Arizona begins its NCAA Tournament run Thursday night versus Buffalo. Will this be the season the Wildcats make the Final Four for the first time since 2001? Arizona has championship aspirations, and they might have the best player in college basketball to take them there.
The Wildcats must first take care of the Bulls. Buffalo is an experienced team which won’t be afraid of the bright lights. The Bulls have made three NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four years. Experience on the big stage and good guard play has Buffalo coach Nate Oats feeling optimistic about the matchup. Oats believes his team has the personnel to limit Arizona’s strength, Deandre Ayton.
“Personally, I don’t think that matchup is that bad,” Oats said, according to CBS Sports. “We can help on the bigs; we can double the bigs … they are really good, preseason No. 1 … but I don’t think it’s the worst matchup to be honest.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller knows he’s going against a confident team.
“We’re dealing with a confident team, a team that I’m sure is able to beat everybody on their schedule including us,” Miller said, via CBS Sports. “We have to be ready to go.”
It’s no secret Arizona will rely on the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Ayton has the ability to take the Wildcats to the Final Four. It’s imperative that other Wildcats play well in the tournament, yet it’s Ayton who can get the team to championship level.
Keys for Arizona to win vs. Buffalo
Ayton has become the most dominant player in college basketball. The 7-foot-1 forward is projected to go No. 1 overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. Ayton is the type of player who can get the Wildcats to the championship. He will need help, though.
Before Arizona can think about San Antonio, they must first get through Buffalo. The Bulls’ guards are their strength, so Allonzo Trier, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rawle Alkins will have crucial matchups. More importantly, it’s essential for Arizona’s guards to find a rhythm that hopefully they can continue beyond Thursday night.
The Wildcats plan to play inside out with Ayton and Dusan Ristic, although outside shooting will be paramount for Arizona throughout the NCAA Tournament.
Keys for Buffalo to win vs. Arizona
The Bulls have a good offensive attack. Buffalo averages 84.8 points a game compared to Arizona which averages 80.9 points. The Bulls are led by guards CJ Massingburg, Jeremy Harris and Wes Clark and forward Nick Perkins. All four are capable of handling the ball and they play fast.
Speed neutralizes size and that’s what Buffalo will try to do on Thursday. The Bulls want to play fast in an attempt to counteract Arizona’s length.
The game is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. ET on CBS.