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UB vs. Kentucky: NCAA breakdown and prediction

5-Kentucky vs. 13-Buffalo
5:15 EST Saturday at Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho (CBS)

One group of Wildcats down, one to go. UB is playing with house money against mighty Kentucky on Saturday, looking to become only the seventh 13th seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Bulls stunned Arizona on Thursday, 89-68, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and pulling away from the fourth-seeded Wildcats late. Kentucky starts five freshmen and has hit its stride late, winning its 31st SEC Tournament title and holding off Davidson, 78-73, in the first round Thursday evening in Boise.

Kentucky is college hoop royalty. Winning a first-round game isn't a cause for celebration, but an expectation. The Wildcats are making their 57th NCAA Tournament appearance, the most in the nation. Kentucky (28-7) has now won 25 of its last 26 first-round games in the NCAAs.

UB won't be intimidated, not after drilling Arizona in the first round. The Bulls' 21-point winning margin ties for the second-biggest ever by a 13th seed. Siena won by 21 over Vanderbilt in 2008. Navy won by 23 with David Robinson over LSU in in 1985, the year the tourney expanded to 64 teams.

Only six No. 13 seeds have reached the Sweet 16. The last was LaSalle in 2013. No 13 has ever reached the Elite 8. Ohio, the Bulls' MAC brethren, made the Sweet 16 in 2012. Both LaSalle and Ohio profited by facing a No. 12 seed in the second game of the tournament.

The Wildcats

Kentucky has five freshmen. As usual, they're all considered NBA prospects of one degree or another. Kevin Knox, a 6-9 forward from Tampa, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 6-6 guard, are both regarded as "one-and-done" talents who will likely be taken in the lottery in the next NBA draft.

Knox averages 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds. He scored 25 points -- his second-highest game of the reason -- in the opening win over Davidson. Knox was all-SEC and SEC co-freshman of the year. He leads the Wildcats in three-pointers made with 56 and is tied with PJ Washington in rebounding.

Gilgeous-Alexander is from Hamilton, the next in a pipeline of Canadian talent into American college hoops. Gilgeous-Alexander was second-team SEC as a frosh and the MVP of the SEC Tournament, scoring a career-high 29 in the final. He had 19 points, seven assists, eight rebounds and five steals against Davidson.

Kentucky doesn't rely on the 3-pointer. They went 0-for-6 from 3 in the first round, which was the first time the 'Cats went without a single 3 in a game in 30 years. They were 26-for-45 from inside the arc and 26 of 32 from the foul line. They're a very good defensive team.

John Calipari is coaching in his 19th NCAA Tournament He is 52-17 in the Big Dance, 27-8 with Kentucky. The 'Cats reached four Final Fours in five years between 2011-15 and won the national title in 2012. Calipari's teams have never lost to team seeded lower than 10th in the NCAA tourney.

The Bulls

Nate Oats' Bulls are up to sixth in the country in scoring at 84.9 points a game after putting 89 on Arizona in Thursday's first-round game. They play at a very quick pace and are 13th in the nation in assists at 16.8 per game.

Oats said he had been waiting all season for all his primary scorers to click in the same game, and it happened at the most opportune time against Arizona. Wes Clark scored 25 after going for 26 in the MAC final. Jeremy Harris scored 23. CJ Massinburg scored 19 and Nick Perkins chipped in with 13.

UB went 15-for-30 from behind the arc against Arizona, the most 3's they've nailed in a game this season. Their previous high was 14 (out of 36 tries) in a 96-91 overtime win over UAB in November.

The Bulls are 27-8, the most wins in one season in their history. They lost five non-conference games this season, all to teams that reached the NCAA Tournament -- Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, Cincinnati, Texas A&M and South Dakota State, which gave Ohio State a scare before losing in Boise on Thursday.

Numbers game

Kenpom rating: 17. RPI: 10.
3-point FG defense 30.0 (4th).
Free-throw attempts 870 (2nd).
Blocks per game 4.8 (64th).

Kenpom rating: 64. RPI: 25.
Scoring per game: 84.9 (6th).
Scoring margin 9.3 (33rd).
3's per game: 9.8 (26th).


UB won over a lot of fans on Thursday and got the Boise crowd on its side with its exhilirating win over Arizona. That will help again. Kentucky travels well, but this will be a rare postseason game when they don't have the majority of the crowd on their side.

History says that low-seeded teams usually find their level after a first-round upset. Most don't win by 21 in the first round, though. So UB is a very live underdog against a young Kentucky team that struggled to find itself before hitting its stride late in the year.

This is a tougher matchup than Arizona. Kentucky has better mid-sized athletes to match up with UB. They'll extend UB's shooters and make it a lot tougher for them to get going from 3. UB will push the pace and make it an entertaining game, but it won't be enough. Kentucky 79, UB 75.

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