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Preview: 5 West Virginia vs. 12 Buffalo

Basketball Insiders Previews: 5 West Virginia vs. 12 Buffalo

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#5 – West Virginia Mountaineers

The Good, the bad and the ugly. Playing one of the most up-tempo styles in the NCAA this year, Bob Huggins has gone back to the old school. Their 94 feet of scrambling pressure got the Mountaineers off to a hot start, which kept them in the Top 25 all year. The jet-always-refueling schedule of West Virginia in the Big 12 took its toll, but only one loss was to a non-ranked opponent (LSU). A healthy Jawen Staten will make WVU an under-seeded team as their style is nearly impossible to replicate. Playing 10 players 15 minutes or more a game throughout the year will make them even tougher on only one day of rest. This team thrives on emotion and intimidation and will face two major obstacles en route to a potential Final four appearance. First, the rims. This team has stretches of finishing and shooting where they look like Phillip Seymour Hoffman yelling “let it rain!” in Along Came Polly. A woeful 41.2 percent on all field goals, a 31 percent clip from the three-point line and 66 percent clip on free throws means no lead is safe. Secondly, WVU does not want to see teams that have experienced guards and skilled bigs. Quick ball movement and transition threes have allowed teams to make WVU look silly at times with their over pressuring and missed rotations. A young team featuring seven freshman or sophomores does not lack confidence, attitude or swagger. Their fans will travel deep and an East Coast seeding could give them a home court advantage. Huggins made a statement by going full mayhem pressing and with one of the most experienced benches in college basketball, they will be prepared. Unselfish play and shot making from the likes Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr. and Gary Browne combined with the experience of many close games to learn from could have Huggins leading the “Country Roads” chorus all the way to Indianapolis.

– Dan Barto

#15 – Buffalo Bulls

The Mid-American Conference was extremely competitive this year, with no team in the league having less than six losses in the regular season. That set the stage for a thrilling conference tournament that was completely up for grabs. However, it was the Bulls, who came into the tournament as winners of six straight, that got two wins to clinch their first NCAA Tournament bid in school history. They’re coached by a man in Bobby Hurley who won two national championships during his illustrious career at Duke and is no stranger to the big dance, though. Hurley has done a phenomenal job at the helm of the program for the Bulls, building them into a champion in just his second year. In his short time with the school he’s seen Justin Moss quickly grow into a star. The junior big man, who did not play much last year, has exploded this year to lead the team with 17.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. He has another star in sophomore guard Shannon Evans, but it was actually Xavier Ford, one of the two seniors on the team, who was named the conference tournament MVP. The Bulls love to push the tempo and are a fun team to watch. They played the 84th most difficult schedule in the country, falling in their lone two match ups against teams in the RPI top 25 (Kentucky and Wisconsin). Look for turnovers to be an important key for the Bulls. They’re not a great defensive team, but if they can force a lot of miscues and turn those into quick offense on the other end, it could make them a dangerous first-round draw.

– Yannis Koutroupis

Who Wins?

Yannis Koutroupis: Buffalo wins

Cody Toppert: Buffalo wins

Dan Barto: West Virginia wins

Dan Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players. You can follow IMG on Twitter @IMGAcademy or on Facebook here.

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