Could Buffalo basketball make a deep NCAA Tournament run? –

Could Buffalo basketball make a deep NCAA Tournament run? -
Buffalo mens basketball is sixth seed, could face former coach Bobby Hurley
Buffalo's CJ Massinburg, right, pulls on Jeremy Harris's cap after Buffalo defeated Bowling Green 87-73 in an NCAA college basketball game for the Mid-American Conference men's tournament title Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Buffalo basketball is returning to March Madness after a stellar season that saw its first-ever national ranking.

Arizona States Remy Martin, left, Rob Edwards (2), Zylan Cheatham (45), Romello White, right, and Luguentz Dort (0) huddle during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Washington on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona State won 75-63. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The Buffalo Bulls mens basketball team won the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament for the fourth time in five years to earn their fourth-ever NCAA Tournament bid. UBs 31-3 record includes notable wins over Syracuse, West Virginia, and St. Bonaventure, finishing the regular season with a No. 18 ranking in the AP top 25 poll.

ASU was selected as the No. 11 seed in the West Region and will face fellow No. 11 seed St. John’s in a First Four game on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. The game will be televised on Tru TV. The winner of that game will face No. 6 Buffalo in the second round.

Buffalo will be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournaments West Region, facing the winner of a First Four game between Arizona State and St. Johns on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Buffalo vs. Arizona State/St. Johns game will air nationally on TNT at 4 p.m.

Its the highest seeding ever for Buffalo, who won its first game in tournament history last year as a No. 13 seed, upsetting No. 4 Arizona with a 89-68 blowout in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

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If Buffalo wins in the first round again, the Bulls will likely next face No. 3-seed Texas Tech. The Buffalo News predicts it will be a slugfest, as Texas Tech is No. 2 in the nation in defensive efficiency while UB is among the top 20 in avoiding turnovers.

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Overall, The Democrat & Chronicle says Buffalo will be a trendy dark horse pick to make a deep run as the Bulls bracket has the weakest No. 2 seed — Michigan — and wouldnt face No. 1 seed Gonzaga until the Elite Eight. If Gonzaga gets upset, potential opponents could include Syracuse, which Buffalo dispatched in December, 71-59, for the Bulls first win over the Orange since 1963.

UB path to Final 4 could look like this:Arz. State (Bobby Hurley) – 1st rd.Texas Tech – 2nd rd.Michigan (John Beilein HC: WNY native) – Sweet 16Syracuse – Elite 8Odds are probably somewhere around 200 to 1 it could happen but that would be absolutely unreal. #UBhornsUP

RJ Barrett (8) in Extra Mode, as the kids like to say. The Canadian freshman has been great this season, often serving as a capable alpha male who relishes having the ball in a big moment. But Barrett can also do too much on occasion — forcing shots and committing turnovers where he would be better served facilitating Williamson and fellow freshman Cam Reddish. Barrett took 48 shots in the ACC tourney to Williamsons 43, despite being much less efficient (he made 44 percent of them, to Zions 77 percent). As a 30 percent 3-point shooter, Barrett should not be averaging six attempted threes per game.

No disrespect to (Syracuse) but I think we do have better players, Buffalo coach Nate Oats said after sealing its title as best team in New York state this season. I told the team that. I said going into this game were the better team. I think we play harder. I think they have a couple guys that are borderline pros. … After that, Ill take our guys 1-7. Look at players 3 through 7. I think were better. We have better interior players. I think we play harder. And it matches up well because we have really good perimeter defenders.

Zion in foul trouble (10). Hes only fouled out of one game, against Texas Tech in December, but hes picked up four fouls four other times — and his foul trouble at Louisville helped put the Devils in a 20-point hole before they rallied to win. Krzyzewski is more likely than most coaches to leave players on the floor with two fouls in the first half, and Williamson is a smart player who knows how to play with fouls. But hes also super aggressive, and after growing accustomed to ACC officiating the refs will be different in the tournament. Adjusting to their whistle will be important.

March Madness always features bracket busters and Cinderella teams, but for Buffalo the difference could be star guard C.J. Massinburg and lockdown defender Dontay Caruthers. Or the Bulls struggles from three-point range could be their demise.

In addition to the men, the Buffalo womens basketball team won the MAC title and is also a potential contender in the NCAA Tournament. Led by coach Felisha Legette-Jack, a former star player at Nottingham High School and Syracuse University, the UB women won two games in the tourney last year and could go further this year after finishing the season 23-9.

Coby White (21), North Carolina. His poof of hair will get your attention, and his brazen game will keep it. White possesses immense confidence for a freshman, sometimes to the degree of doing too much. But the 6-5 point guard is an explosive playmaker who can take over a game when hes hot — or keep the other team in it when hes not. White is second on the Tar Heels team in scoring (16.3) and first in assists (4.2) while also leading in turnovers (2.8) by a wide margin. He was just 1-of-12 from 3-point range at the ACC tourney.

The surprise of getting a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament lasted only a few seconds for the University of Buffalo mens basketball team.

