Many expected Arizona to take-on Kentucky in the second round, but the Bulls of Buffalo shocked the college basketball universe and upset the fourth-seeded Wildcats. With such an impressive win under their belts, should Kentucky fans be worried they’re the Cinderella of this tournament? Let’s take a look:
Head Coach: Nate Oates (63-38 career record, all at Buffalo; 1-1 in NCAA Tournament)
Team Record: 27-8 (15-3, first in the MAC Conference); MAC Conference Tournament Champions
Best Win: Defeated 4th seeded Arizona 89-68 on Thursday
Worst Loss: Lost to St. Bonaventure 73-62 at home on December 2nd, 2017
Offense – Buffalo’s offense is one of the best in the nation. They rank in the top 50 in almost every major category. They rank 2nd in the nation in points, 2nd in field goals made, 6th in points per-game (85 a game), 8th in assists, and 12th in three-point shots made. Their four top scorers all make between 15 and 17 points per-game, including 16.9 from leading scorer C.J. Massinburg.
Rebounding – Ranking 9th in the nation, the Bulls pulldown rebounds at an elite rate. This could be because of the pace Buffalo plays at, as their leading rebounder is Massinburg, a 6’3 guard. They also give up an enormous number of rebounds (327th in the nation). Even so, being able to corral the rebound opportunities they do have is a big plus for their team.
Shot-Blocking – The Bulls have a penchant for blocking shots, ranking in the top 50 in the nation with over four a game.
Fouling – Buffalo racks up an incredible amount of fouls. They have the 3rd most fouls in the nation, having eight players average more than two fouls per-game. They also have given up the 4th most free throws in the nation, which should play right into Kentucky’s strengths.
Turnovers – Even with a fast-paced offense, Buffalo coughs the ball up more than they’d like with more than 12 turnovers a game.
Free Throws – When giving up as many free throws as Buffalo does, they would ideally like to convert on the attempts that they earn. That’s not the case, as they make less than 70% of their free throws as a team.
Buffalo dominated their opponents this season, out scoring their opponents by 9.3 points per-game. What’s concerning is their field goal defense. Though they allow a ton of shots, Buffalo ranks in the top 100 nationally in field goal percentage, and top 50 in three-point percentage.
The problem for Buffalo is their lack of success against good teams. Their record versus NCAA tournament teams this year is 1-5. They lost to Cincinnati, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Texas A&M, and South Dakota State during the regular season, with their only win being against Arizona. As big as that Arizona wins seems, their season history shows that they do not fair well against quality teams.
Think of it as a case of a strike of lightning. A lightning rarely strikes the same place twice.