No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 6 Buffalo
Tipoff: 6:10 p.m., BOK Center, Tulsa, Okla.
Latest line: UB +3.5 (Texas Tech -3.5)
What's at stake?: The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team meets Texas Tech for the first time in program history, and the stakes are high: only one team will continue its season after Sunday.
UB coach Nate Oats and his team have continuously echoed their goal of advancing to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and the Bulls take their shot at adding another piece of history to this season when they face the No. 3 seed Red Raiders.
“There still is one more statement to be made, just prove we belong with anybody in the country,” UB guard CJ Massinburg said Friday, after a 91-74 rout of 11th seed Arizona State. “Some people picked us to lose this game that we just played, so they might have thought that hey, ‘they're just being hyped all year.
“I think we can play with anybody in the country, and we're going to try to make this deeper run.”
The Bulls have to beat the Red Raiders and Jarrett Culver, a likely NBA Draft pick this year, to head west for the Sweet 16. The winner will face Michigan Thursday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Red Raiders: Texas Tech has won 10 of its last 11 games, including a 72-57 rout Friday of 14th-seeded Northern Kentucky. The Red Raiders have limited opponents to 59.2 points per game; Northern Kentucky shot 37.1 percent and had 17 turnovers in its first-round loss to Texas Tech. Texas Tech also leads the Big 12 with 165 blocked shots. The Red Raiders’ offense, however, averages 73.1 points per game – for a basis of comparison, they’d be eighth in the MAC in scoring. But when they score, they can go both in the paint and at the perimeter. Culver, a 6-foot-6 guard, leads Texas Tech with 18.8 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. Davide Moretti, a 6-foot-3 guard, leads the Red Raiders in 3-point field goal percentage (46.4 percent, 64 for 138). Texas Tech’s inside size could also be troublesome for the Bulls. Forwards Norense Odiase and Tariq Owens are 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-10, respectively, and average at least 5.1 rebounds per game.
The Bulls: UB enters the second-round game on a 13-game winning streak, the second-longest winning streak in the nation behind Cal-Irvine's 17. Kentucky ended Wofford’s 21-game winning streak in a second-round game Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bulls average 85.1 points per game and 41.1 rebounds per game, and CJ Massinburg leads UB in scoring (18.3 points), ahead of Nick Perkins (14.6) and Jeremy Harris (14.2). Perkins is also UB’s force in the paint, leading the Bulls with 7.3 rebounds per game, including 10 against Arizona State on Friday. While UB continues to be a guard-dominant team, Jeremy Harris has elevated his play in the last three weeks. The senior enters the Round of 32 averaging 20.2 points in his last six games, and has scored in double-digits in the Bulls’ last six wins. But if the Bulls want to fight defense with defense, they’ll turn to Davonta Jordan and Dontay Caruthers, the two-time MAC defensive player of the year.
Outlook: As UB coach Nate Oats said after the win Friday against Arizona State, there isn’t a lot that needs to be changed about the Bulls at this point in the season. But UB’s defense needs consistency against Texas Tech, a team that can be as erratic on offense as it can be stout on defense. UB’s defense kept Arizona State’s perimeter game in check, as the Sun Devils finished 3-for-22 on 3-point attempts in the first-round loss Friday. But the Bulls need to be balanced, offensively and defensively, against the inside size of Owens and Odiase and the outside shooting prowess of Culver and Moretti.
Prediction: Texas Tech 79, Buffalo 76