Heading into March, the nation begins turning its attention to the mid-major programs best suited for a deep March Madness NCAA tournament run. Toiling away quietly in obscurity for the majority of the year, mid-major programs like Gonzaga and Buffalo don’t enjoy the same fanfare that surrounds programs in the ACC or even the revamped Big East. However, each year a few mid-major programs have the blend of talent and experience to allow them to go toe to toe with their more well-funded counterparts.
Despite being the number one overall ranked team in college basketball at the time of this writing, Gonzaga still doesn’t get the same level of attention on the national level that teams like Duke, UNC, Kentucky, and other blue-blood programs receive. Buffalo sits in a similar position and despite suffering a few tough losses, has mostly throttled anything put in front of them in the MAC.
Gonzaga Bulldogs NCAA Tournament Preview
As the top-ranked team in the NCAA, Gonzaga stands head and shoulders above not only other mid-majors but every other team in the nation. Boasting a mix of experienced tournament veterans to pair with electric young talent, the Bulldogs have one of the most well-rounded offenses in college basketball. Led by likely lottery pick Rui Hachimura and fellow first-round prospect Brandon Clarke, the Bulldogs boast some of the best forward play of any tournament team.
One area of concern for the Bulldogs heading into the tournament is their defense. While on most occasions their offense is good enough to simply outscore the less talented team across from them, they truly haven’t been tested much on that end of the basketball. Defense is crucial in the NCAA tournament as teams often come out a bit too excited and struggle offensively. Gonzaga isn’t the best defensive program, which leaves a small area of concern, but their tournament tested roster should be able to make sure they are more than up to any task the tournament throws their way.
Gonzaga shouldn’t drop another game the remainder of the regular season and will likely comfortably coast through the WCC tournament en route to a #1 seed in the tournament. There is a chance that whatever team comes out of the ACC tournament sneaks away with the #1 overall seed, but Gonzaga should at least find themselves as the top dog in their region.
Buffalo Bulls NCAA Tournament Preview
Similar to Gonzaga, Buffalo finds the majority of their success on the back of an elite offensive attack. Also similar to Gonzaga, Buffalo has barely been tested and has dominated just about anything thrown their way. While Gonzaga does have a few bigger wins to its name, Buffalo has made a living playing and destroying mid-major programs en route to their #21 ranking.
C.J. Massinburg is a two-way guard threat capable of forcing turnovers while efficiently scoring and facilitating the basketball. Nick Perkins has also had a very solid year offering a stretch forward option for the Bulls to run with. Very similar stylistically to Gonzaga, the biggest difference is that Buffalo leans more on experienced guard play compared to Gonzaga’s forward play. In the NCAA tournament, great guard play typically equates to great results and the Bulls undoubtedly have the necessary pieces in place to make a deep run.