Coming in to this season, the 2016-2017 Buffalo Bulls had a big target on their backs. As two time defending MAC Champions, they had to prepare for everyone to bring their best against them. So far, the Bulls have not been up to the challenge. After sub par losses to Canisius and Robert Morris, the narrative changed to “We just have to excel in MAC play.” Well the Bulls came out and played one of the worst games I’ve ever seen against Toledo and it showed as the Bulls lost by 32.
Now the season isn’t going to slow down and gets even harder in these next two games. First up, EMU. The Eagles are one of those teams that scares me and should scare you the same. While streaky, when this team is on they can beat anyone. They opened the season taking Pitt to double overtime. James Thompson IV is one of the best young players in the MAC and has a NBA upside.
EMU also runs a 2-3 zone. That means that Nick Perkins, Quate McKinzie and all other bigs will struggle to get inside in the paint. If the Bulls can’t find their stroke from outside this will be another long game. With this being said, let’s take a look at what to watch for Saturday.
What to Watch For
The biggest detriment to this team so far has been chemistry. So good news and bad news. Good news, if the team plays with chemistry, they will pick apart the zone. Bad news, if chemistry continues to lack, this zone will be unbeatable. The best way to beat a 2-3 is quick passing, constant cuts, and being able to shoot outside. I expect to see this team pass the ball much better and show us within the first 5 minutes if they’re ready to compete.
If you’ve watched the past two games you may have noticed that head coach Nate Oats has been using 5 man substitutions to send a message about poor effort. The starters in the second half of the Maine game and first half of the Toledo game have not come out like they need to. If the starters and team leaders are not able to perform, the team will flop. It’s that simple.
Each of these three things feel connected. That’s because they are. Effort, effort, EFFORT. I can’t stress this enough. I’ve said it all football season and now I need to see it during basketball season. The team needs to come out with fire, play hard, fight for loose balls, and show us passion for the game. The effort also needs to be team wide. Non of this one man show. Don’t force shots, and make the extra pass. If the effort is in the right place, I believe in this team.
You don’t want to declare this game a must win, but it’s close. It only gets harder after this when preseason MAC favorite Ohio comes to town. I hope that the Toledo game was a MAC play wake up call and we see the back to back champs return to form. An 0-2 start would be devastating for a young teams morale. Let’s hope that we see Cleveland style Bulls basketball, and walk out with a win.