Name: The State University of New York at Buffalo
That’s a mouthful... The University at Buffalo for short
Location: Buffalo, New York, obviously
Fun Fact! I’ve actually been to Buffalo and it’s a nice city. I would call it a much much lesser version of Milwaukee in terms of the downtown area. The best thing about Buffalo is its proximity to Niagara Falls. Only a 30 minute drive to one of the eight wonders of the world, and you can’t beat that. I’ve actually crossed the border to see the Falls from the Canada side because they say it’s a better view. They are right; it was absolutely breathtaking. A must visit if you’re ever in Buffalo.
Tell me more... Well it was founded in 1846 as a medical college but didn’t join the State University of New York (SUNY) system until 1962. It’s actually split up into two separate campuses: one in Buffalo and the other in Amherst, New York.
Enrollment: 30,648 with 21,020 undergraduates
What’s notable about the school? They are a very intelligent bunch and spend nearly $350 million a year to fund research. Buffalo is also in the top 30 among public universities and #1 in New York. Cool.
Why “Bulls?” Well, they were the Bison back in the day, but apparently in 1931, they changed it to avoid confusion with local professional teams. That’s not the Bills, as the current NFL franchise didn’t start until 1959. However, there was a previous franchise in Buffalo that was the Bison in in the mid to late 1920s.
Mascot? Victor E. Bull. The university held a mascot naming contest in 1997 upon their return to division 1 and Victor E. Bull won. It’s named after victory or victorious. Very fitting. Terrible puns for mascot names are the best. The Bull also made the Mascot All American Team back in 2002. More recently, the Bull reached the Elite Eight of New York mascot competition in 2013 only to be ousted by Baxter the Binghamton Bearcat. It’s safe to say that the Bull takes his job seriously.
Notable Alumni: first and foremost, current Chicago Bears linebacker and sack king Khalil Mack, infamously traded away from the Raiders by coach Jon Gruden; Ronnie James Dio; James Starks, former Green Bay Packers running back, Jeffrey Umland, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the NASA InSight Mars lander mission; CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer; award winning NPR host Terry Gross; James Foley, director of House of Cards; Winston Duke, best known as M’Baku in Black Panther; Brad Grey, former CEO of Paramount Pictures; John Walsh, host of America’s Most Wanted; Alfred P. Southwick and George Edward Fell, credited with the creation of the electric chair; Abbe Raven, founder of The History Channel; professional wrestler Chris Kanyon; Pulitzer Prize winner and CNBC senior economics reporter, Steve Leisman; Jeffrey Wigand, tobacco industry whistleblower as depicted on film by Russell Crowe in The Insider; John Alm, former CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises; Jeff Jacobsen, former CEO of Xerox; Ellen Shulman Baker, NASA astronaut; John Hewitt, co-founder of Jackson Hewitt; Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins; and finally Jeanine Pirro, host of the Fox legal show Justice with Judge Jeanine.
Last Season: 27-9, with a 15-3 record in the Mid American Conference (MAC)
Waaaaait a minute...didn’t they upset a “really good” team in the NCAA Tournament last year? Your memory serves you correctly. As a #13 seed they upset a very disjointed #4 seeded Arizona team. That was the Bulls’ very first victory in the NCAA Tournament. They ended up losing to Kentucky in the second round. Still an incredible accomplishment for the Buffalo Bulls program. Especially because Arizona is the second most overrated team in all of basketball only behind Michigan State, so I was giddy to see them upset so early.
This Season: 11-0, no typo, the Bulls are undefeated after knocking off Syracuse on Tuesday night. One of only nine division 1 schools that can still claim that honor. They are ranked #14 in the AP poll.
Fun Fact #2: This is the first season the Bulls have been ranked in the AP poll. They are truly in uncharted waters for their program.
Current KenPom Ranking: #24, up from #72 to start the season.
KenPom Projection: 27-4, with a 15-3 record in the MAC.
