Men's basketball notes: Lack of national attention should be fixed for CU Buffs' KJ Simpson

Mar. 22—INDIANAPOLIS — Maybe they'll start knowing his name now.

The lack of national attention garnered by Colorado guard KJ Simpson during an All-American-caliber season has been one of the more curious developments of the 2023-24 campaign.

Friday's wild 102-100 win against Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, capped by a buzzer-beating baseline jumper from Simpson, wasn't the first time he has lifted the Buffaloes to victory this season.

Yet it might have been the first time Simpson has done it on a stage that folks outside of Boulder are paying attention to.

Simpson was beat out for the Pac-12 player of the year by Arizona's Caleb Love, who sat out large stretches of crunch time in the Wildcats' Pac-12 semifinal loss against Oregon and whose only statistical advantage over Simpson is a few miniscule decimals on his scoring average. Simpson didn't even land the two votes required to receive honorable mention All-American honors, although Washington's Keion Brooks Jr. inexplicably did.

Yet the entire nation watches the Big Dance. And Simpson owns the most thrilling and impactful shot of the tournament's opening stages.

"Growing up in California and my name not getting talked about as much as everybody else, and being short on a lot of awards or accolades that individually should've, I feel, gone my way, it's just going out there and proving everybody wrong," Simpson said. "That's my mentality. As long as I play hard and play great — be a great teammate, be a great leader for this team, go out there and put in the work — eventually everything's going to pay off. That's my mentality. With that shot, people are going to know my name for sure."

Polar opposites

The Buffs brawled their way to 60 points in a rugged First Four victory against Boise State on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. CU surpassed 60 points with nearly 14 minutes remaining against the Gators on Friday, and by then the public declaration by Florida coach Todd Golden that he wanted to get the Buffs into an up-tempo game was looking like a poor choice.

Being able to win two games in vastly different manners less than 48 hours apart will be a useful asset as the Buffs take aim at Marquette on Sunday with a berth in the Sweet 16 on the line.

"I feel like that just shows our versatility," CU wing Luke O'Brien said. "We want to do a track meet. We've got guys that can do it. We've got guys that can score. But the last couple games they wanted to slow it down, and we're more than capable of playing defense for 40 minutes. It's huge when you've got all five starters that can score at will. It makes it a lot easier for everybody.

"We always want to play fast. If anybody wants to come run with us, that's great. We play at altitude all year. We expect people to not run with us, so when we do it's like great, we welcome that."


Friday's win was the sixth time in team history both teams have hit 100 in a game, and just the fourth time it has happened in regulation. The last twin 100-point totals was a 112-103 win against South Dakota State in double overtime in Boulder on Dec. 15, 2017. The last time it occurred in regulation was a 124-108 home win against Central Connecticut State on Dec. 7, 1990. ... CU has played Marquette four times, with Marquette leading the series 3-1. All four games were in the 1980s, with the most recent one happening on Jan. 3, 1987 in a CU home loss. ... The Buffs improved to 20-3 when J'Vonne Hadley scores at least 10 points. Hadley went 9-for-11 on free throws and has shot .879 at the line (29-for-33) in the past six games. It was a career high for made free throws and attempts for Hadley. ... Including CU's First Four win, the soon-to-be-defunct Pac-12 is 5-0 through the first round.