When you’re a mid-major basketball program, you can never be too careful. Any loss could be a nail in the coffin for a potential at-large bid. That’s why it was so important for the No. 19 Buffalo Bulls to defeat the Ohio Bobcats on Tuesday night.
The Bulls survived a close contest to win their fourth straight road game, 82-79. Although they were away from home, there’s no doubt a loss to the (13-16, 5-12) Bobcats would have been a devastating blow to Buffalo’s at-large chances. Instead, the Bulls are (27-3,15-2) with one conference game remaining. As a result, the Bulls avoided the potential of three straight losses in a mid-major. Furthermore, the Bulls solidified their spot as the No. 1 seed in the Mid American.
You may think there’s an over exaggeration with the Bulls making their 4th NCAA Tournament in the last 5 seasons. However, the Bulls are on par with the Loyola Chicago Ramblers from last season. Before the Ramblers made their run into the Final Four, they were a (28-5) team that earned an 11-seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Meaning, the Ramblers had to win the MVC just to secure a spot. If they lost any of their three conference tournament games, the Ramblers may have been on the outside looking in. In case you didn’t know, the Ramblers won 10 games in a row before March Madness began. Yet, that only garnered an 11 seed.
Currently, the Bulls are projected as a No. 6 seed, according to Jerry Palm on CBS Sports. So, they should be in far better position than the Ramblers from last season. However, we don’t know what the Selection Committee will do when it comes to their seed line. Keep in mind, the Bulls entered the NCAA Tournament with 26 wins last year and earned a 13-seed. They also defeated the No. 4 Arizona Wildcats in the first round.
Due to most of the team returning, the Bulls were on the radar from the beginning.
However, their best win came against the Syracuse Orange, maybe. The Bulls’ three losses came to the Marquette Eagles, Northern Illinois Huskies and Bowling Green State Falcons. The Huskies have a losing record. The Falcons have a legitimate opportunity to win the MAC championship. They are also in second place of the MAC East. Somehow, the Orange are projected as an 8-seed, while Marquette seems to be in line for a top four seed.
The Bulls have one more regular season game left against the Falcons on Friday night. It’s Senior Day and the Bulls will be celebrating the careers of five players. The unheralded C.J. Massinburg leads the team with 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Nick Perkins comes off the bench to score 14.5 points and team-leading 7.4 rebounds. Jeremy Harris is the final double digit scorer at 13.2 points per game. They are joined by a pair of guards Dontay Caruthers and Davonta Jordan. Meanwhile, senior Montell McRae provides the length on the interior.
With the addition of sophomore Jayvon Graves, the entire unit can shoot the three. Interestingly enough, Harris’ slump has him looking like the worst shooter on the team. He’s only connecting on 27 percent of his 3-point attempts. The Bulls are shooting 34.5 percent overall.
The Bulls are (13-0) at home. They still have a dominating (12-3) record on the road. In fact, they are six points away from a perfect road record in conference play. That may be the biggest reason why the Bulls feel they have solidified a spot in the big dance.
Head coach Nate Oats is (91-42) In four seasons with the Bulls. He has won 20 or more games in three of those seasons. Oats may lead the Bulls to their first 30-win season ever.