Colorado escaped with a one-point win over Seton Hall in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night, largely behind 18 points from Ethan Wright.
Now, the Buffs men’s basketball team heads into a matchup against a dangerous Utah Valley squad on Sunday looking to move forward in the postseason.
A key Wolverine the Buffs will have to look out for is guard Justin Harmon. He had a career-high 32 points in their win at New Mexico last week, and he has proven to be a go-to scorer for the WAC regular season champions.
Aside from Harmon, 7-footer Aziz Bandaogo could cause matchup problems for Colorado. Bandaogo averages a double-double, putting up 11.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game this season, and Lawson Lovering will have to have one of his more impressive games on the defensive end to slow down Bandaogo.
Utah Valley isn’t a deep team, though, as it doesn’t get much offensive production from its bench.
As for Colorado, it’s unlikely that KJ Simpson will be available as he continues to deal with an illness. If Simpson can’t play, the Buffs will have to keep getting consistent production out of Julian Hammond III. Hammond has done well in Simpson’s stead, scoring a career-high 21 in a Pac-12 Tournament win over Washington and putting up 10 points and five assists with only one turnover in the Buffs’ first-round NIT win over Seton Hall.
Tristan da Silva has to have a good game for the Buffs. He was mostly inefficient against Seton Hall, although he’s certainly shown that he’s capable of being a consistent piece.
Rather crucial for the Buffs, though, is the play of Lovering. I’ve already talked about how key he’ll be likely matched up against Bandaogo, and while Lovering has been a good presence defensively for Colorado, he must stay out of foul trouble. If Lovering can do that and continue to be a solid defender, that will go a long way for the Buffs against Utah Valley.
Tipoff at the CU Events Center on Sunday is set for 7:30 p.m. MT on ESPNU.