(5) West Virginia v. (12) Buffalo
Time: 2:10 PM ET, TV: TNT
Spread: WVA -4.5
M/L: WVA -200; BUF +170
Betting odds c/o Bovada
5 vs. 12 upsets are bound to happen it seems, at least one a year, and here we’re faced with another good one between No. 5 seeded West Virginia and No. 12 seeded Buffalo. Early betting odds at Bovada showed the WV Mountaineers as 4.5 point favorites in second round action Friday afternoon on TNT.
The Mountaineers come into this tournament as losers of three of its past four games, two ‘Ls’ to Baylor and an OT loss to Kansas. A victory over Oklahoma State was sandwiched in between, but the Mountaineers are going to need to recapture the mojo it had when it reeled off 15 of 16 over a stretch dating from the season opener against Monmouth through a big win over then-No. 18 Oklahoma on Jan 13.
West Virginia basically fell apart in its final regular season game, getting outscored by Baylor 42-34 in the second half. Jaysean Paige came off the bench to score 18 point and hit four threes, while the Mountaineers as a team knocked down 9 of 24 (37.5 percent). In addition to Paige’s explosion off the Mountaineers’ bench, it also got 18 points from forward Devin Williams. Williams is the Mountaineers’ second leading scorer at 11.3 points per game while also snagging 8.2 boards per game. The 6’9” sophomore big man has improved greatly over his freshman campaign last year, shooting 3 percent better from the floor and increasing his scoring average by nearly three points per game. His free throw shooting leaves some to be desired, but the 69 percent he’s shot this season easily trumps the 57 percent brickfest from a year ago.
What may give WV problems is that its leading scorer Juwan Staten is nursing a leg injury, though he is listed as probable to play (and let’s be real, he will, this is March Madness). Staten averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game this season while knocking down 35 percent from three-point range. What is going to hurt WV is that it is a poor free throw shooting team at just 66 percent. With college basketball oddsmakers expecting this game to be a close one, the Mountaineers’ poor free throw shooting could spell the difference in a light upset from Buffalo.
Buffalo finished the year 23-9 overall with a 12-6 record in the MAC. The Bulls won the MAC title with an 89-84 win over Central Michigan on Mar 14. In that contest, the Bulls placed all five starters in double-figures, with four of the five (Xavier Ford the lone exception) seeing 30-plus minutes per game in the contest. Buffalo held a plus-6 edge on the boards and actually gave up 50 percent shooting to the Chippewas despite walking away with a win. Buffalo knocked down 10 triples in the game and got to the line 30 times, which ultimately proved to be the difference maker. Buffalo is a very tough team on the boards, collecting 38.4 rebounds per game which aids the team in putting up big numbers. Buffalo averaged 75 points per game this season, which helps account for the high 150 point over/under set in college basketball odds. Five of seven expert picks favo
• Over is 31-13 in BUFF last 44 non-conference games.
• Over is 14-6-1 in BUFF last 21 overall.
• Over is 15-7 in BUFF last 22 neutral site games.
• WVU are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 vs. Mid-American.
• Under is 9-4-1 in WVU last 14 non-conference games.
red in the ‘under’ on Covers, so it seems the total for this may be set precariously high.