Pick – Analysis
This 5-12 matchup could be one of the more exciting Games of the opening round. Both teams love to run and play a high-tempo Game, which is a reason both of them Scorea ton of points. Buffalo already played two No. 1 seeds early in the year (Kentucky, Wisconsin) and won’t be intimidated in this one.
The Bulls lost those two Games on the road, but they did challenge both teams, and actually led at halftime in both of those Games, which is kind of crazy. They finished in a three-way tie in the MAC with a 12-6 record, but closed the season with eight straight wins, the final coming against Central Michigan, a team that swept them in the regular season.
The biggest question for the Mountaineers will be the status of their starting backcOurt. Juwan Staten and Gary Browne will probably play, but who knows at what percentage as both of them have missed the last Four Games due to injury. Still, despite those injuries, this team took Kansas to overtime in LAwrence, and lost two other hard-fought Games to Baylor. At full-strength, they beat the likes of Kansas and Oklahoma, and won Games on neutral cOurts in non-Conference play against UConn and NC State.
A lot of West Virginia’s Game relies on its pressure defense. In one Game this season, they forced 26 turnovers. Buffalo doesn’t turn it over a ton (63rd in nation), but playing in the MAC and against WVU are two different things.
Forward Justin Moss (17.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG) is Buffalo’s biggest threat on the offensive end and gets to the free-throw line a ton. Shannon Evans (15.4 PPG, 4.7 APG) runs the point and does mostly everything else for this team whether it’s dishing up teammates or filling it up from deep. The Bulls only really have two shooters in Evans and Jarry Skeete, so that probably won’t be their main method of attack, unless Evans goes off, which he’s more than capable doing. This is a team with depth and a lot of balance, but lack a bit on the defensive end, although some of that is due to their fast pace.
The same can be said about the Mountaineers, who give up a good amount of points if their full-cOurt pressure isn’t working. WVU isn’t a great shooting team so that shouldn’t be a factor as Buffalo’s best trait is defending the three. A healthy Juwan Staten is going to be important, though. He’s their best playmaker, hence his team-leading 14.5 PPG, and can Scorein any number of ways. The experience that some of the backup guards have gotten recently could play a part as well. Devin Williams and Nathan Adrian will be important on the glass and in keeping Justin Moss in check.
West Virginia isn’t favored by much for a reason in this Game. Buffalo is a real threat to win, especially if Staten and Browne can’t play to their full potential. The Mountaineers have battled through the Big 12 all season, but can’t play down because they’re facing a MAC team. While they should win, it won’t be easy.