As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 23-9 (12-6 MAC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 109.8 (47th)/98.5 (94th)
Seed: No. 12 Midwest
Impact player: Justin Moss, junior, forward. 17.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg,
The Case For: In just his second season leading the fast-paced Bulls, coach Bobby Hurley is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since his 18-2 run over four years as Duke’s point guard in the early 1990s. The bid is Buffalo’s first as a program, and if it is to make its first impression a lasting one, the inside-outside combination of guard Shannon Evans and Moss is going to have a lot to do with it.
Moss, the MAC Player of the Year, is a 6’7”, 240-pound hoss who can both score in the post and defend it. Evans, an all-conference second-teamer, is the Bulls’ other double-digit scorer (15.3 points per game) and a 37.0% three-point shooter. But Jarryn Skeete, his backcourt mate, is the team’s most accurate marksman, making 39.3% of his treys while taking 154 of his 219 field goal attempts this season from beyond the arc. And don’t forget, Buffalo had perhaps the best 19-point loss of any mid-major this season, when it took a five point lead into halftime at Kentucky in November before losing 71-52.
The Case Against: When a team of Buffalo’s caliber starts busting brackets, the deep ball usually plays a considerable part. But the Bulls are not a very good three-point shooting team, ranking 202nd in the country with a 33.6% mark from outside. With a middle-of-the road two-point percentage of 47.5, the Bulls’ offensive efficiency is largely derived from avoiding the costs of turnovers, blocks, and defensive rebounds—admirable qualities (especially in such an uptempo attack), but in need of complementary shooting in order to knock off more talented, higher-seeded teams.
And while Moss is a quality player, Buffalo’s pedestrian size—it ranks 188th in kenpom.com’s effective height metric—will make it vulnerable against bigger teams inside, which may also be able to render the Bulls’ shot-blocking strengths irrelevant. As encouraging as the first half against Kentucky and a solid effort at Wisconsin were, this is also a team that started 6-6 in the MAC before catching fire over the past month. A regression would be fatal.
SI prediction: Lose to West Virginia in the Round of 64