Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers will begin play in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, as they take on the 12th-seeded Buffalo Bulls in the Midwest Region's second round on Friday afternoon at Nationwide Arena.
Bob Huggins leads the Mountaineers into their sixth NCAA Tournament in the last eight years and 26th appearance all-time. West Virginia is an even 25-25 in the event. Huggins was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year as the Mountaineers enter with a 23-9 overall record. WVU went 11-7 in conference play this year, but was bounced from the conference tournament early on with an 80-70 loss to Baylor.
Buffalo is also sporting a 23-9 record entering the postseason. Bobby Hurley's Bulls shared the Mid-American Conference regular-season crown with a 12-6 league ledger and then went on to win the MAC Tournament in shootout fashion against Central Michigan (89-84). The team was rewarded with the automatic bid and will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
This marks just the third meeting between these two teams all-time. The series is split 1-1, with the first meeting taking place in 1918 (a 41-23 Buffalo win). West Virginia finally evened things up in 1991, with a 91-46 decision in Morgantown.
The winner of this game will move into the third round on Sunday against either Valparaiso or Maryland.
The Bulls didn't lack in terms of scoring this season, averaging 75.0 ppg on .435 shooting. Buffalo did allow almost 69 points per game, but lived comfortably in terms of rebounding (+3.1) and turnover (+2.8) margins.
It was a remarkable season for Buffalo, capped off by its first-ever MAC Tournament crown and spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls were led by MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss. The 6-7 junior forward was also named to the All-MAC First-Team, ranking among the conference's best in both scoring (17.7 ppg) and rebounding (9.3 rpg). Sophomore guard Shannon Evans was tabbed an All-MAC Second-Team member and nets 15.4 ppg. Senior forward Xavier Ford and junior guard Jarryn Skeete are just under double digits in terms of scoring at 9.5 ppg each and provide depth both up front and in the backcourt. Freshman guard Lamonte Beardman (8.3 ppg) was named to the league's All-Freshman Team.
West Virginia is a dangerous team with the ability to catch fire and make a real run in this tournament. The Mountaineers enter tournament play averaging 73.9 ppg, but their real strength is their ability to be opportunistic. The team leads the nation in steals (350), steals per game (10.9) and offensive rebounds (16.8 per game). Until this season, West Virginia had never led in any national statistic in school history.
Two-time All-Big 12 First-Teamer Juwan Staten leads the charge for West Virginia. The 6-1 senior tops the team in both scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (125). Sophomore forward Devin Williams is the perfect complement in the frontcourt, averaging 11.3 ppg, while leading the team in rebounding at 8.2 rpg. Freshman guard Jevon Carter (8.5 ppg, team-high 47 3-pointers) and junior forward Jonathan Holton (7.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg) play vital roles as well.