Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:05 AM

Saturday - Session 2

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South Region – Boise – Taco Bell Arena
#13 Buffalo vs. #5 Kentucky (-5.5, 156) – 5:15 PM EST – CBS

After their impressively decisive 89-68 upset of Arizona, the Bulls were the talk of the NCAA Tournament. Although Buffalo has since been surpassed by UMBC as the new darling following their historic upset of Virginia, finally becoming the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1, the MAC champs would be able to steal back some of the spotlight by reaching the Sweet 16 with a win over college basketball's most storied programs.

UB head coach Nate Oats has refused to call his team the underdog and went on national television with a halftime edge and said his team could and would come out and do more. He was proven correct when they took apart Arizona and Sean Miller could come up with no answers, but he provided some bulletin board material for Kentucky afterward.

"(John) Calipari’s been whining about no experience — young, young, young," Oats said. "Well, we don’t have that problem. We got some veteran guys."

"When I said Calipari was whining about freshmen, that was maybe a misuse of the word," Oats clarified on Friday. "He’s a pretty dang good coach, but he has made note of the fact he has been very young all year, which is just a fact. It is what it is, and he’s right. "We’re experienced they’re inexperienced. It is what it is. It’s facts. I’m going to tell them they’re not freshmen? They are freshmen. Just like Cal’s been saying."

Oats went on to state that the same rationale he shared with his Bulls as to why they shouldn't fear DeAndre Ayton-led Arizona applies here. His guys are older. They're grown men. Kentucky is one of the youngest teams in the country, playing seven freshmen, two sophomores and zero seniors, while his Bulls are led by a graduate transfer who started playing at Missouri in 2013 in addtion to four juinors who play major minutes.

The Bulls will go into this game firmly believing they can pull off another shocker against an opponent from a major league despite going 0-4 during the regular season against Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse and Texas A&M.

For a little while last month, it appeared that Kentucky's run of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances under John Calipari would end at four due to a four-game losing streak in SEC play. Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Auburn, all of whom went on to reach the Big Dance, took turns taking down Big Blue Nation in a stretch that Calipari has called vital to getting his team's attention and opening their eyes and ears. He's stated that they realized they needed him and his coaching, which led to a 7-1 finish and an SEC Tournament title.

The Wildcats held off Davidson 78-73 in the first round, holding on to cover despite surrendering a couple of cosmetic 3-pointers from their opponents since they closed as a 4.5-point favorite at many spots. UK did a fantastic job on their opposition's top scorers, holding Peyton Aldridge and Kellen Grady to 8-for-31 shooting.

Kentucky persevered despite shooting 0-for-5 from 3-point range, living at the free-throw line, where they imposed their will physically and made the most of 32 attempts, knocking down 26. SEC Tournament MVP Shai Gilgeous-Alexander followed up a 29-point, 7-rebound effort in the SEC Tournament championship against Tennessee with a 19-point, 8-rebound, 7-assist, 5-steal game in the first round of the NCAAs. Forward Kevin Knox led the 'Cats with 25 points against Davidson. If he's hitting from the perimeter, he's unguardable.

Wes Clark, the aforementioned Mizzou transfer, made 10 of his 14 shots, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range, to lead Buffalo with 25 points and seven assists, while wings Jeremy Harris and CJ Massinburg combined to score 42. The Bulls connected on 15-for-30 from beyond the arc but can't realistically expect similar success.

Kentucky excels at preventing teams from getting comfortable from 3-point range, ranking 10th in the country in percentage allowed. It has won and covered in eight of its last nine games. The over is 8-1 in those contests.

Whether it can pull off another upset remains to be seen, but don't expect Buffalo to be intimidated or Oats to back down from telling you and his players how he really feels. Apparently, that extends to refs too, since he divulged that late in the Arizona win, "I told the ref, 'If we score here, I'm calling timeout to gets subs in. I don't want anyone to get hurt in the last minute. We got a chance to beat Kentucky!"

Buffalo has won seven straight games, last losing 84-81 at Miami (Ohio). The Bulls have won every games since by double-figures, covering on six of seven occasions, including five straight. The Bulls are 2-3 in games where they come in as an underdog, but are 4-1 ATS. They'll look to harass the Wildcats into turnovers with their ball pressure and look to prove their coach right by taking advantage of their experience against a team loaded with phenoms. Although Big Blue Nation travels better than most fan bases, Boise is far enough away from Lexington that it doesn't pack the same punch, further opening the door for an underdog to be adopted by locals.

South Region – Dallas – American Airlines Center
#11 Loyola-Chicago vs. #3 Tennessee (-5, 130) – 6:10 PM EST – TNT

Another double-digit seed will look to take down an SEC power in this one, which should tip right as Kentucky and Buffalo are coming out for the second half. With a similar spread, the Missouri Valley champs are being treated with respect, given a realistic chance to wear the Cinderella tag into the Sweet 16.

Despite closing as just a 1.5-point underdog, Loyola got the full tourney darling treatment due to the manner in which they defeated Miami (FL), getting a Donte Ingram 3-pointer to fall just before the final buzzer to escape 64-62, narrowly avoiding a defeat. The Hurricanes left the door open when Lonnie Walker missed the front end of a one-and-one with less than 10 seconds remaining.

The Ramblers will be looking for their 30th win of the season against the Vols, a team whose physical style they mirror. Loyola shares the ball on offense and locks you up on defense, which is why this total (130) is Saturday's lowest, challenged only by Michigan-Houston.

