For the first round of the College Insiders Tournament Buffalo will travel to Washington to take on American University of the Patriot league. The Eagles hired Jeff Jones after Virginia let him go in 1998. During his 11 years at AU he helped the team transition from the Colonial Athletic Association to the Patriot league.
Since 2001 the Eagles have won the Patriot League regular season title four times. Twice, during those seasons, they went on to win the conference tournament. Both times they were ejected in the first round of the NCAA tournament. They did manage to give #4 Villanova a scare, leading their 2009 first round game until late into the second half.
This will be the first meeting in nearly forty years. The Eagles hold a 3-1 advantage in the series with their last win in 1973. Buffalo's last win against AU was in 1964.
This season the Eagles have struggled a bit. Despite winning 20 games their record against top 200 teams is just 9-7. Overall they had about the 40th weakest schedule in College Basketball this year. Despite the unimpressive looking resume going 13-1 at home is impressive. Their best win was a home game against Saint Joes (RPI 68) while their worst came against Maryland-Eastern (RPI 319).
That loss meant no NIT, and a conference tournament loss to Leigh eliminated them from a third appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Like he did at Virginia, and for 11 years at American Jones has set up his team so they live or die on their outside shooting. The Eagles are 10th in the nation in three point percentage. Blake Jolivette, their fourth leading scorer, is shooting fifty percent beyond the arch (17/34). The Eagles have three other major contributors shooting better than forty percent from long range.
Charles Hinkle is their main scoring threat. The senior from Los Alamitos is putting up 18 points a game. He shoots about a third of his shots from three point territory and has a great inside Jumper. Outside he is shooting better than 40%.
|Conf||Patriot||MAC||3FG Att PG||17.7||19.1|
|Conf Rank||3||2||3pt FG Pct||40.1||34.5|
|RPI Rank||149||79||Eff FG Pct||49.7||52.1|
|SOS Rank||300||127||True Sht Pct||53.4||54.9|
|Home||13-1||12-2||2pt FG pt Pct||46.9||52.4|
|Away||7-10||7-7||3pt FG pt Pct||33||27.2|
|Neutral||0-0||0-1||FT pt Pct||20||20.4|
|Blowout 19+||3-2||3-1||O Rebs PG||8.5||12.1|
|Close 6-||4-3||6-4||O Reb Pct||26.5||35.8|
|Overtime||0-1||0-1||D Rebs PG||24||28.2|
|Pts PG||64.5||72.7||D Reb Pct||69.7||71.2|
|Poss PG||62.9||68.9||Assists PG||12.6||16.4|
|Pts Per Poss||1.02||1.06||Assist Pct||56.7||64.1|
|Floor Pct||48.7||53.6||A/T Ratio||1.14||1.09|
|FG Made PG||22.2||25.6||Steals PG||4.5||5.4|
|FG Att PG||51.8||55.5||Steal Pct||7.1||7.9|
|FG Pct||42.9||46.2||Blocks PG||2.8||5.2|
|FT Made PG||12.9||14.9||Block Pct||5.2||8.8|
|FT Att PG||18||22.5||TOPG||11.1||15|
|FT Pct||71.8||66.1||Turnover Pct||17.6||21.8|
|3FG Made PG||7.1||6.6||Fouls PG||17.2||17.8|
It's particularly important for American to come out shooting well. Their offensive rebounding hovers around 25% near the bottom ten percent of all NCAA division one schools. Combine that with UB being near the top 15% of defensive rebounding nationally and the narrative of this game could very well be as simple as this.
If Buffalo can pressure AU into taking suspect shots they will probably beat them.
The only major rebounding threat the Eagles have on the offensive glass is Tony Wroblicky. Where it could go south is if the Eagles are allowed good looks. If they get hot from outside up with AU can be very difficult.
Despite the struggles on the offensive side AU hits the glass well as a defense. They are 100th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage with about five players who pull down two and a half or more defensive rebounds per game.
On paper this is a game that the Bulls should be able to control. UB has lost to only one team with an RPI rank of below 108 (Miami 246) and AU has really struggles with top 150 teams.
The season resume and the fact that the Eagles generally play to our strengths bodes well. Despite that the Eagles do have talent and big game experience on their roster.
As UB found out the hard way some nights those battle tested experienced players can play at an amazing level..
If Hinkle or Jolivette get inhumanly hot from the outside UB needs to be able to keep the game close until they cool off. Hot shooting teams are Kryptonite to a zone defense, so it will be up to the offense to carry Buffalo. If UB comes out flat AU connects on enough three point shots The Bulls could find themselves over a barrel in the second half.
The X factor it Buffalo's Agenda. It remains to be seen if Coach Witherspoon will be playing to win with his seniors or trying to get the younger players experience. Last year, with only one senior on the roster, UB won two games in the CIT before falling to Iona. This year the Bulls are the second ranked team in the field and should be able to put together another little run, if that's what they are trying to do.