Looking ahead: How FSU matches up with Colorado

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 20: in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball...
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 20: in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)(C. Morgan Engel | NCAA)
Published: Mar. 20, 2021 at 4:43 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Florida State survived against UNC Greensboro in its opening game of the NCAA Tournament with a 64-54 win Saturday.

The Seminoles failed to make a single three-pointer in the game, becoming the first team since Kentucky in 2018 to not make a shot beyond the arc in an NCAA Tournament game. However, they compensated by outscoring UNCG 44-16 in the paint.

The Seminoles won, but it wasn’t the prettiest performance, continuing a stretch of uneven play over the past three weeks. The road will only get more difficult from here.

Next up for the Seminoles is fifth-seeded Colorado, who defeated 12th-seeded Georgetown, 96-73, Saturday in an impressive performance.

The Buffaloes made 16 three’s against the red-hot Big East champion Hoyas, an NCAA Tournament record for a Pac-12 team.

Colorado will enter Monday’s game with a 24-8 record on the season. The Buffaloes finished third in the Pac-12 regular-season standings behind Oregon and USC and lost 70-68 to Oregon State in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game.

Similar to Florida State, the Buffaloes have a rotation of nine or ten players with multiple guys capable of taking over a game on any given day.

Colorado is an excellent offensive team, ranking 11th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. That’s just ahead of Florida State, which ranks 12th in that category.

First-Team All-Pac-12 senior guard McKinley Wright leads the way for the Buffaloes. He averages 15.5 points per game with a near three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. He also averages 1.1 steals per game.

He will be a tough matchup for Florida State’s backcourt duo of RayQuan Evans and M.J. Walker.

The Buffaloes have two other double-digit scorers in Jeriah Horne (11.4 PPG) and Evan Battey (10.2 PPG). Horne is a terrific shooter, making 42.1% of his shots from 3-point range and 90.6% of his free throws. Battey, on the other hand, is a skilled big man at 6-foot-8. He draws fouls at a high rate and converts on 83.2% of his free throws.

Horne is also Colorado’s most versatile defender at 6-foot-7. He’ll likely be tasked with trying to slow down RaiQuan Gray and Scottie Barnes throughout Monday.

Colorado is the No. 2 free-throw shooting team in the country. The Buffaloes made 12-of-14 from the charity stripe against Georgetown.

Monday’s game will also feature a matchup between two excellent freshmen. Barnes is a future lottery pick for Florida State and has been its best passer this season, but the Buffaloes have a solid freshman of their own in Jabari Walker.

Walker made the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team after averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting 48.6% from beyond the arc. Walker had an outstanding game off the bench in Colorado’s opening round game against Georgetown, scoring a game-high 24 points on 9-of-10 shooting and 5-of-5 from distance.

Junior guard Eli Parquet is Colorado’s best perimeter defender and was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. It will be fun to watch the backcourt matchup between him and Walker, who is FSU’s leading scorer.

Colorado ranks 28th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, 14 spots ahead of Florida State at 42nd.

As always, the challenge for Florida State will be to take care of the ball. Florida State ranks 248th nationally in turnovers per game, and it’s been a growing problem over the last several weeks. The Seminoles are averaging 17.7 turnovers per game in their last six contests after committing 15 more against UNCG Saturday.

The Seminoles also can’t rely on making zero 3-point shots again, in order to beat Colorado. That formula worked against a UNCG team that ranked 311th nationally in 3-point shooting. The Buffaloes, on the contrary, are a top-50 team from beyond the arc and are capable of filling it up from deep, as they showed against Georgetown on Saturday.

Colorado has a lot more size and athleticism throughout its lineup than UNCG, so Florida State probably won’t be able to replicate its 44-16 points in the paint margin.

The Seminoles led the ACC in 3-point percentage this season, but they’ve struggled to shoot the ball in their 10 games outside of the Tucker Center. In such contests, they’ve made just 31.5% of their 3s. They’ll need to be better on Monday.

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