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NCAA Tournament: First look at Arizona’s first round opponent — the Buffalo Bulls

Arizona will have to deal with a high-octane offense to kick things off on Thursday

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament Championship-Buffalo vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The field is set and we now know where the Arizona Wildcats are headed.

After much anticipation, the Wildcats have been revealed as the 4-seed in the South Region and are headed to Boise, ID for First Round action on Thursday. They’ve been lined up with No. 1 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers and also have to deal with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Tennessee Volunteers and Kentucky Wildcats.

But first the ‘Cats have to deal with the 13-seed and they’re no slouch.

The Buffalo Bulls won the MAC outright – a regular season title followed by a conference tournament championship – and have won six straight games by an average margin of 18.3 as they head into the NCAA Tournament.

Let’s take a closer look at the Bulls.

Key numbers

  • Overall record: 26-8, 15-3 in the MAC
  • KenPom ranking: 77
  • RPI: 25
  • Strength of schedule: 74

Impact players

Buffalo has four guys that average more than 14 points per game and sport one of the best and most balanced offenses in the country.

Junior guard CJ Massinburg leads the way for the Bulls with 16.9 points per game to go with 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 steals. He’ll come out hungry on Thursday after being kept at bay against Toledo in the MAC Championship game where he finished with only four points, his lowest scoring total of the season.

Junior forward Nick Perkins chips in 16.6 points per game along with 6.2 rebounds per game. Perkins loves to crash the offensive glass – he pulls down 2.3 per game and has grabbed multiple offensive boards in six straight games.

The Bulls have some shooters too. Guards Jeremy Harris and Wes Clark can’t do damage from deep as Harris averages 15.4 points, including 2.6 treys per game while hitting 43 percent from beyond the arc. Clark, a transfer from Missouri, hits 39 percent of his shots from downtown, scored 14.6 per game and leads the team in assists with 5.3 per contest.

Team statistics

They’ll want Arizona to engage in a track meet as the Bulls are one of the highest scoring teams in the country.

Buffalo scored 84.8 points per game this season, seventh best in the country and they love to push the pace. Buffalo took the fourth-most shot attempts in college basketball. Look for Buffalo to go through possessions quickly and have no hesitation to shoot it. The Bulls took 26 3-pointers per game this year.

Defensively, they could have trouble with Arizona’s physical offense. Buffalo’s defense ranks 138th in defensive efficiency in the country, per Ken Pom. Plus, they surrender 8.8 offensive rebounds per game, something Deandre Ayton and Rawle Alkins could have some fun with on Thursday night.

Reason to worry?

When Arizona lines up with teams that want to push the ball and get the pace moving quickly, the Wildcats become turnover prone. Plus, if Buffalo’s trusty shooters are hitting from downtown, anything is possible.

Worry is a bit strong but the Wildcats will need to use the same defensive intensity they instituted during the Pac-12 Tournament to make sure the Bulls don’t pull a first round upset.