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NCAA Tournament: Arizona vs. Buffalo score predictions

Will the Wildcats avoid the upset?

NCAA Basketball: California at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness is here.

The No. 4 seeded Arizona Wildcats will open the NCAA Tournament on Thursday in Boise against the No. 13 seeded Buffalo Bulls.

KenPom gives Arizona a 71 percent of winning, with a projected score of 84-78.

Here is what we think will happen. Make sure to leave your predictions in the comment section below.

Ryan Kelapire — Arizona wins 86-78

I can’t see this not being a high-scoring game given the way Buffalo plays, and I think it will be close until the end, but it’s just hard to imagine the undersized Bulls slowing down Deandre Ayton enough to actually come away with the win.

Christopher Boan — Arizona wins 80-76

This is going to be a much better game than most folks predict.

Buffalo lacks height, but somehow has a 6’3 guard named CJ Massinburg that’s averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. They also have three other guys averaging more than 10 points per game this season, so they’ll be ready to play.

Buffalo’s biggest issue, besides trying to stop Deandre Ayton and keeping Rawle Alkins from demeaning one of their players while dunking, is their mediocre defense.

The Bulls, according to KenPom, are 136th in defensive efficiency, which means they’ll likely struggle to keep Trier, Ayton, Alkins and Ristic from going off on Thursday.

I expect this one to be tight throughout, with Ayton and Trier scoring big buckets down the stretch to seal the victory.

Steve Apter — Arizona wins 82-70

The optics look good for Buffalo: 25th RPI ranking, third conference title in four years. Buffalo plays fast, averaging just 14.7 seconds a possession, fifth-fastest nationally. They’ve got scorers, as Chris alluded to, with four players averaging over 14 points per game.

Buffalo’s scoring and pace of play was undoubtedly inflated due to their competition. Buffalo’s best win according to KenPom was against 113th ranked UAB. Of the five other teams in the MAC above .500 this season, none were in Buffalo’s Eastern Division. This meant they only had to play the third and fourth best teams in their conference just once.

The Bulls and Cats have one opponent in common this season in Texas A&M. Although A&M was missing their starting backcourt, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder, Buffalo still lost by 16. Arizona beat the Aggies in Phoenix.

Buffalo played a decent non-conference schedule but went winless against teams in the tournament field of 68 (Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, and Texas A&M). The Bulls faced five opponents with a starter that stood seven feet or taller, going 3-2 in those games. However, they didn’t face two seven footers on the same team and with all respect to Syracuse’s Piscal Chukwu and Jacksonville State’s Norbertas Giga, only Kent State’s Adonis De La Rosa could be favorably compared to Dusan Ristic. We all know there isn’t a soul in the tournament who can compare to Deandre Ayton. Despite some experience playing against seven footers, 20 of their 38 opponents didn’t have a starter taller than 6’9”.

Matt Sheeley — Arizona wins 91-76

Buffalo is going to try to push the ball and turn it into a sprint between these teams. The Wildcats tend to get a lot sloppier when they’re running and that could open up an opportunity for the Bulls.

After a close first half with a ton of Arizona turnovers, I think the Wildcats run away in the second half. They showed a keen ability to close games out in Las Vegas and that should carry over to this first round matchup. Especially against a team that will have no answer for Deandre Ayton.

I expect an offensive explosion from the Wildcats and a double-digit victory.

Alec Sills-Trausch — Arizona wins 81-67

The final score might make it seem somewhat close throughout but I have little doubt this game feels close after the second media timeout. Arizona’s size, experience, and athleticism is going to put Buffalo in a lot of tough spots.

Buffalo has a decent four-headed monster but any team with a guy named Deandre Ayton is going more than make up for whatever mid-major talent you have. I just hope Arizona doesn’t look towards the next round before taking care of business because a possible Kentucky matchup has all the fans licking their chops.

Jason Bartel — Arizona wins 85-77

I think Arizona will lead the whole way, but I don’t think they’ll be able to put this team away because it’ll start making some shots and keep it about a ten point margin throughout.

Also I will never pick the Wildcats to blow a team out ever again after watching that Cal game two weeks ago.