Recon: @ Buffalo, Wednesday 7pm
The Opponent: Buffalo welcomes the Bonnies up north on Wednesday night following the Bonnies’ loss to Hoftsta this weekend. Buffalo sports a new head coach in Nate Oats after Bobby Hurley bolted for greener pastures, or sunnier skies at Arizona State this past off-season. The Bulls are off to a 4-2 start having lost to top 100 teams in Old Dominion and St. Joseph’s, both on the road. After the Bonnies, Buffalo plays on the road at Duke and Iowa State so maybe UB looks past the Bonnies a bit in preparation for two monster road games.
Last Time: The two squads played last year at the Reilly Center and the Bonnies escaped with a nine point win- 72 to 63. In the game Dion Wright led all SBU scorers with 19, Ndoye had 17, Posley had 12 and Cumberbatch chipped in 10. SBU was 5-14 from three point range, instead opting to pound it inside where they shot 50% for the contest. It may be wise for the Bonnies to take a similar approach this time out given their streaky outside shooting thus far. Buffalo is also “small” inside, more on that later.
The Skinny on Buffalo: Buffalo is breaking in new head coach Nate Oats, and were picked to finish 4th in their division of the MAC behind Akron, Kent State and Ohio and ahead of Miami (OH) and Bowling Green. Buffalo is the defending MAC Champions and return Sophomore Lamonte Bearden who was one of five players named to the East Division Preseason All-MAC Team. Buffalo return two starters off last year’s club in Bearden and and guard Jarryn Skeete. Thus far, UB has somewhat mirrored the Bonnies in terms of being a better offensive team than defensive club. Buffalo ranks 300th in effective field goal percentage offense (43.8%) and 325th in 2PT%. Conversely, UB has really struggled to defend the three point shot as well giving up nearly 40% shooting from deep, ranking them 300th in that category as well (SBU shoots 33.9% from 3PT). They play at a faster pace than the Bonnies and have struggled a bit on the glass. It should be noted also that they downed future SBU foe Vermont by a score of 77-71 back on the 22nd. See their advanced stats below for a more in-depth look at how they operate on a game by game basis.
Screen grabs courtesy of Bbstate.com
The Paths to Victory: As stated above, in the last time out section, the Bonnies should attack the paint starting with their guards. It was great to see Posley getting to the foul line this past weekend when his shot wasn’t falling from deep. SBU should plan to have he, Jay Adams and Idris really try to get into the lane with the rock. From there, they can expand their shooting range. That said, it may be tempting for SBU to hoist a high volume of three pointers given Buffalo’s struggles to defend the three point line. To me, this could be fools’ gold. SBU has been at their best this year getting near the rim and allowing Dion Wright to do his work close to the tin. Let’s not forget Wright is the team’s best offensive player. All of this said, SBU needs to defend better to win this game, plain and simple. Buffalo is going to push the ball similar to how Canisius did and SBU needs to be ready to defend and keep key players out of foul trouble (especially Dion). SBU has given up over 72 points in each of their last three outings and has a defense that ranks 100 spots below their offense. Buffalo has really struggled to score inside but it will be interesting to see if SBU’s thin front-court can continue the trend. I’d expect them, and all foes, to go at Dion early inside to pick up quick fouls. It will be critical for him to defend without fouling in the first half on the road.
Whose Been Hot: While Bearden has played well for the Bulls out of the gate (avg 18 points in their last three games) he’s only shooting 38% from inside and 20% from deep. SBU needs to worry about 6-3 freshman C.J. Massinburg, who is shooting 33% from deep but has found his shot of late. He has scored 15 and 17 points in two of Buffalo’s last three games, and hit Canisius up for a pair of three balls and shot 7-8 from the line. He’s the type of “off the bench shooter” that generally gives the Bonnies fits. Additionally, Skeete has been both hot and cold. He’s been held to six points in two of UB’s contests but also scored 12, 12, and 18 in three other games. Last time out, Skeete scored 12 points vs. Canisius, he knocked down 6-10 three pointers in a win vs. North Carolina A&T.
The Gut Feeling: This is a tough one to call. Buffalo is not a better team than Bonaventure (IMO), but SBU is on the road and are coming off a game where they really failed to play any semblance of defense in the last 20 minutes. While SBU may be better, Buffalo is still a pretty decent team in their own right. The good news is Mark Schmidt’s teams generally bounce back well and Buffalo doesn’t have the height to really expose SBU’s lack of depth in the front court (you won’t see anyone over 6-6 get meaningful minutes). I worry about SBU having another 6-28 type of night shooting from deep, but hope they opt to attack the rim more and show some more patience within the offense; this means running everything through Dion. If SBU can lay-off poor outside shots early in the possession, and defend at “normal Mark Schmidt team” levels they should win this game inside of the last media timeout.
The Prediction: Bonnies 73- Buffalo 69