Another week, two more MAC games in the book. New this year I'm trying to regularly address the bigger questions surrounding the program and the season that might get talked around, but not specifically addressed in our game-by-game coverage.
Refresh yourself on concerns from last week, and let's briefly revisit them:
Buffalo Bulls Basketball: Four Questions after a week of MAC play - Bull Run
As I did with the women earlier today, the four questions facing the Bulls after the first week and a 1-1 start to MAC play
How quickly can Jarryn Skeete return to a groove? - Miami notwithstanding, we did see in the NIU game that Skeete could jump right back into his sharpshooting ways.
Is Bearden hitting a wall? - I think the answer here is clearly 'no.' Lamonte's scoring is up and down, moreso than in the beginning of the season, but he remains a productive freshman on a team that in retrospect desperately needed one. In two games this week, the Milwaukee-area native had 13 assists and 5 steals, and in one game added 11 points, the other, 5 rebounds.
Did Miami and WMU provide a blueprint for the rest of the MAC? - This one remains unclear. but I think if I had to move in a direction, I'd say 'leaning no'. NIU could have been in position to challenge Buffalo inside as WMU did, but Justin Moss drew too many fouls too quickly. Similarly, UB went bigger earlier against Miami and even with everyone in the building knowing the ball was getting into the lane, Buffalo scored 46 from the paint.
On that note, has UB been propped up by road wins and two elite opponents? - At least right now, we can't say yes. With two wins, any concerns remain hypothetical until we really get burned. And while even a mediocre performance in Kalamazoo would have gotten a win, UB is at the top of the MAC and many of the other teams with strong OOC resumes have more glaring stumbles.
This week's questions:
Can the defense tighten up for a full 40 minutes?
There's a number of us talking in the comments about "playing for a full 40 minutes," but the truth is other than WMU, the offense has reliably been at 1.08-1.10 PPP with spurts into the 1.2 and 1.25 range. Even without those spurts, 1.08 in most seasons would be a top-three offense in the MAC. So I'm going to put forward that this talk of 'full 40' should really be shifted to looking just at the defense, which has had strong stretches in each MAC game: One half each against Miami, the first half against NIU, a few different times to keep Western in range.
I was encouraged especially by the most recent Miami win, since it looked very different from the usual style. I'll be further encouraged when UB shuts down an opponent for a full 40.
Ohio is bad. UB should win. How much will emotion factor in?
That's perhaps a bit rude. Ohio is bad but shouldn't be. Jim Christian moved up to the ACC (though I'm not sure BC has a better resume over the last five years than Ohio), but OU brought in Saul Phillips after a successful run with NDSU. Maurice Ndour still exists.
But the Bobcats are 5-10 against a horribly weak schedule, and UB should roll them. But it's Ohio. Funky things happen when we play them. Half of UB's roster wasn't here before, but that doesn't mean much to the O-Zone, and half of UB's roster *has* seen the animosity between the two sides, which I think last year was as severe as it's been since Leon Williams.
Which CMU is UB going to get?
This isn't really a question that UB has any control over, but it's one I'm interested to see. CMU is incredibly boom or bust this year. Lots of us have ragged on their weak schedule, but it does seem the Chips have used the wins as a confidence boost. In Mount Pleasant, Buffalo will face either a team capable of shooting well over 50% from three, or an average MAC team, but it won't be anywhere in the middle. Don't forget, either, that Keno Davis has one of the strongest coaching resumes in the conference, having spent three years in the Big East at Providence.
I'm not even going to formulate a question here. I think he's looked better lately, but I could be wrong. I also thought he was getting more minutes, but I was wrong: Johnson got just 9 against Miami. Even so, it seemed Coach Hurley used him differently, more proactively, both to save his team's legs for the Redhawks' now-trademark second half spurt, and to counter the slight inside advantage Miami had enjoyed in the first matchup.
I don't have enough to say anything definitive, but I do feel like Johnson is becoming a bigger part of the rotation. Will we see more of this this week?