Points: Sr. Guard CJ Massinburg; 17.9 points
Rebounds: Sr. Forward Nick Perkins; 8.5 rebounds
Assists: Jr. Guard Davonta Jordan; 3.7 assists
Bigs? Nick Perkins is the only real threat down low at 6’8” and 250 pounds. He is averaging 25 minutes per game and 13.5 points per game shooting 45% from the field. Over the last five games Perkins has played the five 66% of the time as estimated by KenPom.com. The only other player at that position is senior forward Montell McRae, who comes in at 6’10” and 198 pounds. Even though he’s technically started every game for the Bulls, he’s averaging 15 minutes per game and only 6.5 points. Buffalo is more of a guard heavy team.
Shooters? It starts and ends with CJ Massinburg. The Dallas native leads the team with 17.9 points per game shooting 48.8% from the field and 43.8% from three. He dropped 43 in Buffalo’s best win against then #13 ranked West Virginia. Yup, he’s got big game potential and Marquette’s game plan should definitely be to shut him down. If the Golden Eagles stop Massinburg, they give themselves a great chance to win. Aside from him, the Bulls have senior Jeremy Harris who’s averaging 13.1 points per game but only connecting on 39% of his field goals. Also in the mix is sophomore Jayvon Graves with nearly 10 points per game and hitting 46% of his field goals. The only real threat from deep is Massinburg though, as he is shooting close to 44% from three. As a team the Bulls are an average 3-point shooting team at 33% but they shoot a bucket load of them, so really just stop Massinburg and things will be fine.
Head Coach: Nate Oats. First off, great name...short, sweet, and to the point. I wonder if he’s a big Honey Bunches of Oats fan because that was my go-to cereal growing up. So he’s in his fourth season as the Buffalo head coach and we are all aware of the success he had last year. He won the MAC Coach of the Year last season as the Bulls achieved record highs in conference wins, total wins, and won their first ever NCAA Tournament game.
This is Oats’ first head coaching job at the collegiate level. Before that he spent 11 years at Romelus High School in Michigan. He’s a Wisconsin guy, though, having been born in Watertown and even went to college at Maranatha Baptist right there in his home town. He’s already saying the Bulls will get an at-large bid regardless of how they do in the conference tournament. Very bold prediction in December, my man. Especially considering West Virginia and Syracuse are no longer ranked and the MAC isn’t typically a two-bid league. But to his credit, he did schedule a tough non-conference.
All-Time Series: Sound the horns ladies and gentlemen this is Marquette’s FIRST EVER meeting with the Buffalo Bulls. Why not start off 1-0, shall we?
What are my thoughts? Thanks for asking! Buffalo is a dangerously good team. I think they are for real. Not only have they won every single game this season, but they have proven they can win in close late-game situations. The West Virginia game looms large and their grind-it-out win against San Francisco in a neutral setting in Northern Ireland of all places was also a key victory. Most recently, they really beat up on Syracuse late after being down in the first half. Although unranked in the AP Poll, both Syracuse and West Virginia are top 50 Kenpom teams and San Francisco is receiving two votes in the AP Poll.
All this to say that Marquette needs to come into this game prepared for a battle. The Golden Eagles must take care of the ball and find a way to keep CJ Massinburg at bay. I’m not too worried about them down-low as they have guys like Theo John and Ed Morrow than can stop Nick Perkins inside. Buffalo takes a ton of threes (43% of their shot attempts) but only connects on 33% of them which is average at best. What MU needs to do is play like they did against North Dakota minus the turnovers. Move the ball around well and get the Hauser bros and Theo John involved. It also wouldn’t hurt if Markus Howard has one of his more efficient games.
Two top 20 ranked teams going at it? Yup, this is going to be a tight game right up until the final possession. ESPN likes Marquette’s chances as it gives them a 60% chance of victory. and KenPom says 57%. Marquette wins if they can contain Massinburg and get multiple players not named Howard involved on offense.