#4 Arizona Wildcats vs. #13 Buffalo Bulls
3/15, 9:40 PM EDT, CBS
Arizona Wildcats: 27-7, 14-4 in Pac-12
Player to Watch: Deandre Ayton
Ayton has been arguably the most best player in college basketball, period. He averages 20.3 and 11.6 points per game all season, and he’s coming off a Pac-12 title run in which he dropped 32 on UCLA and USC consecutively. The Pac-12 title game was an awe-inspiring performance, drawing memories of Shaq as the Wildcats merely lobbed it to him down-low and let him score. Look for Ayton to continue to feast in the tournament.
Arizona features the most dominant big man in college basketball in Deandre Ayton, and fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic averages 12.1 points and 7 rebounds a game. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s best big, Nick Perkins, is only 6’8”. Montell Mcrae is 6’11’’ but only weighs 195 pounds. Ikenna Smart is the other center on the roster, but he only averages about 12 minutes a game as he’s still fairly new to basketball. I don’t see a single player on this roster able to guard Ayton. The potential number one pick and Ristic should be able to bully the Bulls down in the paint.
Buffalo Bulls: 26-8, 10-2 in MAC
Player to watch: C.J. Massinburg
Massinburg, a 6’3” junior, is the leader of this team. His game draws comparisons to Russell Westbrook, especially since he leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at 16.9 and 7.4 per game, respectively. When the game’s on the line, he’s the one with the ball in his hands. Earlier the year, he dropped 29 against 2-seeded Cincinnati. Massinburg’s proven he can get it done against elite competition, and he’ll need a big game for the Bulls to shock the world.
X-Factor: Wes Clark
Clark is the only true senior on the team, and he transferred from Missouri to play for his old high school coach Nate Oates. Clark averaged about 10 points a game in the SEC, proving that he can get it done against elite competition. He’s a quick and explosive player who can blow by anybody. For the Bulls to win this one, they’ll need his leadership, experience and scoring ability.
Key Stat: Buffalo’s pace
According to KenPom.com, Buffalo has the fifth fastest average possession on offense in the country. They’re pushing the ball off the court right off the inbound in an attempt to tire the other team out. What this Bulls team lacks in size, they make up for in quickness and speed. This will be their only chance of defeating Ayton and Co.
Matchup to watch – Perkins vs. Ayton
I don’t expect Perkins to be guarding Ayton 1 on 1 too much during this game, obviously. Buffalo will be using their quickness to swarm him, employing frequent traps and trying to pick off the lob passes hat Ayton uses to dominate the paint. However, Perkins has to be able to score in the paint against Ayton. He’s a gifted scorer with his back to the basket, but the size difference is going to be a problem. Buffalo will need him to hold his own in the paint.
Prediction: Arizona Wildcats – 78, Buffalo Bulls – 70
I expect this game to be a lot closer than most expect. The Bulls are a talented team with an unfortunate seeding, and unfortunately they’re now tasked with stopping the most dominant player in basketball. I expect Buffalo’s speed to keep them in the game, but I feel that Ayton will be too much to handle.
By Kevin Herbst: first-time writer, long-time shot blocker