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Preview: Illinois vs. Colorado

Preview: Illinois vs. Colorado

Momentum will be hard to find when Illinois meets Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Austin, Texas. The Fighting Illini, the No. 7 seed in the East Regional, have lost three of their last four games while the No. 10 Buffaloes have dropped three of five. It is a much different scenario from a year ago for Colorado, which roared into the Big Dance after winning four games in four days to claim the 2012 Pac-12 tournament title as the sixth seed.

Illinois defeated two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament during the regular season - Gonzaga and Indiana - but lost to the Hoosiers 80-64 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament on Friday. The Fighting Illini, who received a bid despite finishing 8-10 in the competitive Big Ten, sport a strong backcourt led by seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. They will face Colorado's talented sophomore tandem of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker.

TV: 4:40 p.m. ET, TNT

ABOUT COLORADO (21-11): Andre Roberson, a 6-7 junior forward who is second in the nation in rebounding at 11.3 and was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, missed the final two regular-season games with mononucleosis. He returned to average nearly 30 minutes in two Pac-12 tournament games, though, and appeared to have his full complement of energy. While Roberson patrols the middle and also contributes on offense (10.9 points), Dinwiddie (team-leading 15.6 points) has recorded at least 17 in eight of his last 10 games and at 6-5 has the height to shoot over smaller guards while being equally effective at driving to the basket.

ABOUT ILLINOIS (22-12): The Fighting Illini lost three of their final four regular-season games, but two came at Michigan and Ohio State as the rigors of playing in arguably the toughest conference in the country took their toll. With a three-guard offense, it is no surprise Illinois is not shy in hoisting up 3-pointers. Illinois attempts nearly 24 per game - most in the Big Ten - but is eighth-best at making them. Paul was fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 16.6. The Fighting Illini could have a difficult time keeping Roberson off the boards as 6-11 sophomore Nnanna Egwu leads the team with 4.6 rebounds.

TIP-INS

  1. The winner will play No. 2 seed Miami or No. 15 Pacific in Sunday's third round.

  2. The Buffaloes defeated UNLV 68-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season - their first appearance since 2003 - before losing to Baylor 80-63. The Fighting Illini also defeated the Rebels in their last NCAA appearance - 73-62 in 2011 - prior to being eliminated by Kansas 73-59.

  3. Colorado is 4-1 on neutral courts, including 3-0 en route to the Charleston Classic championship in November. Illinois was 3-2, highlighted by a victory over Butler in the Maui Invitational in November. The teams haven't met since 1987.

PREDICTION: Colorado 69, Illinois 68