac-12 Tournament title. Doing it again against Florida State will mean a second-round exit.
McKinley Wright IV needs to keep doing what he does best — creating offense. When Wright is playing up to his normal level, Colorado is a tough team to slow down. The senior point guard has played a direct role in scoring or assisting on 51 percent of his team's baskets over the last three games. During that stretch, he has averaged six made field goals and eight assists per contest. His poise and leadership are the fuel that makes the engine run for the Buffaloes.
Keys for Florida State
Winning the rebound battle will go a long way toward prevailing against the Buffaloes. Colorado excels at consistently keeping their opponents off the glass. The Buffaloes allow only 30.7 rebounds per game. The Seminoles are an average team in the rebounding department, but they have a good track record for keeping opponents off the defensive glass and giving themselves multiple chances to keep possessions alive. Raiqun Gray leads Florida State with 6.6 rebounds per game, but the Seminoles have five players who average at least four rebounds per contest.
Florida State cannot afford to put Colorado on the free-throw line. If the Seminoles get foul-happy, that will play into the Buffaloes' favor in a tight game. Colorado shoots 82.3 percent from the charity stripe, which leads the nation. The Buffaloes did struggle from the line in their loss to Oregon State, but that was an aberration from how most of their games have played out this season. None of their top nine scorers shoot below 73 percent from the foul line.
Florida State survived the first-round upset bug that bit other top ACC teams. Still, the Seminoles are on shaky ground with three losses in their last six games. They have been inconsistent on offense during that stretch. Colorado is playing with passion and energy and made a huge statement in the first round — as did the other Pac-12 teams who played. The Buffaloes have strong guard play and don't make a ton of mistakes. They have what it takes to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1969.
Prediction: Colorado 76, Florida State 72
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.