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SLOUCHING TOWARDS CLEVELAND
The UB men's basketball team, 7th in the MAC, isn't playing like a team that wants to make the postseason tournament.
Image from gozips.com
It was a bad week for the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team.
After consecutive wins over Western and Eastern Michigan, followed by a strong effort against a Kent State team that’s (finally) getting votes in the AP Top 25, the Bulls (12-15 overall, 6-8 in Mid-American Conference play, 191st in NCAA NET) got their freaking doors blown off twice in the Buckeye State.
Tuesday: Ohio 85, UB 61. Look, Ohio’s not a terrible team—the Bobcats are 16-11 overall, 8-6 in the league, 134th in NCAA NET, and are currently on a five-game winning streak—but 24 points? Consistently underwhelming on the road this season, Buffalo started turning the ball over at the Convocation Center early—by our unofficial count, the Bulls had five unforced turnovers in the first half, a stat in which they are among the worst in the country—and were down by 16 points at halftime. With point guard Armoni Foster struggling with a bad wrist, UB had just six assists on 22 field goals. Buffalo shot 34 percent from the field, were out-rebounded by nine boards, and let Ohio shoot 63 percent from the floor in the second half. That, my friends, adds up to a good old-fashioned ass-kicking in a game where the Bulls really needed to come out and battle.
Saturday: Akron 86, UB 66. Not even sure what to write, to be honest. I respect the work the players put into this sport but it is troubling, to say the least, to see a team lose by 20 points twice in a week at the most critical point of the season. Not many of us expected a win, especially at the JAR, but this contest had the long, lazy descent of a paper airplane drifting down towards the floor. Again, Buffalo was out-rebounded by nine boards—rebounding was supposed to be a strength—allowed the Zips (19-8, 11-3, 98th in NCAA NET) to shoot 50 percent from the floor in the first half (and 54 percent from three), and never really mounted a serious comeback over the final 20 minutes. Akron guard Xavier Castenada and forward Enrique Freeman ate the Bulls’ lunch for the second time this season, combining for 51 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and five threes.
Image from gozips.com
Buffalo seems obsessed with making me look stupid every time I write something nice about the team. After noting how the Bulls didn’t quit against Kent State, we’ve have two games where, objectively, it kind of looks like they did.
And if quit is too harsh of a word—that’s fair, I’ll buy that argument—they reverted to their worst habits: hero ball, bad shots, inattentive defense, and not enough work at the rim. It’s a slide back to the team we hadn’t seen since the last loss to Akron on Jan. 31 (when we had a remarkably similar notes) , and before that, the back-to-back losses to Miami and Central Michigan on Jan. 10 and Jan. 14, respectively.
It’s like swearing off snacking and then finding yourself in the fridge at midnight. You think you’ve grown, and there you are again.
UP NEXT: ANOTHER CHANCE TO SHOW SOME PROGRESS
Image from ubbulls.com
I hesitate to call this a “revenge game,” especially since a.) this particular contest lands on Gun Violence Awareness Night and b.) Central Michigan, at 10-17 overall and 5-9 in the conference, isn’t exactly a high-stakes opponent, but the Chippewas’ visit to Alumni Arena on Tuesday night poses a great opportunity for the Bulls.
Coach Jim Whitesell’s group fell in overtime to CMU in one of UB’s sloppier games of the season—an 87-78 overtime loss on Jan. 14. Balancing the ledger on that front would be quite satisfying while providing some breathing room in the postseason hunt (CMU trails seventh-place UB by a game).
Buffalo’s a tough out at home, holding a 9-4 record on the season, and a victory could push the Bulls into a sixth-place tie with Northern Illinois with a road trip to DeKalb on the slate for next week.
The matchup between the Buffalo Bulls and Central Michigan Chippewas will be the 44th all-time meeting. Buffalo leads the series, 26-15. The Bulls are 15-4 at home against the Chippewas. Buffalo has won five straight at home against the Chippewas. The matchup between the Bulls and Chippewas will feature an efficient shooting team in the Bulls who are fourth in the MAC (.460) and a solid defensive team in CMU. The Chippewas allow their opponents to shoot .432 from the floor, the third-best in the MAC.
The Central Michigan Chippewas are 10- 17 overall, 5-9 in the MAC after losing to the Ohio Bobcats, 76-59 on Feb. 18. Central Michigan was selected to finish 10th in the MAC Preseason Coaches' Poll with 38 points. The Chippewas are 3-10 on the road averaging 63.6 ppg. Their opponents score 75.5 ppg. The Chippewas are led by Brian Taylor who averages 14.8 ppg and 6.3 rpg. As a team, Central Michigan is one of the best defenses in the MAC as they are fourth in opponent FG% (.432) and third in opponent 3PT% (.335).
That about sums it up! Just win, gentlemen. Just win.
GETTING DOWN TO THE WIRE: THE MAC THIS WEEK, FEB. 20
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Kent State (55th in NCAA NET, 7th in CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25): The Golden Flashes slashed their way through Western and Eastern Michigan this past week, beating the Mitten squads by 24 and 27 points, respectively. Up next is Ball State on the road this Tuesday and a visit to Bowling Green on Saturday, a pair of games KSU will be favored to win despite the travel. The real test looms next week with home games against red-hot Ohio and a potentially conference-deciding, season-ending showdown against Akron.
