Buffalo Bulls Men’s Basketball is now at the halfway point in non-conference play and at the moment they sit at a 4-2 record. The Bulls are coming off of a week spent in Anchorage, Alaska where they participated in the annual Great Alaska Shootout. In the end, the Bulls did not take home the Shootout Championship because of their inconsistent play. Below is what I’ve taken away from UB’s Alaska road trip:
What’s been good
1. Willie Conner and Dontay Caruthers
This duo gets singled out thanks to the spectacular defense that they’re providing—helping Buffalo give some of the most consistent defensive efforts I’ve seen in a long time. Conner’s perimeter defense has usually been infallible since he first started playing for Buffalo, but it wasn’t up to snuff until right around when this tourney began.
Caruthers’ ability to turn the ball over is easily the best on the entire team right now. Currently, he’s stealing the ball in 5% of the possessions that he’s involved in—good for 33rd in the nation.
2. Ikenna Smart
Yeah, he’s been turning the ball over just as much as everyone else, but Ikenna Smart is coming off of the best two game stretch of his UB career right now. Smart’s 10 point effort versus Nevada is the second best of his career and he backed it up a day later as he was on the cusp of a double-double. To top it all off, he’s shooting 72% on the year so far.
Speaking of good shooting, UB has done a remarkable job in this department as a whole. The Bulls are currently shooting at 46.7% on the year and so far that’s a three percent improvement from last year. One can only wonder if the fouls and turnovers are preventing this number from being higher. In all four of the Bulls’ wins, they’ve shot better than 48%.
What’s not so good
The biggest problem that’s been plaguing Buffalo at the beginning of this season is UB’s inability to be able to hold onto the ball. UB’s currently averaging a turnover in 24% of their possessions, which is significantly higher compared to last year’s 18.8 percent.
If there’s any problem that needs to be immediately corrected, it’s this one. Typically, you’re going to see an uptempo team turn the ball over more but this is currently an excessive level of that. Dating back to the Daemen exhibition, UB has turned the ball over less than 15 times only twice.
It’s pretty predictable to see this one coming but it’s just as much of a problem. You can make a case and say that the Xavier refs were awful, but so far, Buffalo hasn’t played a clean game against a relatively tough opponent yet (Sorry Nazareth, you don’t count).
3. A stalling offense
I’m pretty sure this is because of the two aforementioned points, but although shooting percentage has been great, the offense gets to this point where it goes dry during games. Most notably, UB’s 5 point loss to Nevada comes to mind where the Bulls were unable to make a field goal in the last four minutes of play.
I think there’s reason to believe that UB is incredibly capable of being a great team this year. There are just two stat categories that are really bogging them down at the moment. Buffalo needs to correct those issues if they’re going to hope to compete with Akron and Ohio in MAC play.