Time to dream big — Bulls get favorable draw
University at Buffalo fans can spend the next five days staring at the NCAA Tournament bracket and dreaming.Go ahead, dream big. Dream of a deep run. The Bulls have nothing to complain about as a result of the pairings revealed Sunday from the NCAA Tournament committee.
Could the Bulls have been a
No. 5 seed instead of a No. 6? Sure. UB was No. 15 in the NET ratings and No. 18 in the “Strength of Record” metric, two of the analytics the committee considers while making the brackets.
But that’s quibbling. The important thing is UB won its last 12 games and avoided a No. 7 seed. That would have been terrible, because the 7s play the
2s in the second round. The No. 2s this year are beasts, especially Tennessee and Kentucky.
Instead, UB gets to play the winner of Arizona State vs. St. John’s, which will have to stay on the road to travel from Tuesday’s game in Dayton, Ohio, to Tulsa,
Okla., for Friday’s tipoff. Remember how St. Bonaventure ran out of gas last year after winning in Dayton on Tuesday?
If UB survives that, it likely gets No. 3 seed Texas Tech, which ranks No. 2 in the nation in defensive efficiency. The Red Raiders’ defense is suffocating. But Texas Tech is not as elite as Tennessee. The Red Raiders are good but not explosive offensively. They don’t shoot a ton of 3-pointers. They aren’t monsters on the offensive glass. UB-Texas Tech would be a slugfest. UB is 19th in the nation in avoiding turnovers. Texas Tech’s offense isn’t running away and hiding from UB. It would be a game in the second half.
Furthermore, UB has the weakest No. 2 seed — Michigan — in its bracket if it were to get to the Sweet 16. That’s another advantage of being a sixth seed. You get to avoid the No. 1 seed until the Elite Eight.
Hey, I said we’re dreaming big, right?
Obviously, Nate Oats’ squad could lose in the first round. Let’s face it, everybody who’s a regular NCAA participant gets upset eventually.
Arizona State has wins over fourth-seeded Kansas and fifthseeded Mississippi State. But Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils don’t shoot threes or free throws particularly well. St. John’s has a potential NBA draft pick in point guard Sharmonie Ponds. But the Johnnies are not a good rebounding team, aren’t as good on defense as UB and have lost five of their last seven.It’s probably going to be UB-Arizona State.
Since 1985, No. 6 seeds reach the second round 63 percent of the time and advance to the Sweet 16 31 percent of the time.
The Bulls already seemed to be getting their game face on Sunday night.
Asked if UB should have been at least a five seed, Bulls senior guard Dontay Caruthers, said:
“I do, but I don’t. I’m just thankful to be in the tournament . ... We’re just gonna have to show ’em again.”
The Bulls’ defensive Tasmanian Devil has a chip on his shoulder.
Dream big, Bulls fans. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Oats’ secret weapon
Here’s an underrated key to the Bulls’ post-season success the past five years: Superb game plans.
UB associate head coach Jim Whitesell handles the team’s defensive scouting reports.
Whitesell, 59, spent six years as head coach at Loyola Chicago and went a respectable 109-106. He was a head coach for 17 years at lower college levels before that. Whitesell spent two years as an aide at Saint Louis, where he worked under legend Rick Majerus. Then he spent two years at St. John’s before coming to UB.
“He’s really, really good, the best I’ve been around,” Oats said. “He does a great job with the scout team getting our guys ready.”
“Jamie is in charge of the other team’s defense and our offense,”
Oats said, referring to assistant coach Jamie Quarles. “Me and Jamie do it together a little bit.”
UB assistant Bryan Hodgson, meanwhile, provides the scouting report on personnel — individual strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. Oats resisted the temptation to hire any of his long-time friends as an assistant coach when he got the UB job. A lot of first-time head coaches get themselves into trouble by doing that. You see it in many sports, even the NFL. He hired the best, experienced aide (Whitesell) he could find. He hired the best recruiter he could find (Hodgson).The Bulls will be well prepared Friday, whoever they play.
UB coach Nate Oats could lead the Bulls to the Sweet 16 this season. Buffalo is a No. 6 seed and will play either Arizona State or St. John’s.