MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Moments after the NCAA brackets came to light Sunday, Bob Huggins pulled up a chair inside the Jerry West Lounge. In his hands he held the season stats for Buffalo.
He needed a cheat sheet on the Bulls, whom he had seen play only once this season, and that time only because he was tuning in to catch Akron.
So here’s your cheat sheet on West Virginia’s first-round opponent:
Buffalo Bulls (23-9)
RPI: No. 32, the highest for any 12 seed in this year’s field—better than Stephen F. Austin (No. 36), Wofford (No. 49) and Wyoming (No. 76).
Coach: Prepare for an onslaught of early-90s Duke highlights, because Bobby Hurley is steering the program. And steering it well, advancing Buffalo into its first NCAA tournament in only his second season.
Getting here: Buffalo won the MAC’s Eastern Division and grabbed the automatic bid by defeating Central Michigan 89-84 for the conference title. That makes eight straight wins for the Bulls.
Best showings: On Nov.16, the Bulls led Kentucky 38-33 at the half in Lexington before losing 71-52. They also put up a fight at Wisconsin before losing 68-56. … They were only 4-3 against the RPI top 100, with wins over South Dakota State, Central Michigan and a sweep of Kent State. … As for bad losses, there was only one: 63-61 at Ohio (RPI No. 226) on Jan. 24.
Top players: 6-7 junior forward Justin Moss averages 17.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and got to the foul line 226 times this season (12th-most in the nation). … Sophomore point guard Shannon Evans (15.4 points, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals) is a 37-percent 3-point shooter who launches frequently. He made eight 3s versus Cornell. … Jarryn Skeete (9.4 points, 3.2 rebounds) scored 16 at Kentucky on 4-of-6 3-point shooting.
Style points: The Bulls play one of the nation’s fastest paces, ranking 12th at 71.1 possessions per game. Their efficiency is solid (56th nationally) and thy rank 28th in scoring (75 per game) partly because they shoot an above-average 72 percent from the foul line. … Defensively, the Bulls rank 40th in steals (7.6 per game) and 237th in points allowed (68.3 per game).