Toledo (96th in NCAA NET, 14th in MMT25): The Rockets are currently riding an 11-game winning streak. Do you realize that the men’s and women’s teams at Toledo have won a combined 20 straight games, with the last loss coming in the women’s stumble against Bowling Green on Jan. 18? To be Toledo! Huge, huge home game on Tuesday against Akron, and then Buffalo rolls into town over the weekend.
Akron (98th in NCAA NET): After back-to-back losses to Toledo and Ohio, the Zips righted the ship against Buffalo on Saturday. Those losses snapped an eight-game win streak. An outstanding 3 & D squad with elite rebounding courtesy of Enrique Freeman, Akron looks to climb back into the first-place mix against Toledo on Tuesday night and Western Michigan on Saturday.
Ball State (140th in NCAA NET): Woof—the Cardinals lost by 10 points to Western Michigan on Saturday, 78-68. ‘You have to give a lot of credit to Dwayne Stephens and Western Michigan,” Head Coach Michael Lewis said after the game. “They've lost nine straight, came out and competed, and to be that focused, they looked like the team competing for a championship, not us. We have to give them a lot of credit. Disappointing to say the least but we have to pick ourselves up off the mat.” Not what you want to hear from your coach when you’re fighting for a regular season title! A home win at Worthen Arena on Tuesday against Kent State would go a long way towards washing out the taste of bitter defeat.
Image from niuhuskies.com
Ohio (134th in NCAA NET): Five straight wins for the Bobcats, a team that shoots well from the floor (52% effective field goal percentage), minimizes turnovers (52nd nationally in turnover percentage), and 18th in the country in three-point percentage (37.8 percent). That’s a formula for a potentially scary conference tournament run. The ‘Cats have a winnable home game on Tuesday against NIU, and travel to struggling Miami on Saturday with a huge road trip to Kent State looming early next week.
Northern Illinois (253rd in NCAA NET): A bad week for the Huskies, who lost to both Ball State and Miami, giving NIU three losses in four games after winning five out of six. Sophomore David Coit (pictured above) is the driver of this team, playing nearly 86 percent of Northern’s minutes while taking over one in four of the team’s shots while on the floor. The Huskies have what may be a loser-leaves-town match at Ohio on Tuesday—who’s the real dark horse?—and a road trip to Mount Pleasant to face struggling CMU on Saturday.
Central Michigan (307th in NCAA NET): After losing six out of seven, the Chips have won two of three—progress for Tony Barbee’s bunch? Maybe. CMU is, statistically, still one of the worst teams in the country, 348th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 217th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Stringing together wins against Buffalo, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan—beating Toledo is likely a bridge too far—would be a strong signals Barbee, after a nightmare season of injuries, has the program on an upward trend. What’s more, three wins in those last four could realistically push the Chippewas into the conference playoffs over our fading Bulls.
Image from bgsufalcons.com
Bowling Green (275th in NCAA NET): After starting MAC play 4-3, the Falcons drove directly into an embankment. BGSU has lost seven in a row, including a pair of home games to Central Michigan and Toledo—by a tantalizingly close eight total points. The formula for Bowling Green for the foreseeable future is Curtis + Ayers (pictured above) and pray for better players.1 The Falcons have a road trip to Miami on Tuesday, and then face Kent State at home. Even if BGSU wins out, odds of a postseason trip are unlikely.
That’s a lot of red. Red is bad! After losing seven in a row, Miami has won two of four, including a road win over NIU, 66-65, in OT on Saturday, riding on the ample back of forward Anderson Mirambeaux. The ‘Hawks careen towards the finish line with a pair of home contests, including a Tuesday tilt with Bowling Green and a Saturday visit from Ohio.
Western Michigan (319th in NCAA NET): It’s sad to see the state of WMU hoops, particularly since the team was a legit contender for most of the Steve Hawkins era (2003-2020). Hawkins’ teams won 20 games seven times and went to the NCAA Tournament twice, which is pretty good for a directional school in a hockey- and football-crazed state. An unlikely 10-point win over Ball State on Saturday snapped a nine-game losing streak, and first-year coach Dwayne Stephens’ Broncos will look to continue the good feelings in a big(?) rivalry game at Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and a tough trip to Akron’s JAR on Saturday.
Eastern Michigan (324th in NCAA NET): It seemed like a fun, heartwarming story when five-star swingman Emoni Bates came home to play in Ypsilanti following a flameout at Memphis. While this season may have been a nice practice session for Bates’ NBA career, it’s been an unqualified disaster for the Eagles. Literally the worst team in the country defending inside the three-point line and generally bad on offense despite Bates’ 20 points per game, it’s hard to see how the experiment has benefitted EMU. Eastern has lost five straight and will attempt to earn some dignity in a rivalry game at home against Western Michigan on Tuesday and—perhaps mercifully—the final home game of the season on Saturday against Ball State. There is little risk that the George Gervin GameAbove Center will eventually be renamed for Bates.
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Referring, of course, to solid BGSU guards Leon Ayers III and Samari Curtis.