Tennessee is set to host Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. A win for the Lady Vols would match them up with the winner of Belmont and Oregon in the second round.
Here’s what to know about Tennessee’s first round opponent and potential second round opponent.
Hailing out of Buffalo, New York, and the Mid-American Conference, the Buffalo Bulls have put together a 25-8 record, going 16-4 in conference play and finishing 14-1 at home.
The Bulls secured an automatic bid to the tournament by winning their conference championship, dominating Western Michigan and Akron before squeezing by Ball State in the championship, 79-75.
As far as notable opponents in the regular season, there aren’t many for Buffalo. The Bulls played just three power-five conference opponents in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Syracuse in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November.
The Bulls lost to South Carolina and Oklahoma by a combined 49 points, but defeated Syracuse 88-79.
One thing to note that is favorable for the Bulls is that they haven’t lost a game in over a month. Finishing out the season on a nine-game win streak, the last loss for Buffalo was Feb. 12 against Northern Illinois.
Offensively, the Bulls are solid. They average 76.1 points per game compared to the Lady Vols 69.9, but allow 66.2 points per game to Tennessee’s 60.2.
Shooting wise, Buffalo’s numbers matchup well to Tennessee’s. The Bulls have made 43% of their field goals, 32% of their three pointers and convert 73% of the time at the line. Tennessee shoots 41% from the field, 30% from three and 64% at the line.
Buffalo has shot 129 more three-pointers than the Lady Vols, so expect the Bulls to let it fly from deep on Saturday.
The leader for Buffalo is undoubtedly Dyaisha Fair. The 5-foot-5 junior guard is averaging 23.4 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Offensively she will be a problem, but defensively she will be a headache for the Lady Vols too, averaging a pair of steals per game.
Tennessee wins the height battle by a longshot in its first-round matchup. Buffalo’s tallest player is 6-foot-3, but most players stand below the 6-foot mark. It will be key for the Lady Vols to take advantage of the height difference and punish the Bulls inside.
The No. 5 seed in the Wichita Region is Oregon, which will take on the No. 12 seed Belmont.
The Ducks are 20-11 on the season and 11-6 in a tough PAC 12 and finished third in conference standings. Oregon came up short in the PAC 12 tournament, losing to Utah 80-73 in the semifinals.
Though the Ducks did not land in the AP top-25 to end the season, they were No. 12 in NCAA’s net rankings.
Oregon has had one of the more difficult schedules in the country, taking on eight ranked opponents. The Ducks didn’t fare well, going 2-6 against ranked opponents.
The Ducks and the Lady Vols have had mutual opponents including South Carolina, UConn, South Florida and Stanford. Tennessee defeated South Florida but lost to South Carolina, UConn and Stanford, whole Oregon defeated UConn and lost to South Florida, South Carolina and Stanford.
The Ducks offense is high scoring at 71.4 points scored per game, and they get it on 44% from the field, 34% from deep and 71% from the line.
Oregon has three players it looks to consistently for offense in Endyia Rogers, Nyara Sabally and Te-Hina Paopao, who are averaging 14.7, 14.7 and 13.4 points per game, respectively.
If the Lady Vols and Ducks meet in the second round, there will be some challenges in the paint for Tennessee. Oregon has three players that stand at 6-feet-5 or above, so the Ducks will surely present a challenge to Tamari Key and the rest of Tennessee’s inside presence.
The No. 12 seed in the Wichita region is a team that should not be overlooked. The Bruins are 22-7 on the season and finished 16-2 in conference play.
The Bruins are on a 12-game win streak and haven’t lost since January. Belmont secured a bid to the tournament with an Ohio Valley Conference title.
Belmont doesn’t have many signature wins, but it has seen SEC opponents and even picked up a win early in the season against Ole Miss.
The Bruins offense averages almost 70 points per game on 44% from the field, 33% from deep and 69% from the stripe. Belmont’s offense is anchored by Destinee Wells who averages around 17 points per game.
When and where to watch first-round games
Tennessee and Buffalo will play at 3 p.m. EST on ABC.
Belmont and Oregon will play at 5:30 p.m. EST on ESPN2.