Tad Boyle and Colorado need to be prepared for Florida’s Walter Clayton Jr. in the Round of 64

Colorado doesn't have much time to prepare for the first round of March Madness after advancing out of the First Four with a win over Boise State. For head coach Tad Boyle, Florida's leading scorer needs to be priority No. 1 on the scouting report.

Florida Gators guard Walter Clayton Jr. (1)
Florida Gators guard Walter Clayton Jr. (1) / Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a distinct disadvantage to heading to Dayton for the First Four that Colorado head coach Tad Boyle called, “the nature of the beast.” After winning to advance to the Round of 64, the Buffaloes have just one day to prepare for Florida, the No. 7 seed in the South Region, and the name at the top of their scouting report should be Walter Clayton Jr. 

While Zyon Pullin, Florida’s fifth-year UC Riverside transfer, was the Gators' lone First-Team All-SEC representative, Clayton, the Iona transfer, will cause the Buffaloes the most trouble on Friday in Indianapolis. Clayton is Todd Goldin’s leading scorer, averaging 17.1 points coming into the NCAA Tournament.

Florida’s shooting guard is a dynamic downhill scorer, with a quality pull-up game, shooting 42.6% from the field and 36.3% from three. While he’s only 6-foot-2 and certainly more ball-dominant, his score-first game is not too dissimilar from Chibuzo Agbo’s, and the latter gave Boise State a chance to win in Dayton with 17 points on 8-14 shooting. If Agbo, a 40% three-point shooter, went better than 1-6 from three, Colorado may be heading back to Boulder, not Indy. 

Boyle will have a choice against a loaded Florida backcourt. He’ll be forced to deploy his point guard and primary offensive weapon, KJ Simpson on either Pullin or Clayton. Simpson is a capable defender, leading the team with nearly two steals a game, but will need to expend plenty of extra energy on the defensive end of the floor. On Wednesday night, Simpson held Boise State’s Roddie Anderson III to 14 points on 15 shots but finished just 6-18 from the field himself. The Buffs will need a more efficient outing from their offensive focal point to upset Florida.

J’Vonne Hadley has been Colorado’s primary perimeter defender and guarded Agbo in the First Four. He’ll likely be tasked with slowing down the 6-foot-4 Pullin with his 6-foot-6 205-pound frame, leaving Simpson chasing Clayton through off-ball screens and squaring up against his relentless drives to the basket. 

The difference in the game could be Boyle’s defensive plan against Florida’s leading scorer, not just to halt the No. 7 ranked offensive in the country, but to preserve Simpson’s energy and counter the Gator’s lethal scoring attack on the other end of the floor. Any moment that he can hide Simpson on one of Florida’s tertiary options, or buy him a few possessions of rest with a zone, is another Simpson drive to basket or open three on the other end. 

Colorado doesn’t have much time to prepare, but even on short rest, finding a creative defensive answer for Clayton, and preserving Simpson’s legs should be priority No. 1.

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