- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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BUFFALO -- Here’s a quick look ahead to the first-round games here at the HSBC Arena:
Morgan State-West Virginia
Key to the game: Morgan State is hoping to avoid the 28-point beatdown Oklahoma put on the Bears in last year’s NCAA tournament first round. In that game, Morgan State had the MEAC player of the year and defensive player of the year. Could be a tall order against an angry (wanted the No. 1 seed) West Virginia team.
Player to watch: Da’Sean Butler. Seriously, if you have to ask you missed New York. The buzzer-beating king is a one-man highlight reel. Gritty and tough, he’s worked his way into a star.
Who has the edge: Gonna go out on a ledge and give the advantage to the Big East Tournament champions.
Key to the game: Both teams play the same sort of pressing style, but the Missouri Tigers do it more efficiently. Mizzou is second in the nation in turnover margin at plus-6.7. Clemson, in the meantime, coughs it up nearly 15 times per game.
Player to watch: Trevor Booker. How productive Clemson’s big man is will determine the winner. Missouri is without Justin Safford (ACL) and Laurence Bowers is playing with a balky wrist, which limits the Mizzou Tigers’ frontcourt considerably.
Who has the edge: Mike Anderson has continually overachieved in his career. Oliver Purnell has never won an NCAA tournament game in his career. Edge, Tigers. Missouri Tigers.
Key to the game: Pace. The Seminoles are one of the best in the country defensively, holding teams to just 37 percent shooting from the floor and 60.2 points per game. Gonzaga likes to go, shooting 49 percent from the floor and averaging 77 points per game. Who’s style wins?
Player to watch: Matt Bouldin. If the Bulldogs’ scoring machine -- he’s seventh on the all-time list -- can get hot, the Seminoles could be in trouble.
Who has the edge: Tough commute for Gonzaga and a tough matchup for a team that likes to score.
Key to the game: Vermont’s basketball moment came against Syracuse. To repeat the magic, the Catamounts are going to have to stay in it from the beginning, especially against an undermanned Syracuse team. An early hole in the first 10 minutes? Over.
Player to watch: Wes Johnson. The player of the year candidate finally looked like himself again in the Big East Tournament. Saddled for much of February with a hand injury, he couldn’t even pick up his laptop at one point. If Johnson is on, the Orange are too.
Who has the edge: Even without Arinze Onuaku, this is a mighty tall order for Vermont. I’d argue that the Catamounts are a pretty good 16 seed, but not good enough for the ultimate Cinderella moment.