Record: 20-14 (10-8)
Conference Tournament Seed: 3
NCAA Tournament Seed: 14 (South)
How they got to the Big Dance
The Buffalo Bulls went to their first NCAA tournament last year after a 23-10 season. This year’s Buffalo team, although not as impressive, will be returning to the big dance for the second consecutive year. They got off to a slow start; after nine games, they were just 4-5 overall. This span of games included a pair of 20-point losses to then ranked No. 7 Duke and No. 4 Iowa State. The Bulls were inconsistent throughout the season and only went 10-8 in conference play. This record earned them a No. 3 seed going into the Mid-American tournament behind Ohio and top-seeded Akron. After beating No. 8 Miami (OH) in the quarterfinals, the Bulls knocked off Ohio, and then Akron on a last second 3-pointer to win the tournament.
Why they will be a Cinderella team
Last year’s Buffalo Bulls entered the tournament as a No. 12 seed and faced a well-coached West Virginia team in the first round. With a hot end to the season, many thought Buffalo could upset the Mountaineers. It didn’t happen, but they only lost by six points to a team that would eventually lose in the Sweet Sixteen. Hopefully the Bulls will remember that game and use it as motivation going into the tournament. Even though their seeding won’t be the same as last year, one thing certainly hasn’t changed about the Bulls. They can score, a lot. Their fast-paced style of play generated 77.0 points per game this year. If their opponent goes on a cold streak, Buffalo could take advantage and go on a scoring run. The Bulls also get to the free throw line 25.3 times per game, making just over 70 percent of them. The Bulls can do some damage if they can get their opponent into the foul bonus early. It also helps that they rank 52nd in the country in total rebounds despite their lack of height.
Why they won’t be a Cinderella team
Yes, Buffalo scores an incredible 77.0 points per game. But did you know they also give up 76.4 points per game? They had plenty of trouble winning their own conference games this season. So imagine what tournament teams could do to expose this weakness. They’re going to have a difficult time pulling off an upset if they can’t keep the opposition under 70 points. And although Buffalo scores a lot of points, they don’t shoot very well from 3-point range. They make just one out of every three shots from behind the arc. We’ve seen many upsets in the past occur on behalf of hot 3-point shooing. Shooting 33.4% from three may not get the job done in the NCAA tournament.
Player to Watch- G Blake Hamilton
The 6-foot-6 junior guard got hot at the end of the year and throughout the conference tournament. In four of his last five regular season games he scored at least 20 points. He had two double-doubles out of the three conference tournament games he played in. He only averages 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, so this high level of play late in the season has been a good sign for Buffalo. If Hamilton can continue this increase in quality performances heading into the NCAA tournament, the Bulls may just avenge last year’s loss to West Virginia.
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