Well, we’ve survived. That’s about all you can ask out of teams at this point in the season. No matter how ugly the win looks on paper, it’s the win that matters. For example, take these two teams: Buffalo had control of their game against Arizona State from the very beginning while the Red Raiders took a little while to get with the program but put up a good win over Northern Kentucky.
This Buffalo team is no joke. They have one of the best offenses in the country and have a ton of players that can score at all three levels of the offensive end of the floor. The key to stopping them lies in the brain of assistant coach Mark Adams, but I’ll do my best to emulate his thinking here.
As mentioned before, Buffalo has many good scorers. In the win against Arizona State, they had four guys in double figures, and two guys put up 20 point double-doubles. They can get a huge contribution from anyone they put on the floor, but let’s examine each of their impact players.
C.J. Massinburg: 6’3, Senior Guard.
Massinburg is what makes this team go. He has been the heart and soul of this team for a couple of seasons now and was crucial in beating the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of last season’s NCAA Tournament. He mostly plays a combo guard position.
Buffalo wins the tip and CJ Massinburg makes the three to start the game pic.twitter.com/489RsxibLe— Nathaniel Mendelson (@NateMendelson) February 27, 2019
There are honestly 3 or 4 guys on this team that can initiate their offense. He averages 18 points, six rebounds and three assists per game. He is also a great shooter, shooting 40% from behind the arc and can drive the ball into the lane and draw contact as he is a 78% free throw shooter. Stopping Massinburg will be step one of getting a win.
Nick Perkins: 6’8, Senior Forward.
Perkins is this team’s sixth man. He is, in my opinion, their third best player on this team. He has the size to bang down low with the big men but can step out and shoot it as well. He had a double-double in the game against Arizona State and made their big guys looks silly the entire game.
He has a great touch in the paint and used pump fakes on the three point line to create lanes to get dribble penetration. Perkins is averaging 16 points and seven rebounds per game. He is also shooting 37% from the three point line and 70% from the free-throw line.
Jeremy Harris: 6’7, Senior Guard.
Harris lines up at the guard spot for this team but plays more like a small forward. He has the size and athleticism to rise up and secure rebounds, as he had 10 against Arizona State, while also being quick enough to get good dribble penetration. Harris used his size and speed to get a few offensive rebounds in their last game.
Nifty drive and score by Buffalo’s Jeremy Harris gives Bulls a 26-13 lead over Bowling Green in MAC men’s tournament tile game...9 mobs remain first half pic.twitter.com/YxkzTDPYMS— David S. Glasier (@nhglasier) March 17, 2019
This makes him the most dangerous player on the team. His versatility on both sides of the ball make him a real interesting match-up for Jarrett Culver. He averages 14.6 points, seven rebounds, and three assists per game. He also shoots a bunch of three pointers but doesn’t make that many of them, only shooting 23%.
Red Raider Defensive Plan:
Transition defense will be key. This team gets up and down the floor fast and they know how to space themselves to get an open shot. Buffalo has really quick guards that can find a tiny bit of space in transition to split the defense and cause havoc. Another big key will be rebounding, the offensive rebounding is what allowed Buffalo to stun Arizona State. Especially boxing out Jeremy Harris and Nick Perkins will be crucial for a victory.
This Red Raiders’ defense won’t have to make any drastic changes in order to stop this team. We have really good defenders on all levels of the floor. I feel like Matt Mooney will get the start guarding Massinburg, his length will keep him at bay and keep him from driving too much. Jarrett Culver will match-up with Jeremy Harris, both have length and both can shoot the rock. When Perkins hits the floor, Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens will both get some reps on him.
Red Raider Offensive Plan:
Drive, drive, drive. Buffalo has a great offense and that shouldn’t be overlooked. Their defense on the other hand is meh at best. They let a ton of Arizona State players drive straight to the basket. Jarrett Culver will need to have a great day. I wouldn’t be upset one bit if we didn’t take a three pointer the entire game and just drove the ball straight down their throats.
Now, I know that won’t happen mainly because that’s not how this team operates and I’m okay with that. Davide Moretti should have a great day as well as he can both drive it in the paint and shoot the rock. Kicking out to wide open shooters such as Matt Mooney or Brandone Francis should lessen the impact of the potent offense the Red Raiders will be facing.
The Red Raiders will definitely have a challenge this round of the NCAA Tournament. Just looking at the Bulls’ roster, film and how they operate, they look like a well-oiled machine. They have only faced a couple of NCAA Tournament teams besides Arizona State as they lost to Marquette and beat Syracuse, both teams that were bounced in the first round in the West Region.
The main thing the Red Raiders need to do is stifle the offense of the Bulls. If the Red Raiders’ defense can get the Bulls’ offense out of it’s rhythm, it would go a long way in making this a win for the Red Raiders. I predict a fast one to start with the Red Raiders finding a way to slow down this great offensive attack at halftime and winning the game.