On Friday, the Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball team got their first win at their road season opener against Niagara. In a tight scoring affair, the Bulls finally pulled away in the final five minutes. Tonight, they’ll face a tougher challenge in nationally ranked Xavier.
#11 Xavier is lead by head coach Chris Mack. He’s been the head of the program for eight years dating back to the 2009-10 season. In his time as head coach, he’s made the Sweet Sixteen three times and he’s failed to make the NCAA Tournament only once.
Xavier has started the season with tough news as third leading scorer Myles Davis has been suspended indefinitely from the program. After going 28-6 last year, they still bring back a ton of talent this season. So far they’ve played one game in which they won versus Lehigh 84-81.
If the Bulls are going to win this game, they’ll have to be mindful of Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Summer. Bluiett was Xavier’s leading scorer last year and has serious aspirations of being the Big East Player of the Year. Summer is also a threat, averaging 11 points and 3.4 rebounds a game last season.
What to watch for
1. How the Bulls handle the 1-3-1 Zone
So there’s a number of things the Bulls can take advantage of but they need to be mindful of the fact that this particular junk zone is going to cutoff routine passes. With that being said, Davonta Jordan needs to be careful of where and when he’s directing his passes. The Bulls could easily lose this game on the turnover battle alone.
2. Nick Perkins and Blake Hamilton
Yes, the 1-3-1 Zone is unconventional, but it can be beaten if Nick Perkins and Blake Hamilton come out strong. If those two fire from the corners of the arc with ease, it’s game over for Xavier. Buffalo’s in prime upset condition if they can do this.
3. Our bigs
The biggest concerns so far is our bigs haven’t been strong in the low post. Luckily, that area is a no-go against Xavier anyway. Buffalo needs to go after the high post in particular for this game. Xavier will leave that area wide open. In this particular case, Ikenna Smart’s hook shot would be optimal.
4. Playing faster than Xavier
A 1-3-1 zone is going to force both you and your opponent to play fast. If the Bulls can keep the pace quick and perhaps quicker, they’ll be in really good shape. Xavier’s bench is short as they only played 8 guys versus Lehigh—and that’s something I wouldn’t want if I were the Musketeers.
5. Can the Bulls win the rebounding battle?
Xavier is not known for it’s size. Their tallest player is only 6-10. Buffalo has a solid chance on pretty equal size and an opposing defense that leaves the rebounding battle up for grabs.
Of the games against power opponents this season, this is the most winnable one. Buffalo has all of the tools necessary and just needs the execution to win this game. If Buffalo can do the above, the chances of the Bulls leaving Cincinnati with a win is high.