Kentucky (14). Whats to like: Arguably the most complete team in the tournament in terms of size, athleticism and talent; sophomore P.J. Washington has developed into a star, but offensive balance makes it difficult to focus a defense on him; Calipari usually has his teams playing their best at this time of year. Whats not to like: Not much NCAA experience on this roster; reliance on an all-freshman backcourt has its risks; with just 30 percent of its shots coming outside the arc, 3-point firepower is somewhat lacking.

The Bulls anticipated they would be at least a five, and even as high as a four. But once the other matchup in UBs bracket was announced, a potential pairing for the Bulls suddenly became intriguing.

UB (31-3) will open the tournament against 11th-seeded Arizona State (22-10) or St. Johns (21-12) in a first-round game at approximately 4 p.m. Friday (TNT) in Tulsa, Okla. Arizona State and St. Johns will meet in a First Four game at 9:10 p.m. Wednesday (Tru TV) in Dayton, Ohio. Game time is 9:10 p.m.

They finished the year ranked 18th in the AP poll, with the 16th highest NET ranking in the nation. They had a 3-1 record in quad 1 games and no terrible losses.

The first-round matchup in the West region could pit the Bulls against former UB coach Bobby Hurley, who brought current UB coach Nate Oats to Buffalo as an assistant.

As a six seed the Bulls will start things off in Tulsa where they face the winner of a Dayton play in game between Bobby Hurleys ASU and Saint Johns.

Hurley left UB to become the coach at Arizona State in April of 2015, and Oats was promoted to UBs head coach less than a week after Hurleys departure.

Oats, however, wasnt keen on playing up the storyline of any relationships that continue between UB and Hurley.

The only question is what was the committee going to do to Buffalo because the program plays in mid-major conference.

The only one on this team that does know (Hurley) is Nick (Perkins), because I was the assistant and Coach Hurley recruited him, Oats said Sunday at Santoras in Williamsville, where UB learned of its NCAA Tournament destination at a watch party. The media and everybody can write all about that. I dont need our guys to think about any of that.

Well they decided to slate UB as a 6 seed, not a terrible see but it is probably a slight under-seeding.

To be honest, it could be St. Johns. They just need to be prepping for who they play. The good thing is, they have to play and prepare for us. The bad thing is, what do we do in tomorrows practice? We cant practice for Arizona State or St. Johns, exclusively. Weve got to get ready for both.

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Perkins, however, had an immediate thought when he realized there was a possibility he could face the coach who recruited him to Buffalo from Milan, Mich.

It was like, Wow, how ironic, Perkins said. Obviously, Bobbys the guy who hired Oats and who built the program before he left, and hes a good guy. The city of the Buffalo, the media, everybody would love to see that. That would be a historic game.

Oats elaborated, however, when discussing the Sun Devils on-court product. Arizona State is playing in the First Four for the second consecutive year after losing to Syracuse last year.

I definitely know Arizona State a lot more than I know about St. Johns, Oats said. Theyve been a little inconsistent shooting the ball, but when theyre on, theyre not an 11 seed, but St. Johns is the same way, though.

After a 87-73 win against Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game Saturday in Cleveland, Oats and some of his players believed they would earn as high as either a four or a five seed.

When they called six, I was just really wondering who wed play next, UB guard Jayvon Graves said. We can beat anybody they put in front of us, and Im just confident in our team.

When asked Saturday what seed he thought his team should receive, Oats said he thought the Bulls deserved a four seed, and that he would be disappointed with anything less than a five seed.

We had the best record in college basketball, Oats said Sunday. Were tied with Houston. Nobody has more wins than we do. A six is a little low. It is what it is. You look at the teams that are one through five, those are some pretty good teams.

What was Marquette? Are they a five? Marquette beat us pretty decent (103-85) and theyre a five. I was hoping for a five, thinking we wouldnt drop below a six. Yeah, right in there is where I thought wed be.

Duke athletic director Kevin White, a member of the NCAAs mens basketball selection committee, said Sunday on CBS that there was discussion among the committee as to whether UB should be seeded higher.

“I would say yes, to be very honest and pointed,” White said. “But I think we got it about right. Obviously, Im not objective. I have 10 colleagues with me, there are 10 of us on the committee, and we looked really hard. Its just not about your resume, its about the resumes with in your neighborhood, that are kind of in the beltway right around you. And I think we got Buffalo right in the place where they deserve to be.”

With the help of nonconference wins against Syracuse and San Francisco as well as several blowout wins in their MAC schedule, the Bulls have been among the top 50 teams in the NCAAs NET rankings since November, and finished the regular season and the MAC Tournament at No. 15. The NET is a sorting tool the NCAA tournament selection committee used to determine the 68-team field for the first time.

This is Buffalos fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, and the highest seed its earned in the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo was a 12 seed in 2015, a 14 seed in 2016 and a 13 seed in 2018, when it beat Arizona in the first round.

The highest seed a MAC team has earned in the 68-team field prior to this year is a 9 seed: Ball State was a 9 seed in 1989, Eastern Michigan in 1996 and Kent State in 2008.

Toledo was a 5 seed in a 40-team field in 1979, and Miami (Ohio) was an 8 seed in a 53-team field in 1984.

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