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Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball: Observations from the season thus far

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Three games into the books and we’ve seen a wide variety of talent that the Buffalo Bulls have had to face. Buffalo currently stands at 2-1, with their only loss being against nationally ranked Xavier. Just like the article that we did for the women, here’s some observations about the Men’s season so far:

What’s good

1. Ball movement

Take out the outlier game with Xavier — because let’s face it, that game was ruined by the officials — and Buffalo’s ability to move the ball has looked superb. The Bulls had 20 assists at Niagara and 25 versus Nazareth. Although it appears there is no designated point guard, Blake Hamilton, Davonta Jordan, and Dontay Caruthers are all holding there own at dishing to the right guys at the right time.

2. Davonta Jordan

In all honesty, I was skeptical of Jordan. He came to UB as a highly touted late in the game prospect but what I had seen from him in actual game film didn’t seem impressive. I’m eating crow now because Jordan’s offensive court vision is much better than his predecessor.

I doubt we’ll see him have big nights scoring wise this season, but that is fine because positions 2-5 on the court are thriving when he’s playing. Just some food for thought for you: Jordan is 14th in the nation for assist rate.

3. Nick Perkins

I raved about his improvements over the summer and Perkins’ performance so far has backed me up. The 6-9 stretch forward hardly looks like a sophomore with what he’s been able to do. Perkins is fighting and getting rebounds better than ever, shooting the ball incredibly well, and even showing strength in the low post—something UB has struggled with in the past two seasons.

What we hope to see now is if Perkins can keep this up in UB’s Alaska endeavors versus some quality mid-major opponents. If so, the entire Mid-American Conference should watch out.

4. Stopping teams from shooting the three so much

It definitely helps when you have one of the best perimeter defenders in the conference with Willie Conner, but Buffalo is currently 10th in the nation at forcing teams to go for two points instead of three—holding opponents to 25% in three-point attempt percentage shooting.

5. Quate McKinzie

The freshman has come out of the gate strong and has done more than expected. McKinzie is as flashy on offense as his highlight tape from high school but something that wasn’t shown well was his ability to shoot the three-ball. With the 6-8 forward on the roster, Buffalo now has two stretch scoring options from beyond the arc, giving Buffalo an almost “live by the three” mentality on offense.

What’s not so great

1. Turnovers

I almost listed this one twice. This is the biggest plague for Buffalo right now. The Bulls are 340th out of 351 teams in turnover percentage at 26.4%. That’s absolutely insane, especially considering the fact that somehow Buffalo has overcome this awful stat to win two games. If the Bulls can take care of the ball more, watch out.

2. There’s almost no offense in the post

So it’s great that Perkins and McKinzie can shoot the three ball, but the post has been lacking. It’s shaping up to be the second straight year that Buffalo is weak down low. Offensive rebounding is suffering — a measly 306th in the nation — and it looks like this is shaping up to be the second straight season where Ikenna Smart is the only real threat on offense in the front court.

3. Nikola Rakicevic

Nate Oats said we’d see a lot more of Nikola this year but I don’t know if that’s necessarily for the best once CJ Massinburg comes back from his illness. Although his conditioning looks to be better than last year, the Serbian native looks like he needs another year of getting acquainted with American hoops. He’s working hard though and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some improvement from him.

4. Free throw shooting

If UB wants any chance at getting some quality wins against tough opponents, they NEED to get better from the charity stripe. The Bulls are shooting a lackluster 60.5% from the line.

5. Three-point defense in general

When teams are able to shoot the three ball, it’s bad for Buffalo. The Bulls are giving up 44.2% shooting to their opponents. To put this into perspective, teams averaging more than 44% from beyond the arc are in the top-25. If UB wants any shot at giving Creighton a challenge, they have to fix this problem in the coming games.

Bottom Line

The Bulls are in better shape than I would’ve imagined after losing Lamonte Beardean and then CJ Massinburg to his illness. Right now, the Bulls need to take care of the ball and find some offense in the front court. If Buffalo can do that, they have not only a solid shot at winning the Great Alaska Shootout, but their bout with Pitt as well.