The Buffalo Bulls are trying to stop a three-game skid and are going to do it at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Waiting for them is another MAC team in the midst of a disappointing performance in conference play, the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The Eagles went 11-2 in pre-conference play and among those wins was a thriller over the Michigan Wolverines. Then they dropped their first three MAC games by a total of eight points, twice in overtime. That poor start put them behind the eight ball but they have settled down and are 5-4 since those losses, including a recent win over Akron.
The Eagles are led in scoring by Raven Lee. The sophomore guard out of Detroit is averaging 16.4 points per game, top-five in the MAC. But the big man who they need on the inside is Karrington Ward. Ward averages 11 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
One reason the Eagles worry me is their depth. They have 10 guys who have played in more than 20 games and average 10 plus minutes in those games. This is the kind of team that can weather fatigue and fouls. Thus far this season UB is not.
The Bulls got through 31 minutes against CMU and Toledo with a lead but in both cases the UB perimeter defense got soft(er), they were out hustled for rebounds, and on offense they stopped setting up plays as the game wound down.
Some of that is maturity; this is a young team. Some of it is also has to fall on the coaching staff. At least in the Akron game I was perplexed by Bobby Hurley's decision not to call a timeout. The Bulls had plenty of time to get to half court, call a time out, and then set up a play to get a good shot.
Hurley did not do that and the resulting flurry did not produce a quality opportunity for Buffalo to win the game, no matter how much you love Xavier Ford shooting from outside. If Buffalo finds themselves in a similar spot against EMU perhaps this time they will set up a play and be the heartbreakers and not the heartbroken.
The importance of this game is magnified as UB's three-game skid has moved them from a top 4 seed into 7th. Should the Bulls fall two more spots they will not only have to play a campus-round game, which already seems a near-certainty, but they will have to do so on the road.