By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contribuitng Writer
The mantra for this time of year is “survive and advance” and that is precisely what the Kentucky Wildcats did on Thursday evening when they faced a tenacious group of Wildcats from Davidson, North Carolina. Many of the experts warned that the Cats in Blue and White should be placed on upset alert because David “son” was prepared to slay a giant. Many of those same experts penciled their favorite group of Wildcats, those from Arizona, in for a likely trip to the Final Four, giving neither Kentucky or Davidson any chance of sending Arizona home early.
Kentucky did its part by sending Davidson back to North Carolina with a 5 point loss. However, the Bulls from Buffalo had ideas of their own about Arizona. Arizona did not simply get upset, they were completely embarrassed. For only the second time since the NCAA expanded to at least 64 teams, a team entering a game as a double digit favorite lost a game by more than 20 points. Oh yes, the other team to suffer such humiliation was, yes, Arizona.
Enough said about Arizona.
Kentucky’s next opponent will be those same Bulls from Buffalo that gored the Arizona Wildcats into submission. So, who exactly are these Bulls?
The Bulls will bring a 27-8 record into this NCAA Second Round game. Of course, there is no denying or ignoring what Buffalo did to Arizona on Thursday night, but it is also important, perhaps even more important, to consider what this team has done over the course of its full season of 35 games. The Buffalo schedule is less than competitive, having a strength of -0.003 ppp (#151). The Buffalo adjusted offensive efficiency has been 1.139 ppp, and its adjusted defensive efficiency has been 1.026 ppp.
The average NCAA D1 offense and defense this season has been 1.042 ppp. In contrast, the Kentucky offensive and defensive efficiency have been 1.153 ppp and 0.950 ppp respectively. Kentucky’s offense has been more efficient and the Kentucky defense has been much more efficient than Buffalo’s.
The Kentucky Wildcats have faced the Buffalo Bulls only once prior to this game. That occurred at Rupp Arena during the 2014-15 season, and the Cats beat the Bulls by 19 points, 71-52.
The strong finish that the Cats have had has been a topic of regular discussion for the last 2 to 3 weeks. However, Buffalo has also finished the season strong as compared to the season averages. Kentucky’s last 9 games have produced 8 wins and one loss, while playing at an average ANE over those nine games of 0.307 ppp as compared to the season average 0.207 ppp. Buffalo’s season not only has a strong finish, but a transformational event with the mid-season addition of a player.
After starting the season 7-5, Buffalo has finished the season 21-3, and have won their last 8 games. Following their 13th game, Buffalo’s ANE was 0.056 ppp, and by game 21, their ANE had climbed to 0.106 ppp. From that point of their season to their 28th game, their ANE slipped to about 0.084 ppp. Then, with their current 8 game winning streak, the ANE has risen to a season high 0.118 ppp entering this game against Kentucky. During the last 8 games, Buffalo’s ANE has averaged 0.234 ppp, which is significantly higher than their 0.118 season average.
Both teams are hot at the moment.
Kentucky is favored to beat Buffalo by 7 points, 80-73 in a game played at a pace of 74 possessions. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 7 points, 84-77 at a pace of 73 possessions. Vegas opened with Kentucky a 7 point favorite, but the Vegas line has been falling to the current 5 ½ points.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: