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NCAA Tournament Profile: Get to know the Buffalo Bulls

Buffalo is beginning to form a dynasty in the MAC, winning its third conference championship in four seasons

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament Championship-Buffalo vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

After missing out in 2017, the Buffalo Bulls return to the NCAA Tournament for the third time since 2015.

Following a dominant 15-3 run to the MAC regular season title, Buffalo managed to do what many other conference champions failed to do: win their conference tournament. Buffalo defeated the second-seeded Toledo to clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.

Personnel

Buffalo features a balanced scoring attack with four players averaging over 14 points per game. Three juniors lead the team in scoring, with CJ Massinburg leading the way. Massinburg, an All-MAC First Team selection, averages over 17 points per game. He also hit on just shy of 40% of his three-point attempts this season, making him a scoring threat anywhere on the floor.

Joining Massinburg on the All-MAC First Team is Buffalo’s second-leading scorer, Nick Perkins. He has come off the bench since mid-December, and was named the MAC’s Sixth Man of the Year. But Perkins gets a starter’s share of minutes and makes the most of it, putting up over 16 points per game.

The final junior in Buffalo’s trio of leading scorers is Jeremy Harris. Harris is the best perimeter shooter the Bulls have. He leads the team in three-point field goals and hits on 43% of his attempts from distance.

Rounding out Buffalo’s double-digit scorers is senior Wes Clark. Clark came to the Bulls after three seasons at Missouri came to a tumultuous end. He missed the first 10 games of the season due to an eligibility issue for the first semester. Clark has fit right into the Buffalo lineup, averaging over 14 points per game since his return to the court. He is capable of carrying the Bulls offense when needed, as evidenced by his 26 point performance in the conference championship while Massinburg struggled.

How they can win

Buffalo has one of the nation’s most potent scoring offenses. Prior to the conference championship game, the Bulls were ranked sixth in the nation in scoring offense at just over 85 points per game. They are also ranked No. 42 in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

The Bulls will be looking to force a quick tempo as well. According to KenPom, Buffalo has the fifth-shortest average length of possession on offense and is No. 16 in adjusted tempo. With all of the scorers on its roster, Buffalo wants to get up as many shots as possible.

Buffalo came within six points of Cincinnati without Wes Clark available back in November, and only fell by single digits on the road at Syracuse in his first game in the lineup. But with Clark available, Buffalo has the firepower on offense to outscore just about any opponent they might face in the first round.

Getting stops on defense will be the real difference-maker for Buffalo. The Bulls had the second worst scoring defense in the MAC, but that is largely a product of their fast pace of play. The more telling statistic is their 137th ranked KenPom defensive efficiency. That isn’t awful, but it means Buffalo might have a hard time stopping a quality opponent from scoring.

Prediction

Expect Buffalo to be involved in a shootout in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls have the weapons on offense to win games like that, but they will have to be on top of their offensive game since their defense is prone to struggling.

Because of their ability to score at a high level, Buffalo will be a dangerous first-round opponent that could very well pull off an upset. But keep in mind Buffalo’s best win according to KenPom this season was against No. 113 UAB. The Bulls have played some good teams in the non-conference, but haven’t shown they can finish out a win against a top-tier opponent like they will likely face in the opening round.