NCAA Tournament Predictions: West Virginia vs. Bucknell

Bob Huggins_552111

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins yells to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Friday, March 3, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.

4. West Virginia (26-8, 12-6/Big 12)–The typically ornery Bob Huggins was particularly grumpy during the Big 12 tournament, though his Mountaineers advanced to the championship game. He didn’t like their lack of attention to detail, as they were missing layups and turning the ball over. WVU lost the title game to Iowa State, 80-74.

Huggins has adapted his style to fit this West Virginia program perfectly. He doesn’t get the kind of talent he used to land at Cincinnati (Kenyon Martin, Nick Van Exel, Ruben Patterson, etc.), but he recruits tough, pesky guards and defensive-minded grinders to execute his now-patented “Press Virginia” style.

This Mountaineers team works the system particularly well, led by point guard Jevon Carter (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.9 apg). WVU is also efficient on offense, averaging 82 points per game (21st in the nation) while giving up just 66.3. They also rank 16th nationally in assists (16.7 per).

Ten players avearge more than 10 minutes per game for this group.

13. Bucknell (26-8, 15-3/Patriot)–Unlike many of the automatic berths from small conferences this year, Bucknell actually won their regular season league title, as well as the conference tournament. They did it with solid frontcourt play, led by 6-7 junior Zach Thomas (16 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.5 apg) and 6-9 center Nana Foulland (14.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

Sophomore guard Kimbal Mackenzie (11.5 ppg) and junior Stephen Brown (10.9 ppg, 4.8 apg) were keys to this team’s success as well. The Bison own a win at Vanderbilt, 75-72, during the regular season, though they were smashed by Butler (86-60) and Wake Forest (94-74).

PREDICTION: This should be a win for West Virgnia, though the Mountaineers have been shaky at times in the NCAA Tournament. Bucknell’s size has the potential to give the Mountaineers problems, but they likely don’t have the backcourt play to handle WVU’s agitating press. We’ve got the Mountaineers advancing here, but falling to Notre Dame in an interesting clash of styles in Round 2.

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