4 Arizona Wildcats (27-7) vs. 13 Buffalo Bulls (26-8) Thursday 9:40 p.m.
The Buffalo Bulls are playing in the last segment of games on Thursday night. If the long wait wasn’t enough, they are playing against one of the most talented teams in college basketball. The Arizona Wildcats won the PAC-12 and may have the future No. 1 draft pick in DeAndre Ayton. However, the Bulls don’t lack for talent. They also don’t lack in the ability to play against Final Four contenders. Before winning the MAC with a (15-3) record, the Bulls lost to five non-conference opponents that earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. They played a few teams with a lot of size, so the Bulls will be used it. However, they haven’t seen size with this type of ability on the offensive side of the ball.
The Bulls have four players that average over 14 points per game. Naturally, C.J. Massinburg and Wes Clark have to play well in the backcourt. However, it will be the interior play of Nick Perkins and wing play of Jeremy Harris that will tell the tale of Thursday’s matchup. Perkins is their most productive inside presence. Yet, it may be his outside shooting that alters the game. He’s capable of making at least 3-pointers in a game. The better Perkins is able to shoot, the more room he will see closer to the rim. That’s if he can see the rim.
The Bulls are averaging 84.8 points per game. Despite their lack of size, they also out rebound the Wildcats. So far, the Bulls are grabbing 42.6 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats are snatching 38.6 rebounds per game. Still, it will be interesting if their guards can dominate the glass like they did throughout the season. The fast pace will help the Bulls. Therefore, let’s wait and see if the Wildcats slow the game down, while trying to dominate the offensive glass. Keep in mind, the Bulls are 13th in total rebounds. Moreover, they attack the offensive glass as well as the defensive backboards.
The Bulls won the MAC and were considered for an at-large bid during some points in the season. As a result, there was a thought that they might receive a 12 seed. Instead, they are playing one of the toughest No. 4 seeds in a long time. You could argue that both teams are underseeded in this tournament. Under normal circumstances, the Bulls would be a trendy pick to pull the upset. However, it seems like the Wildcats are trending towards becoming the favorite to earn the Final Four berth out of the South Region.
The Bulls have made the NCAA Tournament in 3 of their last 4 years. They have yet to win a tournament game. They lost to West Virginia by six points in 2015. The Bulls also fell short in 2016 when they lost to the Miami Hurricanes by seven points. If they defeat the Wildcats, it will be their first-ever NCAA Tournament win. The Bulls are currently on a six-game winning streak. Their longest winning streak of the season was nine games.