With a 2-1 start to the season, the Bulls have gone on a hefty road trip to play in this year’s Great Alaska Shootout. The Shootout is the oldest running tournament in all of the NCAA. Before we get into previewing what the Bulls could face, let’s give you the bracket:
So the great thing is that even if the Bulls lose in any of the rounds before the championship, they’ll still get a chance to play another game. Next, here’s the KenPom ratings of every team in the field:
173. Weber State
223. UC Davis
Anyway, there’s an opportunity for Buffalo to rack up some nice wins over mid-majors with Nevada, Iona, and Oakland in the field. Along with Buffalo, Weber State and Iona both made the NCAA Tournament last year. Oakland was also a team that was tearing up mid-major hoops last season, so this tourney field isn’t anything to laugh at.
But, before Buffalo gets a shot at any of these quality mid-major programs, the Bulls need to play Division II Alaska-Anchorage first.
Quarterfinals: Buffalo vs. Alaska-Anchorage
The Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves are lead by head coach Rusty Osborne. With twelve years of being at the helm of the program, Osborne has gone on to become one of the best Division II coaches in history. He’s carried a 222-116 record over the years and has upset 10 Division I teams during his tenure.
When it’s all said and done, the Bulls have the advantage and should win this game without too much of a fight. But, this is a trendy upset pick. UAA is a team stocked full of juniors and seniors that have Division I size and was ranked #12 in the Division II polls. Their 4-2 record does indicate that they’ve lost games they shouldn’t have but they appear to be hiccups to me.
To put this team into perspective, last year they almost knocked off eventual Shootout Champion Middle Tennessee. If anyone paid attention to March Madness last year, they’d know how good of a team Middle Tennessee was and the whole Cinderella story around them. They also defeated Division I Drexel in the consolation rounds.
Some players you need to watch out for in this game are Sekou Wiggs and Connor Devine. Wiggs is leading the Seawolves with 23.2 points and 5 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting the ball phenomenally well at 48%. Devine is a 6-10 center who is scoring 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
I’m giving the Bulls the victory in this one but it’s going to be hard fought in the first half. I can’t expect a blowout — although it could happen — when looking at UAA’s track record. A ten point win is still ok for the Bulls’ chances of going on to win this tourney.