Tennessee recovered from its SEC championship round loss to Kentucky by trouncing Wright State 73-47, holding the Horizon League regular-season and conference tourney champs to 31.7 percent shooting. The Vols won both halves by double-digits and held Wright State to just 4-for-21 from 3-point range by contesting everything. They owned the glass by a 43-29 count and blocked six shots, dominating despite shooting just 5-for-18 on 3-pointers themselves.

Lamonte Turner scored a game-high 19 points off the bench and is Tennessee's top shooter, but the team relies most on versatile forwards Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, dynamic 6-foot-5 athletes who are each built similarly and create matchup issues for most everybody. They'll certainly provide a challenge the Ramblers don't run into often in the Horizon League.

Loyola-Chicago is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1985. The Ramblers have won 18 of 19 games since Iowa State transfer Clayton Custer returned from an ankle injury that cost him a few games entering the calendar year.

Custer, a talented shooter and distributor, was rewarded for playing his role as the point guard and leader by earning the Larry Bird Trophy that the MVC gives its MVP. He played with the league's Defensive Player of the Year, shooting guard Ben Richardson, way back in grade school.

Freshman center Cameron Krutwig is a 260-pound load inside, while 6-foot-5 power forward Aundre Jackson will be tasked with helping him deal with Williams and Schofield. Ingram, a 6-foot-6 senior wing from Chicago who led the balanced Ramblers in rebounding, is also likely to be adriving force. Five Loyola players averaged double-figures in points this season.

Loyola has seen the under prevail in six consecutive games and share a few opponents in common with Tennessee, beating Wright State to start its season in addition to a Dec. 6 upset of Florida in Gainesville. The Ramblers are 2-1 against foes from Top-10 leagues, beating the 'Canes and Gators while being blown out by Boise State.

Rick Barnes' Vols are a perfect 6-0 against teams from non-power conferences. The under has prevailed in six of Tennessee's last eight games.It survived an 0-for-6 shooting start to cruise against Wright State.

Midwest Region – Wichita – Intrust Bank Arena
#8 Seton Hall vs. #1 Kansas (-4.5, 154) – 7:10 PM EST – TBS

The Jayhawks have been playing short-handed for most of the month, so they're looking forward to having a full roster in place as they try and avoid an upset against a talented, experienced team out of the Big East.

Udoka Azubuike, Kansas' top rebounder and primary enforcer, missed the Big 12 Tournament title run with a knee injury that forced the team to play small. He played just three minutes in a first-round win over Penn, but head coach Bill Self said he's counting on his center to give him 15-to-20 minutes against Angel Delgado and the Pirates. There are no Cinderella stories to be had here, even if the Pirates are able to pull off an upset. They're a heavyweight, led by dynamic veterans that include Delgado, one of the nation's top rebounders and the leading board-grabber in Big East history.

Seton Hall was ranked nationally to open 2017-18 and won nine of its first 10 games. Among the Pirates' early victims were Texas Tech and Indiana, and they were solid in opening Big East play, improving to 14-2 with a road win at Butler on Jan. 6 before inconsistency threatened to derail their season.

Inconsistency, injuries and suspect free-throw shooting contributed to losses in seven of 10 between Jan. 9-Feb. 14, which included a season-long four-game losing streak that threatened to derail the team's NCAA Tournament aspirations.

Besides Delgado, whose skills on the offensive glass are second to none among those left in these NCAAs, the Pirates can count on wing Desi Rodriguez (17.9 ppg), shooter Myles Powell (15.5) and point guard Khadeen Carrington (15.2), who is as capable as any of the elite floor generals in the Big 12 when he's right.

Over his last five games, Carrington has averaged 22.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.7 assists and has shot 45 percent from 3-point range. He can be as dangerous a difference-maker in this matchup as Delgado.

Kansas has a different look than last season, where it count on the leadership of one of the top point guards in school history in Frank Mason in addition to the exploits of lottery lock Josh Jackson, who ended up being selected fourth by Phoenix. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season title again and improved on last year's exit in the conference tourney by winning in Kansas City this year, but it remains to be seen whether they can again reach an Elite Eight.

The Jayhawks won their first three NCAA Tournament games last season by a combined 90 points and cruised past Penn in the first round this year, but this game against Seton Hall will provide a better indication of just how much to expect from this less talented group.

Devonte Graham is the unquestioned sneior leader, averaging 17.6 points and 7.4 assists to help fill Mason's shoes, but there's no one of Jackson's class on this roster. Instead, head coach Bill Self is forced to rely upon the shooting of senior Svi Mykhailuk, sophomore Malik Newman and junior Lagerald Vick. KU isn't particularly deep, illustrated by their use of lightly regarded Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio DeSousa in the 7-foot Azubuike's absence. Azubuike averaged 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 77.4 percent from the field, so if he's truly back, it would be a game-changer.

While not mentioned above with Seton Hall's double-digit scorers, senior Ishmael Sanogo qualifies as a true x-factor after a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in the 94-83 win over N.C. State. His presence gives Kevin Willard a fourth senior tor rely on. Not wanting your career to end can be a major motivating factor in this type of setting.

Seton Hall is 4-4 as an underdog this season and will have to overcome a KU-friendly crowd in Wichita. The Pirates were 5-5 in true road games, but did win at Butler, Louisville and Providence. The over has prevailed in nine of their last 11 games.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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