No team played its way off the bubble in more dramatic fashion than Connecticut. Now the Huskies are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since winning the national championship in 2014. Can they do it again? UConn has reached the Final Four or won it all three times in its last four Tournament appearances.
Colorado is on the other end of the spectrum with NCAA Tournament success. The Buffaloes last reached the Final Four in 1955 and have just two Tournament wins in the past 20 years. Still, Colorado tied a school record for regular season victories earlier in March and has the potential to make a run past the first weekend.
No. 9 Connecticut Huskies (24-10) vs. No. 8 Colorado Buffaloes (22-11)
When: 1:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
Where: Wells Fargo Arena (Des Moines)
Line: Connecticut -3
Keys for Connecticut
Own the paint
UConn will get its first taste of Josh Scott, a dominant post player who averages 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. The Huskies need big performances from their frontcourt to counteract what Scott can do. It won't be easy. Colorado averages 42.4 rebounds per game, which places the Buffaloes fourth among NCAA Division I teams.
Pressure Colorado's guards
Taking care of the ball has been a major problem for the Buffaloes all season. As a team, Colorado averages 13.4 turnovers per game to go along with 13.8 assists. UConn will have opportunities to get out in transition and make easy baskets if the Huskies make Colorado's guards work extra hard on every possession.
Keys for Colorado
Contain Daniel Hamilton
Hamilton is the type of player who can burn teams in a bunch of ways. He leads UConn in rebounds (8.9), assists (4.8) and steals (1.1) per game. Hamilton also ranks third on the team in scoring (12.4 ppg). If Hamilton gets into a good rhythm on both ends of the court, Colorado will be scrambling to keep up for 40 minutes.
The Buffaloes have a tendency to step off the gas pedal in the second half and it has cost them several victories this season. Colorado blew a 14-point lead in a loss to Utah in its regular season finale. The Buffaloes experienced similar collapses in losses to USC and SMU. Finishing strong is necessary if Colorado wants to survive UConn.
UConn needed a miracle buzzer beater against Cincinnati to avoid going to the NIT. The Huskies won't need similar dramatics against Colorado. The Buffaloes are talented, but also prone to making too many costly mistakes. UConn's run will last for at least another round.
Prediction: Connecticut 76, Colorado 70
— 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.