I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there is no way the Ball State blogger of record could ever root for Buffalo. You’re thinking that the scars and scabs from the 2008 MAC Championship are still too raw, too real, too deep. You’re thinking that this is a carefully planned double-cross that was years in the making as I quietly sat and bided time just waiting for Buffalo to make a run to the NCAA tournament so I could trolljob Bulls fans in epic fashion. If you thought all that, you’d be wrong on one, right on one, and begrudgingly inaccurate on a third.
Simply put, I still dislike Buffalo. Their winters are unbearable, their professional football team a joke who just hired a known fetishist, and their culinary claim to fame gives me acid reflux like a sumbitch. The best thing about Buffalo is that you’re somewhat close to Canada (lower drinking age for the win!) and it’s not in Massachusetts. God, Massachusetts is the worst. We get it, you had the Boston Tea Party. Good for you.
Anyway, Buffalo is a town I have no desire to visit, no calling to see, and no reason to ever step foot in. There’s the whole State University of New York thing that I don’t quite understand, there’s the ghost of Turner Gill, and there’s real Turner Gill who I assume is begging for change off an offramp trying to cash in on Ball State’s turnovertastic evening in Detroit for some gas money to get anywhere else. If Kate Upton was waiting for me naked in a hot tub on UB’s campus it would take several minutes for me to even pull up Orbitz or Kayak or whatever people use to book flights these days to figure out how to get there. The point is, I am no fan of Buffalo, sir or madam. Hate is a strong word, but it’s close to that. Very close. So close.
But even with that definitive and certain abject unabashed dislike, I’ll be rooting for the Bulls on Friday when they take on West Virginia in the NCAAs. You should too. We all should be. Assuming you like freedom, bald eagles, and hot dogs. SAY YOU LIKE THOSE THINGS. SAY IT! I need a Bulls win. You need a Bulls win. The MAC needs a Bulls win. The country needs a Bulls win. "Why?", you ask? Allow me to explain…
- The NCAA and the world at large loves a good Cinderella story and who better to deliver it than a scrappy upstart team from the rustbelt. I know they aren’t from the rustbelt, but Cinderella probably also didn’t have a glass slipper and her stepsisters definitely weren’t as see you next Tuesday-ish as they were made out to be. The point is, when you have a team that no one expected, the exact details can be twisted a bit.
- Buffalo is exciting basketball to watch. Did you catch the MAC Tourney Championship game?! The old adage for teams that were high tempo on the football field was "basketball on grass" but given the MAC’s affinity for pretty pretty points in the fall, I’d say this Bulls team is "Football on hardwood" and damn it, I’m ok with that.
- Their opponent jokes basically write themselves. The Bulls take on West Virginia, the one state I always point to as a Kentuckian as to why we aren’t the worst. Throw in Mississippi and we’re no worse than 47th in any given statistic, metric, or evaluation that you can dream up. Should you be the kind of person who likes to troll an opposing fan base, there are myriad things you could choose from. There’s always the go-to topics like no tooth, barefoot, incestuous, poor people. Then there’s the more advanced topics like Bob Huggins’ dress track suit (which I’m sure has expandable pants) or the fact that WVU’s campus has a monorail. Yes, folks, a monorail, which I think sounds more like a Shelbyville idea. I’m sure the campus burned all of the couches when that stellar idea was announced.
- Buffalo’s coach is the one Duke alum that I would pull to safety from a burning building. The thing about Bobby Hurley is that even as a Dukie, I didn’t wish hateful things on him. Grant Hill? Hate. Antonio Lang? Hate. Cherokee Parks and his stupid-ass rec specs? Hate. Christian Laettner? HATEHATEHATEHATEHATEHATE. But Bobby Hurley I didn’t seem to ever mind. Was a stellar point guard and just sort of allowed his teammates to douche it up all over the place while he just quietly stood around (and I hope) judged them negatively.
- The MAC needs some roundball notoriety. Ohio in 2012 was such a feel good story. Most MAC stories are. You have campuses and student-athletes in the shadow of their Big 10 brethren and running on shoestring budgets geographically centered in an area of the country that considers basketball to be the national pastime. I remember back in 2001 when Ball State cut down Kansas and UCLA on back to back days in the Maui Classic. It was an amazing feeling. At base root, MAC fans don’t take basketball success for granted and just enjoy the ride. And even though we mostly consider Buffalo a distant cousin that is going to better deal our family for a new family the first chance they get, damn it, they’re with us now.
There are myriad reasons to root for the Bulls, but those are easily the biggest. Choose wisely. And the best news of all? A Bulls win won’t totally destroy your bracket since whomever wins out of Buffalo’s pod is going to get curb stomped next weekend by Kentucky. So really, it’s win-win. Sort of like if Joe Biden showed up on your door with a case of Fat Tire and his Stretch Armstrong , and everyone knows his arms stretch out to next week. So join me on Friday as I put aside my Cardinal fandom for a day and forget about 2008 to focus instead on 2014 and this Bulls basketball team.