So, we begin to play the East again, and first up are the Buffalo Bulls.
When first we met, the Falcons picked up a 86-82 win at Anderson Arena. The Falcons shot over 50% for the game, and picked up a win that looks bigger now than it did at the time. In fact, the Bulls only lost once when going through the East, and once against the West.
The Falcons had a big lead with 6:00 left, but Buffalo came back and made it a nail-biter.
Looking back, the strangest part of the whole story is that, uh, teams scored some points. That's enough points for 1.5 MAC games, normally. Chris Knight contributed 22 that night, and Moten 20.
As I mentioned, since then, things have been very good for Buffalo. They did end cross-over play with a bad loss, but then again, so did we. They struggled a couple times, but so did we.
Their 17-6 start is their best D1 start ever, just when it looked like Reggie Witherspoon might be in some trouble. During MAC play they have broken their previous pattern of being an offensive team (not to mention the impression you would have gotten from the first BG game), and are third in the MAC in scoring defense and fourth in scoring offense. Teams are average less than 60 points per game.
They are the best rebounding team in the MAC, and with 11 offensive turnovers a game are the best in the MAC--by far. They are only an average shooting team, but the rest of their game is pretty fundamentally strong, and that makes them tough to beat.
They are 8-2 at home this year, and 5-0 in conference play. They are led by Rodney Pierce and Calvin Betts, two really solid JUNIOR :-( guards who each average in double figures. Betts is also the team's leading rebounder, followed by PG Greg Gamble.
So, this is what is known as a test. Buffalo is a good team and strong at home. They are smell a shot at their first big dance. The Falcons will have to play as well as they can to win. This will mean making some shots, playing great D, and competing on the boards (it can be done, Ball State out-rebounded the Bulls). And, we're going to have to take care of the ball.
I'd say something like "we can't let them get as many open shots as Eastern did" but that's pretty obvious.
If we're going to compete for a bye, or a MAC tourney win, this is the kind of test we need to pass. That's not to say that it all hinges on one game, just to say that over the next few weeks, at the end of the season, we will find out where we really are as a program.