Surging Hoyas take on the Buffaloes looking for another postseason upset
Can Georgetown spring a classic 12-seed over 5-seed upset when it faces Colorado in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday?
The Hoyas (13-12) earned plenty of believers after winning four games in four days to capture the Big East Tournament title. Georgetown secured an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2015 and seems poised to make some serious noise. Patrick Ewing's squad has won six of its last seven games to salvage a previously dismal season. The Hoyas have bruisers inside who can crash the boards and a talented guard in Jahvon Blair who can punish defenses on the perimeter.
The Buffaloes (22-8) are the highest-seeded Pac-12 team in the NCAA Tournament after putting together their third straight 20-win campaign. Colorado also earned its highest seed ever while securing an NCAA bid for the first time since 2016 and reached the Tournament for the fifth time under Tad Boyle. Senior guard McKinley Wright IV is the engine driving everything. Wright is a proficient scorer and distributor who elevates Colorado in critical moments and has helped the Buffaloes be a force on both ends of the court.
This is the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
East Region: No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes (22-8) vs. No. 12 Georgetown Hoyas (13-12)
Time: Saturday, March 20 at 12:15 p.m. ET
Where: Hinkle Fieldhouse (Indianapolis)
Spread: Colorado -6.5
Keys for Colorado
Staying poised under pressure will be critical for the Buffaloes. Georgetown plays a more physical brand of basketball than Colorado is used to seeing in the Pac-12. It starts with Wright leading with a steady hand. The senior is averaging 15.5 points, 5.6 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game. Stopping him will be the primary focus of the Hoyas' defensive game plan. The Buffaloes are 16-2 this season when Wright scores 14 or more points and 15-2 when he dishes out five or more assists.
Getting shots to fall on the perimeter early will be critical to staving off a potential upset. Georgetown makes it tough for opponents to score baskets, but the Hoyas are equally confounded on the offensive end at times. Colorado doesn't rain 3-pointers all that often, but the Buffaloes are accurate from the perimeter. They ranked third in 3-point percentage in the Pac-12, knocking down 36.7 percent of their shots from long distance.
Keys for Georgetown
The Hoyas bothered opponents in the Big East Tournament with their height and length. It could work to their advantage against the Buffaloes. Colorado has only one player taller than 6-foot-8 — Dallas Walton — playing significant minutes. Georgetown excels at crashing the boards, averaging 40.2 rebounds per game to rank in the top 15 nationally in that category. If the Hoyas can dominate around the glass, it will put extra pressure on Colorado's offense. Three Hoyas — Qudus Wahab, Jamorko Pickett, and Chudier Bile — average at least five rebounds per contest.
Georgetown cannot afford to get foul prone against the Buffaloes. Colorado is one of the nation's best teams at the free-throw line. The Buffaloes have converted 82.2 percent of their free-throw attempts this season — second only to Oral Roberts among Division I teams. Eight Colorado players shoot 80 percent or better from the line. This could be a difference-maker in a contest that goes down to the wire.
Georgetown has embraced its underdog status with zeal. The Hoyas have won over plenty of believers who see them making a run to the second weekend. One problem with that scenario is Colorado is a balanced offensive team and a tough defensive team. The Buffaloes attack inside and outside and make a habit of forcing opponents into costly mistakes at just the right times. Georgetown is a team on the rise, but the Hoyas are probably still a year or two away from doing real damage in the NCAA Tournament.
Prediction: Colorado 70, Georgetown 67
— 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.