NCAA Tournament Predictions: Miami vs. Buffalo

Point guard Angel Rodriguez leads the 'Canes. (AP Photp)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

3. Miami (25-7, 13-5/ACC)–The Hurricanes bounced back from a disappoitning 2015 season (which ended in an NIT championship loss to Stanford), rolling to 13 wins in the ACC and an appearance in the conference semifinals.

Miami has a terrific inside-out combo in point guard Angel Rodriguez (11.7 ppg, 4.4 apg) and seven-footer Tonye Jekiri (8.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg), who can be a game-changer inside. Jekiri outplayed Utah big man and projected lottery pick Jakob Poeltl in an early-season game against the Utes, putting up 20 and 12 and drawing the attention of NBA scouts. He hasn’t repeated that performance often, but has the potential to go off for 20 and 15 boards at any time.

The ‘Canes also have a talented wing in 6-5 senior Sheldon McClellan, who leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game. Miami is a stingy defensive team, giving up

KEY STATS:

66.8 points allowed (58th)

75.6 points per game (121st)

14. Buffalo (20-14, 10-8/MAC)– The Bulls got hot at the perfect time, cruising through the first two rounds of the MAC tournament and ousting top-seeded Akron in the final to advance to the NCAA’s for the second year in a row. This Buffalo squad isn’t as talented as last year’s, which featured MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss and was a popular pick to knock off West Virginia in the first round. Those Bulls lost a hard fought game, 68-62, then lost Moss after an on-campus incident and head coach Bobby Hurley to Arizona State.

This year’s group is led by four scorers who average in double figures, including 6-3 sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden (13.6 ppg, 4.2 apg), and 6-6 junior Blake Hamilton (13.1 ppg, 7 rpg).

KEY STATS:

77.6 points per game (70th)

39.1 rebounds per game (47th)

PREDICTION: We think Miami has too much offensive firepower and size inside to be tripped up by the Bulls here. They’ll at least advance to the second round, where they’ll have a tough matchup against either Arizona, Wichita State or Vanderbilt. We believe in head coach Jim Larranaga, so we’ve got the ‘Canes advancing there, then knocking off Villanova before finally falling victim to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

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