"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, September 10, 2018

Buffalo Preview

Buffalo Bulls
December 21, fiserv.forum

Coach: Nate Oats (64-39 at Buffalo)
3-Year RPI Average: 87.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 109.0
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 91
Projected Starters: PG Davonta Jordan (6'2" Jr), SG Dontay Caruthers (6'1" Sr), SF C.J. Massinburg (6'3" Sr), PF Jeremy Harris (6'7" Sr), C Nick Perkins (6'8" Sr)

Buffalo stunned the college basketball world last March when they defeated Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While some picked the 13-seed to advance, few expected the 89-68 drubbing the Bulls put on the Wildcats. Nate Oats' squad returns 3 players that averaged 15+ ppg & 4 starters from that team.

Massinburg was the biggest star last year, averaging 17.0 ppg/7.3 rpg, but he wasn't the only stud. Perkins (16.2/6.0) & Harris (15.5/5.9) complete an undersized but exciting frontcourt. Not only that, all three are threats to step outside as they combined for 212 made three-pointers. Depth isn't a problem as they have two 6'10" seniors on the bench. The backcourt must replace Wes Clark (15.5 ppg/5.4 apg) but Jordan, Caruthers, & Jayvon Graves played major minutes last season & freshman Jeenathan Williams provides size & athleticism.

The mindset for Buffalo going into this will be that speed can equalize size. They play very fast & more often than not all five players on the floor will be capable of handling the ball. Buffalo can score efficiently inside or outside & they don't turn the ball over often. On defense, they play tight man that can lead to fouls but they excel at chasing opponents off the three point line & make teams work for every shot. Buffalo had an average defensive possession length of 18.0 seconds, which was 291st in the nation & by far the best of any team in the top-20 in tempo (Marshall was next, ranked 208th at 17.5 seconds). What that means is that while Buffalo will strike fast on offense, they will dog you to the end of the shot clock on defense.

After a NCAA win last year & returning everyone but one player, I think Buffalo might be underrated coming into the season, at least by T-Rank. They comfortably won the MAC at 15-3 last year (12/15 wins by double-digits, all 3 losses by 3 points or less) & the gap between them & the rest of the league will likely be wider this year. They also are challenging themselves in the non-conference; along with Marquette, they play at 2018 NCAA Tourney teams West Virginia, Syracuse, & St. Bonaventure. This team would be a great scalp for NET & resume purposes, but will also be a tremendous challenge.

Marquette Connection: This trip will likely be a special one for Buffalo Associate Head Coach Jim Whitesell. After working his way up to a D1 coaching job at Loyola-Chicago, Whitesell was shocked when he was fired by a new AD in 2011 & replaced by then-St. Louis assistant Porter Moser. Fortunately for Whitesell, Marquette alum Rick Majerus quickly hired him at St. Louis into the same position Moser had just vacated. Alongside Majerus, Whitesell earned the Associate Head Coach title & helped guide the Billikens back to the NCAA Tournament. He stayed at SLU after Majerus' death to help new coach Jim Crews & they returned to the NCAA Tournament the next year.

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