The jury may still be out on the men's basketball season right now - why should we weight the Kent win any more than the Ohio loss? - but a pair of strong home wins and the impactful return of True Blue this week has the buzz back both on and off the court.
First, looking back at last week's games and questions:
Buffalo Bulls 77, Western Michigan Broncos 71: UB uses second half run to get revenge on the Broncos
Maybe a little home cooking was just what the doctor ordered for the suddenly swooning UB Bulls, who returned to Alumni Arena this evening to a strong crowd of students and got back on track with a...
Buffalo Bulls 80, Kent State Golden Flashes 55: Everything you could ask for
Wonderful.Can the home court advantage get the guys on the right track?
Can the home court advantage get the guys on the right track? - Like I said above, it depends on how much stock you want to put into this week, but you couldn't ask for more than two wins.
Three-point shooting? - So I didn't really formulate this one into a question, but oh well. UB was just 2-19 from distance against WMU, but still managed a win. They didn't light it up from outside against Kent, but used the three ball to bury the Golden Flashes early and shot 5-12 and 8-22 for the game.
Level of competition: Western Michigan and Kent State - I was concerned because these two teams are a good deal stronger than the Ohio team that scrapped and clawed a win out of the Bulls. WMU was without Richie, but UB gritted out a close win with a relatively consistent 40 minutes. We all know what happened with Kent State. RIP Kent State.
My big questions for this week:
Can UB get the road mojo back? - This has really been a big question for a couple weeks now, as the strong road record has faltered in MAC play. Ball State could be a trap game, but it could also be a winnable road game that helps with confidence away from Alumni Arena. No matter what, it won't have quite the same emotional tenor as Ohio's Convocation center.
Is Xavier Ford still improving? - I would have been ecstatic with the Xavier Ford of OOC play continuing that play through MAC play. That hasn't happened. He's been better. I've applauded Hurley's use of him as a 6th man, energy-type guy off the bench who can go full bore knowing he's not being relied upon for 30 minutes. Since then, he's gotten better.
Thrice this season Xavier has played 27 or more minutes. Those three games are the three highest scoring outputs of his career. This week he stepped into the starter role and rode that to MAC East Player of the Week. An improved and consistent Ford means Buffalo is more likely to win games like WMU and both Miami contests when the guard play isn't quite clicking.
Is the team better off when Evans shoots less? - I'm really going to pay attention to this. When Shannon is clicking, you've got to feed him the ball, and all of our guards are the type that can get so hot I'm willing to push through some misses, especially when Hollywood is able to turn them into free throws so effectively.
That said, in eight games of MAC play:
- In five wins, Evans averages: 9 FGA, 4 3PA, 4 assists,
- In three losses: 16 FGA, 6 3PA, 2.6 assists
In UB's three OOC losses, Shannon had 14 shots against Wisconsin, 23 against Bonaventure, and 5 against Kentucky, but averaged 10 FGA in UB's 10 wins.
My last point isn't really a question, but if UB can get through this weeks pair of road games within a game of first place, they're going to be in great shape to close out the year: Five of the Bulls' last eight games (and three of the last four) are in Alumni Arena. Western Michigan is the only other team in the MAC that enjoys that.