The Buffalo Bulls come in to Muncie, Indiana riding a very impressive two game home winning streak against some of the MAC’s best. The 25 point beat-down of Kent State has everyone focused in on a NCAA Tournament bid.
As always, in the MAC is a difficult conference to play on the road. The Cardinals come in riding a 6 games losing streak after two impressive MAC wins to start conference play. They played an OT thriller against EMU on the road, and came away with a win. Following that win, they beat CMU by 18, a team in which UB was unable to stop. Outside of those two early wins, Ball State has not beaten anyone. They went 5-7 in out-of-conference play, with no notable wins. They sit pretty consistently in 192nd for points for (66.9) and points against (66.9). If UB can score in the 70s, this will not be much of a game.
Another major key to this game? Defend the three point line please! Ball State has attempted 408 threes over the course of the season, shooting 37.5%, which is fairly decent.
Their best player Sean Sellers, a freshman forward out of Greensburg, shoots the three at nearly 50% (47.6%). He averages 12.5 points a game and averages at least 4 threes attempted. Also, the 6-6 forward shoots free throws at a 84.4% rate to go along with 3.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. To complement Sellers, Ball State has a pair of young guards, much like UB, in Jeremie Tyler (freshman), and Zavier Turner (sophomore). Tyler shoots the three at 42.9% and Turner shoots it at 38.7%. All three players average 30+ minutes per game. Luckily for UB, Jeremie Tyler is academically ineligible for this semester, pressing guard Jeremiah Davis (Cincinnati Bearcat transfer) into the starting lineup. Davis spent the first two months hurt and was able to play the first game that Tyler was suspended. He is average 6.9 ppg, shoots the three at 31%, but does average 3.2 rpg and 3.1 apg. By all accounts, an average senior MAC player that replaced a budding freshman star. The Cardinals also start sophomore Franko Harris (not the Steelers Linebacker) and longtime senior MAC player Matt Kamieniecki at forward. Both players are strong rebounders, who have a little bit of offensive touch. Kamieniecki is a frequent visitor to the line, but only shoots 52.6% from the charity stripe. With Tyler suspended, Ball State has a very weak bench. They can only play Bo Calhoun, Francis Kiapway, and Rocco Belcaster. Calhoun is another rebounding machine with limited offensive ability but isn’t a big step down from starter Harris. Belcaster and Kiapway are nothing more than three point jackers when they come in. They both average around 5 ppg and roughly 40% from three.
How to win? Get Matt Kamieniecki in foul trouble early, he averages 3.4 fouls per game. If he is out of the game, Justin Moss will be virtually unstoppable. Franko Harris also averages 3.5 fouls per game, frequently needing to take a seat on the bench.
UB runs too fast pace of an offense, and scores too frequently for Ball State to have much of any chance. As long as the road does not get in the way of the Bulls (it shouldn’t, no crowd support), then UB should cruise to a neutral court victory, setting them up for a huge game against Akron. Defend the three point line on defense, and Ball State will have limited ways to score. Ball State is the worst team in the conference, especially without Tyler.
Prediction: Bulls 78, Cardinals 66