Arizona takes on Buffalo in first round of NCAA Tournament, faces tough path to Final Four

USC FINAL (4 of 21)
Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona seniors Dusan Ristic (14) and Parker Jackson-Cartwright (0) share final words with head coach Sean Miller late in the Arizona-USC Championship game at the 2018 Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday, March 10 in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

Arizona men’s basketball is headed to Boise, Idaho to begin what could be a difficult NCAA Tournament. 

Most analysts predicted Arizona would be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the friendlier West region, but on selection day, the Wildcats ended up in the South region as a No. 4 seed.

The good news for Wildcats fans is that recently Arizona has been playing some of its best basketball of the season, and freshman Deandre Ayton is playing like he is not from this Earth. 

The bad news, is Arizona may have a particularly difficult path to the Final Four. 

The first team Arizona will go against is the University of Buffalo Bulls on Thursday, March 15 on CBS at 6:40 p.m. The Wildcats are a nine-point favorite, according to Las Vegas odds.

The Bulls are from the Mid-American Conference and have a record of 26-8, as well as a six-game win streak and the conference championship. 

According to Kenpom statistics, Buffalo is ranked 114 on offensive efficiency and 103 on defensive efficiency. The team has four players that average over 14 points per game and a talented 6-foot-3 junior guard, CJ Massinburg, who averages 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. 

As a team, Buffalo averages 85 points per game, four more than Arizona, but shoots a slightly lower percentage than the Wildcats from both the floor and 3-point range. The main difference, however, is height. 

The tallest player on Buffalo’s roster is 6-foot-11 freshman center Brock Bertram. But he only plays five minutes per game and averages 1.3 points. The only other tall players the Bulls have are two 6-foot-10 forwards who both average around 10 minutes and just over 3 points per game. 

The Bulls team is built around its guard play, and without anyone to match up with Ayton and Dusan Ristic, the team will likely struggle to defend against Arizona in the paint. 

However, the journey only gets harder from there. 

If the Wildcats can make it out of the first round, there is a good chance Arizona will meet No. 5 Kentucky in the second round. Kentucky struggled early on in the season but has picked up momentum recently, winning seven of its last eight games, plus the SEC tournament championship. Kentucky will match up with Davison in the first round.

If Arizona can make it past the second round and advance to the Sweet Sixteen, then it will most likely face Virginia, the overall No. 1 seed, for a chance to make it to the Elite Eight. Virginia has an record of 31-2 and is coming off a eight-game win streak and the ACC conference championship. 

If Arizona advances to the Elite Eight, it could play teams such as No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Tennessee or No. 6 Miami in order to advance to the Final Four. 


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