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2018 MAC Men’s Basketball Preview: #14 Buffalo Bulls vs Syracuse Orange

Bulls try to stay undefeated against tough ACC opponent

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The #14 ranked Buffalo Bulls (10-0) will waltz into the Carrier Dome with their untarnished record to take on the Syracuse Orange (7-3). The Bulls have certainly impressed people in 2018 thus far. Buffalo shocked the nation by taking down West Virginia earlier in the year, and since then have been able to take down their opponents with ease. The Orange have played well, beating the likes of Ohio State and Georgetown, to name a few. However, they have fallen at the hands of Connecticut, Oregon, and most recently Old Dominion. This will really be Buffalo’s first tough task since beating West Virginia in November.

Buffalo Bulls

The most impressive thing about the Bulls this season has been their offensive consistency. This stellar offensive attack has been led by senior guard CJ Massinburg. As a whole, the Bulls are averaging 85.2 points per game, and Massinburg is accounting for 17.2 of those points. This is not all that surprising as the Bulls averaged 84.6 points per game just a season ago. However, head coach Nate Oats was determined to fix the Bulls defense in the offseason. Buffalo allowed 76.2 points per game last season, meanwhile, in 2018 they are allowing just 67.4 points per game. Buffalo has held opponents to under 65 points in five out of their 10 games this season.

Players To Watch

CJ Massinburg SR - G - 6-3: Massinburg is the key for the Buffalo Bulls to have success against Power Five schools. Massinburg is a prolific scorer and can rebound the ball extremely well for a guard at his height. The Texas native scored 43 points against West Virginia, while also corralling 14 boards and making nine triples.

Nick Perkins SR - F - 6-8: Perkins has been just as crucial as Massinburg in 2018 but in a different light. This 250 pound forward is the key rebounder for the Bulls. Perkins is averaging 8.2 rebounds per game, while also contributing on the offensive end with 13.8 points per game. Perkins will be going up against Oshae Brissett, Syracuse’s top rebounder, in this game. With a size and experience advantage, Perkins should be able to exploit this matchup.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at St. Bonaventure Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange

The Orange have had an inconsistent start to 2018. Not in a bad way, however, they have losses to Old Dominion and Connecticut, and a narrow victory over Georgetown. One thing Syracuse has done a good job of this season is defense. The Orange possess a Top 30 defense in the NCAA, by allowing just 62.8 points per game. However, it has been on the other side of the ball where they have struggled. Syracuse has scored over 75 points just twice this season, and those two games were against Morehead State and Colgate. If the Syracuse offense cannot produce a big game, it will be a tough task to hold Buffalo under 75 points.

Players To Watch

Tyus Battle JR - G - 6-6: Battle has been the offensive life line for this Syracuse team. The junior guard is averaging 18.5 points per game and has scored over 22 points in three of his last four contests. Battle can score from just about anywhere and has surprisingly good ball skills for his size.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Howard SR - G - 6-5: Syracuse has Oshae Brissett and Elijah Hughes who both average around 14 points per game, but their production relies on their ball moving guard, Frank Howard. The senior leader of this team missed the first four games of the season, and the Orange clearly missed him as they lost two games in that four-game stretch. Howard is a great passer and adds a whole other element on the defensive end for Syracuse.

Prediction

This will be one of the toughest defenses Buffalo has had to face, while this will be one of the toughest offenses Syracuse has had to face. The key to this game for the Bulls is getting out to an early lead and not letting up, and the key for Syracuse will be to halt the offensive outbursts that the Bulls have, led by none other than CJ Massinburg.

Score Prediction

Buffalo: 79

Syracuse: 73