History on the line as CU Buffs face Marquette in NCAA tourney second round

Mar. 23—INDIANAPOLIS — There have been plenty of emotional lows for the Colorado men's basketball team this season. Friday featured a unique and lofty high.

Once KJ Simpson's soon-to-be-iconic baseline jumper finally rattled through, dispatching Florida and sending the 10th-seeded Buffaloes into the second round on the NCAA Tournament, a joyous celebration ensued. Raise your hand if you had Tad Boyle getting air time dancing on SportsCenter on your bingo card for the 2023-24 season.

Yet in the NCAA Tournament, such joys are short-lived. On Saturday, the Buffs got back to work, going through a media session at Gainbridge Fieldhouse before a workout light on physical exertion but intense in scouting report details as CU gets set to battle second-seeded Marquette in the second round on Sunday.

History will be on the line for the Buffs. CU is seeking its first Sweet 16 berth in six trips to the NCAA Tournament under Boyle. The Buffs, who began their tourney run with a win in the First Four round on Wednesday against Boise State, have never won three consecutive games in any NCAA Tournament, although CU did win three total 69 years ago, in the 1955 tournament, thanks to a win in the defunct third-place game.

"Today is when you really turn the page and get up and get after it," Boyle said during his Saturday media session. "I watched some film (Friday) night, read some reports and took a lot of information in. But today's the day of prep. We'll get on the practice floor. Not that we'll do a lot, but we'll talk a lot about what we have to do against Marquette both offensively and defensively.

"And then (Sunday) morning, it's an early game, we'll show them a little more film and prep a little bit more and let the guys go out and do their thing. We're used to these quick turnarounds."

There will be plenty of weapons on both sides, but this matchup is shaping up to be a battle between two of the premier point guards in the nation in Simpson and Marquette's Tyler Kolek.

Kolek returned to the Golden Eagles' lineup for their first-round win against Western Kentucky after missing the previous six games, including all three of Marquette's games in the Big East tournament, due to an oblique injury. He showed exactly zero signs of rust in his return, going 7-for-13 with 18 points and 11 assists in Marquette's tournament opener. Those 11 assists tied Dwyane Wade's program tournament record.

A second team All-American selection, Kolek leads the nation in assists per game (7.8). In Big East Conference games, Marquette led the league in field goal percentage (.482), average turnover margin (plus-4.45) and steals per game (8.7) while also ranking second in 3-point percentage (.366).

"He's a great guard. He's excellent in every category," Simpson said of Kolek. "There's a reason he was All-American. I have nothing but respect for him and the rest of the team. They have great players. Obviously they've shown that all year.

"I just look forward to those matchups. You look forward to those guys that you hear about. You want to play against the best, and he's definitely one of the best in the nation at his position. I'm just blessed to be here and definitely just going to go out there and make the most of my opportunity."

(10) CU Buffs men's basketball vs. (2) Marquette Golden Eagles

TIPOFF: Sunday, 10:10 a.m. MT, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis.

TV/RADIO: CBS/KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Colorado 26-10; Marquette 26-9.

COACHES: Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (298-182, 354-248 overall). Marquette — Shaka Smart, 3rd season (74-29, 346-171 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (19.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.8 apg, .477 FG%, .441 3%); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (16.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.4 apg, .492 FG%, .394 3%); G J'Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.4 apg, .539 FG%, .422 3%); C Eddie Lampkin Jr., 6-11, Sr. (10.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .576 FG%); G Cody Williams, 6-8, Fr. (11.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .554 FG%, .410 3%); G/F Luke O'Brien, 6-8, Sr. (6.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .392 3%). Marquette — G Kam Jones, 6-5, Jr. (17.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, .502 FG%, .415 3%); G Tyler Kolek, 6-3, Sr. (15.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.8 apg, .488 FG%, .400 3%); F Oso Ighodaro, 6-11, Sr. (13.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, .576 FG%); F David Joplin, 6-8, Jr. (10.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, .368 3%); G Stevie Mitchell, 6-3, Jr. (9.0ppg, 4.1 rpg, .529 FG%); G Chase Ross, 6-5, So. (6.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .417 FG%).

NOTES: The Buffs and Marquette have faced each other four times, all in the 1980s, with the Golden Eagles leading the series 3-1. The last meeting was a CU home loss on Jan. 3, 1987. ... If the matchup is heavy on foul calls, the Buffs could have an advantage. CU led the Pac-12 in free throw shooting and has posted an .875 mark (42-for-48) at the line in its two tournament wins. Marquette finished 10th overall in the 11-team Big East and (.715) last in conference games (.695) in free throw percentage. ... Da Silva has joined D'Shawn Schwartz as the only CU players to make at least three 3-pointers in two games within the same NCAA Tournament. Schwartz made a program tournament co-record five in a 2021 first-round win against Georgetown and added three in the second-round loss against Florida State. Askia Booker has two tournament games with three 3-pointers but did it in two different tournaments, hitting four against Illinois in 2013 and three the previous year against UNLV. Da Silva is 6-for-9 from long range in CU's two tournament wins. ... Lampkin has shot .636 (14-for-22) in CU's two tournament wins. ... Marquette forced 18 turnovers and turned them into 21 points in its 87-69 first-round win against Western Kentucky. ... The winner will play Saturday's winner between Oakland and North Carolina State in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Dallas.