We have finally reached the unofficial midway point of the season, tomorrow the Bulls start conference play against the Bowling Green Falcons...
So far this year the Bulls have had some ups and downs, but have been exciting none the less. An 8-4 start to the season is a respectable one, but not a record worthy of turning heads. None of the 8 wins have really been against anybody good, but only one of those wins really came close to being a loss (that won being against Army). On the positive side, none of the losses have really been anything that you can consider a bad loss.
I know its not really a difficult schedule that the Bulls have had such far, but to only have 4 losses going into January is a pretty good sign. Shows were taking care of business against teams we should beat, and also that were taking care of business at Alumni Arena. I know we as fans would always prefer better, but for a team picked to finish last in the conference they have shown great resiliency up to this point in the year.
Throwing the records completely out the book, I'm going to focus in on 2 key games.
When the Bulls went down to Oleon to face St. Bonaventure they knew they would have to deal with a really tough crowd (one that was extremely loud all game, and were excited enough to storm the court/flip off all of our fans after the victory). Watching that game was a nightmare. Buffalo couldn't seem to get a single call, and St Bonaventure wouldn't miss a single shot no matter from how much pressure they faced, or where on the court it was. The Bulls had 1000 opportunities to lay down and die, but they never seemed to do that. They continued to run their offense without chucking up 3's, and run it effectively against a pretty good A-10 school. Buffalo played an outstanding second half, making one of the best players in the A-10 have to hit a last second jumper to win the game. The Bulls may not have won the game, but it might have been their most important of the season because of how they came back, and continued to trust the offense and each other.
The other game I would like to point out is the game against BYU. This time we had the home court advantage, but was facing a totally different animal in BYU. Buffalo started slow, and it didn't help that a big man for the Cougars hit three 3-pointers in a row to open up what could have been an insurmountable lead. But yet again the Bulls showed resiliency and continued to run their offense and not panic and made it a 2 point game at the break (even tying it at one point). 2nd half came, and the BYU Cougars turned in the Jimmer University Fredettes. The second leading scorer in the nation just took over the game, hit 3 threes that seemed like they were from half court, and making the offense have to go through him. If you watched the rest of BYU they just seemed lost, and knew the only way they were going to win was if Jimmer did everything. The Bulls had every reason to throw in the towel that game, but kept their composure and hung in there against an offensive juggernaut. Being able to go inside against a power school on a consistent basis, and hang with a team that had 2nd best scorer in the nation take over shows that this team is as good if not better than that 8-4 record.
I do not post a lot on UBfan, but i do read most of the comments. Many people feel that the conference opening game against Bowling Green is going to prove the haters wrong, but in reality its going to be another test for the Bulls where we really wont get much out of as fans. Bowling Green always plays that 2-3 zone, something that always gives Reggie's teams a hard time. The only way were going to win by the amount that we all want to see is if we force the Falcons into a lot of turnovers, and get a bunch of run-out points. I do believe that Buffalo will win this game, based off that they are a very good team, but because of the zone the Bulls will struggle and have to win in the last few minutes of the game. Prediction, Bulls 71 Falcons 64.
As for the rest of the season as a whole...
We all know the Bulls were picked to finish last in the conference, with some of the usual suspects towards the top. Has anyone watched those usual suspects play this year though? Kent St has not been Kent St, Akron looked very mediocre to start the year (but turning it on a bit as of late), Miami is a so-so 5-9 team, conference champs Ohio is an average team, CMU looks absolutely terrible, WMU hasn't been anything special. The MAC conference as a whole is an extremely average conference this year, as opposed to its usual better than average self. This opens the door for everybody to have a shot at a bye in the conference tourney. I'm not going to sit here and say that the Bulls are a lock for the #1 spot, but if you've watched how they have played and see the balance and efficiency on offense, along with the improving in your face defense, the Bulls have a realistic shot at the very important 4 spot in the conference.
It is clear that the Bulls turn the ball over a lot, but that will improve as the season goes on. In the past few years we pretty much only looked at Pierce when we needed a basket, because he was the best scorer. This year we have several different options when we need points, both inside, outside, and when we need to drive to the rack. That is something that I haven't seen at Buffalo in ages. Buffalo has shot over 50% 5 of the last 6 games!!!! 19 for 25 inside the 3 point line last game against Cornell, are you kidding me?!? That unheard of, and shows that we have the size to go inside and match up with the big boys. I think this team has what it takes to make some noise, but we as fans need to not get upset when they lose games, and realize that the "experts" had us finishing next to Toledo in the conference standings. The Bulls play Ohio in Athens on national tv on January 22nd, how their record looks up to that point will truly show if Buffalo has a chance this year.