Team Profile: Buffalo at Vermont Preview
Saturday, 1 P.M. EST, ESPN2
Buffalo is a team with a decent Tournament resume that is diminished by the atrocious Western Division of its own conference (six teams with RPI rankings from 214-323).
Imagine if two months ago Bulls guard Rodney Pierce had not panicked at home against top-ranked Connecticut and opted to shoot for the win at the buzzer instead of passing up the opportunity. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun believes he would’ve made the shot and said so in the post game press conference.
“If Pierce turns and throws up a 3 as the clock goes off, they get themselves a win,” Calhoun said. “They were that close.”
“That close” to a signature win isn’t going to cut it for the Selection Committee. Nonetheless, kudos to ESPN for giving Buffalo a chance to showcase its talent on one of its networks because there’s a good chance they’ll be the MAC’s representative in the NCAA Tournament—a nice preview for Cinderella aficionados.
If the University of Vermont athletic department has any sense, it will bring back former coach and current ESPN analyst Tom Brennan back to Patrick Gymnasium to retire the jerseys of Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine – just a thought.
The Catamounts have won 11 of their last 12 games and have won 20 games in six of the last eight seasons thanks to sporting the best offense (77.3 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (41.1 percent) in the America East Conference.
Key Matchup: The outside game of Buffalo’s guards vs. the forwards of Vermont
Buffalo’s four guards average 40 points and 16 rebounds but must find a way to stop the 28.3 points and 14.2 rebounds Vermont’s Marques Blakely and Colin McIntosh.
At only 6-foot-5, Blakely averages nearly three blocks a game and McIntosh can also step outside the three-point arc (41 3PT%).
The Bulls were uncharacteristically outworked on the glass in their most recent game – a loss at Ball State. The Cardinals were the first team in the last eight games to out rebound Buffalo to the tune of a 36-33 edge. The Cardinals had 11 offensive rebounds and scored 14 second-chance points. “For [Ball State] to get 11 offensive rebounds in unacceptable,” head coach Reggie Witherspoon said. “We got challenged on the glass. We got hit and we didn’t hit back.”
Early on in a hostile environment, Buffalo must hit back to win this game.
Prediction: Vermont 75, Buffalo 72
Buffalo is 6-4 on the road and without having motivation or time to prepare for the Vermont attack, the Bulls will struggle in another road game against a quality opponent.