From 13-seed to 6-seed, from Tucson foe to Tempe opponent, from Boise to Tulsa, not much changed for the Buffalo Bulls.
For the second-consecutive year, Buffalo’s offense exploded in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, taking another Pac-12 team from the Grand Canyon State as its victim. The 6-seed Bulls demolished 11-seed Arizona State in all facets of the game, sprinting to the Round of 32 with a 91-74 victory.
Head coach Nate Oats earned his second tournament win with Buffalo, which also marks the program’s second March Madness victory in history. Last year, Buffalo upset 4-seed Arizona behind stellar 3-point shooting. In an impressive sequel, the Bulls’ explosive offense controlled the contest against former Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley — who brought Buffalo its first tournament appearance in 2015 — and his Sun Devils .
After a sloppy start with plenty of stoppages, Buffalo trailed the Sun Devils, 14-10, by the 12:46 mark of the first half. The Bulls’ fifth-ranked scoring offense picked up the pace and created plenty of fast-break opportunities to alter the scene of the game. Those run-and-gun opportunities led to transition threes, easy layups, and several throwdown dunks. Buffalo spurred a 14-2 run, and its offense only continued gaining momentum. A high-arcing C.J. Massinburg three followed by a steal and fast-break slam by Jayvon Graves handed the Bulls a 31-19, commanding 12-point lead just minutes after the 14-2 run completed.
Buffalo entered halftime maintaining a double-digit advantage, 44-31, and there was never a major comeback scare.
Hurley, trying to give Buffalo different looks, switched his Sun Devils defense from man to a zone. Still, his coaching tactic had no effect. Although a Romello White layup cut Arizona State’s deficit to nine in the early second half, Buffalo picked up its outside shooting and the rest was history.
Massinburg nailed a team-high four threes for the Bulls, attaining 18 points in the blowout victory. Buffalo finished with four scorers in double-digits, which included Massinburg, Graves, Jeremy Harris, and Nick Perkins. Perkins, the MAC Sixth Man of the Year, recorded a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double off the bench, providing an effective spark for the Bulls after a slow start to the first half.
Buffalo’s defense stifled Arizona State’s shooting throughout the afternoon in Tulsa. The Sun Devils were outshot 37.0-13.6 percent from three by the Bulls. Arizona State also suffered on the glass, where Buffalo hauled in 42 rebounds compared to the Devils’ 26. Buffalo pieced together a complete performance on college basketball’s biggest stage once again, securing its second tournament win — although this time, as a favorite.
Up next for Buffalo (32-3) is 3-seed Texas Tech (27-6), who ousted Northern Kentucky, 72-57, after a dominant second half Friday afternoon. The Bulls succumbed to 5-seed Kentucky in the 2018 Round of 32 and will hope for a different end result this time. If Oats’ team can snatch a win from the Red Raiders, Buffalo will once again shatter its own record for its best March Madness appearance in history and reach the Sweet Sixteen.