Before the Buffalo Bulls boarded a plane to head west to face Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, coach Nate Oats spoke about the Wildcats having four NBA players on their roster and how the NCAA committee didn't do them any favors.
Then, he talked about Arizona's 7-footers Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic and how good they were, but an advantage for his team may be that they have to defend on the perimeter against Buffalo's smaller, arguably quicker lineup.
"Personally, I don't think that matchup is that bad," Oates told TV stations in Buffalo. "We can help on the bigs; we can double the bigs ... they are really good, preseason No. 1 ... but I don't think it's the worst matchup to be honest."
Welcome to the NCAA tournament where anything is possible, including a No. 13 seed beating a No. 4 seed. The two teams will play on Thursday night in Boise, Idaho, as part of the South bracket.
"It's a big challenge; Arizona is a good team," said CJ Massingburg, the Bulls' leading scorer at 16.9 points per game. "But we're going to go in there feeling like there is nothing to lose. They are the ones that have all the pressure on them because they are expected to win, have to win. We're going to go try to play our best basketball and hopefully pull off a win."
This will be the third NCAA tournament appearance for the Bulls (26-8) in four years. Arizona coach Sean Miller acknowledging the Bulls' confidence three times while previewing them this week.
"We're dealing with a confident team, a team that I'm sure is able to beat everybody on their schedule including us," said Miller, whose team is 27-7. "We have to be ready to go."
Miller said one of the Bulls' tendencies is to run, something Arizona performs well at but rarely does.
The "depth and versatility of their guards has been their advantage all year," Miller said.
The Bulls feel it will be their guard play that will be the difference, off-setting Arizona's Ayton and Ristic.
"They have outstanding guards," Miller said, referring to Jeremy Harris and Wes Clark. "They do a really good job having a wing player playing the (small forward). They play three or four guards and they have good depth."
Because Oats was an assistant under Bobby Hurley at Buffalo, he has seen Arizona a few times. Earlier in the week, Oats said he received a text from an ASU assistant to get a quick scouting report. Miller said Buffalo does have similarities to the Sun Devils, a team Arizona beat twice this season. Miller called it a style "that is difficult to defend."
"They play man to man and they love to push the ball in transition; they utilize the 3-point shot," Miller said. "They sub in a similar manner. They strike in transition and strike quickly."