Arizona Basketball faces Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament


The Arizona Basketball teams first-round foe comes into the NCAA tournament riding an emotional high, and full of confidence that they can advance against the favored Wildcats.

The No. 4 Arizona Basketball team will face off against the No. 13 Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-Athletic Conference in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday evening in their 35th all-time tourney appearance. The Bulls come into the game riding a wave of confidence.

Winners of six straight, Buffalo won both the regular season and tournament conference titles. Posting an overall record of 26-8, they stormed to the conference crown, finishing the regular season with a 15-3 record. They won their division by six games, earning them the number one seed in their conference tourney.

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In the MAC Tournament, Buffalo had little trouble completing the conference title double, marching through their opponents by an average of 14 points. The Bulls, known for their high-flying offense, scored an average of 81 points per game in the tournament while holding their opponents to 67.

The reward for dominating their conference is a first round match-up against the Arizona Wildcats, in Boise, Idaho, well away from the comfy surroundings of their home. Despite the daunting challenge of facing the Wildcats in a stadium that is more than 2,000 miles from Buffalo, the Bulls do not enter the tilt lacking in confidence. Nor should they.

Check out this video of the team learning their fate. Seems the players are happy but the coach, he seems very concerned as it settles in which team he has to prepare for.

Much to the ire of Arizona fans everywhere, members of the Buffalo coaching staff and team have not been shy in proclaiming that they feel confident about their chances to advance against the favored Wildcats. Second-year head coach Nate Oats gave voice to where he feels his team has an advantage over Arizona, “You usually win in the NCAA Tournament with guards. I like our guard play against them.” Oats went on to say, “I told our bigs, you want to be a pro? I turned to Perkins – he’s got his hands full.”

Senior Forward Nate Perkins echoed his coach’s conviction, “I think it’s a pretty good matchup. They got a lot of size on the inside, and we got a really quick team. I think we can put the big guy in a lot of ball screens and see, can he guard on the outside? We’re gonna see, can they defend?” Okay now, pump your brakes.

Obviously, they can play a little bit of offense. We know that but we’re going to see, can they play defense? I don’t think they’ve seen anything like us all year, a team who can get out and run, got some size. They dump the ball into the big fella a few times; he’s pretty good on the glass. Perkins added, “He’s big inside. They have a really good guard, a scorer. It’s pretty much a two-hand punch, a guard and a big. That’s something that we can stop. I feel we can go out there and get the win.”

Buffalo fans do not appear to be intimidated by the match-up either, based on comments they have been making on Twitter.

Wildcat fans may see these comments as a slight, but consider the situation that Buffalo finds themselves in for a moment. They are a mid-major conference champion, supremely confident in their talent and abilities, with good cause it would seem, considering their conference dominance this year.

The Cats are playing a team that during the pre-season was picked by some as the best in the country, and until recently was seen by most of the nation as one who has under-achieved compared to expectations. It is unlikely that they have witnessed Arizona play many, if any games this year, due to the time difference, and the relatively weak exposure of the Pac 12 Network. They probably haven’t heard too much about the team except Deandre Ayton. So let them prepare for one player.

Arizona Wildcats Basketball
Arizona Wildcats Basketball /

Arizona Wildcats Basketball

The Bulls boast one of the best offenses in the country, and I am sure that they have read that the Wildcat’s defense ranks as among the worst in Sean Miller’s tenure as head coach of the program. And honestly, why would any team, or any coach approach any game thinking that they don’t have a chance to win? If they were to harbor that type of mindset, they wouldn’t be the type of team that ran through their schedule, racking up 26 wins on the season.

College basketball players and coaches are confident by nature. They believe that they have a chance to win every time they step on the floor, and they should. And make no mistake, Buffalo is not a team that is to be taken lightly.

Buffalo boasts a roster that includes four double-digit scorers, led by six-foot three-inch guard CJ Massinburg, who pours in 16.9 points per game. Three others average between 14.6 and 16.6 on the season. The Bulls have legitimate scorers at every position, and though they lack height, they do have the quickness to counter what will be a significant size disadvantage on Thursday. This is a team that has depth, skill, and experience.

The things that Buffalo lacks are formidable, however. First, They have minimal experience dealing with a team as uniquely talented as the Arizona Wildcats, a team that is only recently beginning to live up to their lofty pre-season rankings. Second, they lack Deandre Ayton, and there is quite literally no one on their roster who has ever faced a player with his unique combination of talent and size.

Though they will have confidence walking on to the court, it is hard to believe that they won’t feel at least a moment of trepidation when they come face-to-face with the seven foot one inch future NBA lottery pick. And that one moment is likely all the favored Wildcats will need to create the separation that is necessary to win at this time of year.

When you add in the nearly 20-points per game scoring of Allonzo Trier, the low post scoring dominance of Dusan Ristic, the all-around play of Rawle Alkins and the solid point guard play of Parker Jackson Cartwright, Arizona has more than enough talent, experience and firepower to overcome the streaking Bulls.

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So while Arizona plays the role of Goliath in this match-up, and David will undoubtedly enter the field of battle with confidence that he can slay the giant, the Buffalo Bulls may find themselves just a few stones short of the weapons necessary to pull off the upset.