Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats open against Buffalo Bulls in NCAA tournament

The Arizona Wildcats will open their bid for their first NCAA tournament championship in 21 years as a No. 4 seed when they play No. 13-seeded Buffalo in the first round of the South Regional in Boise, Idaho.

The game will be played on Thursday. In a shocker, Arizona potentially will play No. 5 seed Kentucky in the second round if the Wildcats get past Buffalo. Kentucky is matched against No. 12 Davidson in another first round matchup.

Arizona’s record in the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed is 6-1. The Wildcats won the NCAA tournament title in 1997 as a No. 4 seed coming out of the Southeast Regional. They also lost in the first round as a No. 4 seed in the 1999 tournament to Oklahoma.

Arizona (27-7) earned the Pac-12’s automatic bid for the NCAA tournament with its conference tournament championship over USC last night.

The conference had only three teams in the tournament, including ASU and UCLA, with both of those teams required to play in the First Four games in Dayton, Ohio.

Buffalo (26-8) earned a trip to the NCAA tournament by defeating Toledo in the MAC tournament championship on Saturday.

Senior guard Wes Clark, who only became eligible to play for the Bulls in late December after transferring from Missouri, carried the Bulls with 26 points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals and was named the MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player.

“I can’t say enough about just the fight and resilience of this group,” head coach Nate Oats said. “You know, stuff didn’t really go our way tonight. Give Toledo a ton of credit, I thought they did a great job without Fletcher, but our guys hung in there. And their lack of depth and just our resilience finally paid off there in the last whatever it was, four, five, six minutes when we kind of cracked that thing open. But I tell you what, it’s nice to have Wes Clark on your roster in a championship game, I know that.”

Clark was dismissed from Missouri for academic reasons in February 2016.

He played 29 minutes against Arizona in the 2014 Maui Invitational as a freshman and scored only three points off the bench when the Wildcats won 72-53. In the following season, Clark started against Arizona at McKale Center and had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field before fouling out in an 88-52 win for Arizona.

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Junior forward Nick Perkins added 16 points, including some key shots late, Buffalo’s win over Toledo in the MAC title game. Junior guard Jeremy Harris, who was a major contributor in the quarterfinals and semifinals, finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Harris was also named to the All-Tournament team.

The Bulls went 0-4 against quality teams in the nonconference portion of the schedule, losing to Syracuse, Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure and Texas A&M. They lost those games by an average of 9.5 points.

Buffalo was coached by ASU coach Bobby Hurley before he left for Tempe before last season.

This will be Arizona’s sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and 33rd overall. The Wildcats are 56-31. In the Miller era, they are 13-6.

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