There’s no rest for the 14th-ranked Buffalo Bulls.
Just three days after their huge 12-point win against the Syracuse Orange the Bulls put their 11-0 record on the line when they do battle with a fellow top-25 team, the Marquette Golden Eagles (9-2), who sit six spots behind the Bulls at #20 in the country.
When: Friday, Dec. 21st at 8:30 PM (7:30 CST)
Where: Fiserv Forum - Milwaukee, WI (17,500 capacity)
Odds: Marquette has a 60.5% chance to win according to ESPN’s BPI predictor
Buffalo enters this game second in the MAC in scoring and scoring defense, averaging just under 84 points per game while giving up just 66.6 points per game; allowing teams to score 70+ points just four times this season (most recently on December 1st). It’s a big improvement from last year’s team that allowed nearly 10 more points per game (76.2).
After a slow start against Syracuse, the Bulls really picked it up in the final ten minutes of the game, pulling away late from the Orange and winning by a dozen. A big reason for their late surge was the massive rebound disparity, Buffalo out-rebounded Syracuse 48-35 and, if they want to stay perfect against Marquette, they’ll need another performance like that as the Golden Eagles are snagging 40 rebounds per game (best in the Big East) while only allowing an average of 33 boards to opponents.
Players to watch
CJ Massinburg: The senior guard rarely rests, playing nearly 33 minutes per game. And he doesn’t waste many of those minutes. He’s dropped 13+ points in each of the last seven games, including a 25-point performance against Syracuse, and been in double-digits in nine of the ten games he’s played. He’s also averaging 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
Nick Perkins: Buffalo’s senior forward is second on the team in scoring, netting 13.5 points in his 25 minutes per game. While he struggled some in the last game, shooting just 30% for 10 points, he does have three games with 20+ points and leads the team in rebounds and blocks, with 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Marquette Golden Eagles
Marquette is no stranger to playing Top-25 teams, as this is their fourth game against a ranked opponent this season.
The Eagles are riding a six game winning streak into the contest and haven’t lost since the #2 Kansas Jayhawks edged them by nine points back on November 21st. In those six wins they’ve beaten the #12 team twice; the Kansas State Wildcats and then the very next week they beat the Wisconsin Badgers who took over the #12-spot.
Like the Bulls, they’re only giving up 66.6 points per game, with only four teams scoring 70+ against them, but the Eagles are only scoring 77.5 points per game and shooting 45.7% from the field.
Players to Watch
Markus Howard: Marquette’s junior guard leads the team in playing time (34.8 minutes per game), scoring (23.2 points per game), assists (4.5 per game), and steals (1.2 per game) and is the main reason the Golden Eagles have done as well as they have. His 23.3 points per game is best in the Big East and 14th in the NCAA. He’s been in double-digits every game this season and has scored 20+ in the last four games, including a 45-point performance against Kansas State and a 27-point game against Wisconsin.
The Hausers: Marquette has a pair of brothers that have done very well for them.
Sam Hauser, a 6-8 junior forward, is averaging 31 minutes per game. His 6.8 rebounds per game leads Marquette and he’s second on the team with 14.7 points per game.
His younger brother, Joey Hauser, a freshman, is right behind him. Joey is averaging 10.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in his 27.6 minutes per game.
While Buffalo has certainly played well, and will probably run through the MAC, this game is certainly their biggest challenge since taking on West Virginia back in early November.
Marquette has the home field advantage and has played a consistently harder schedule than the Bulls so they won’t shocked by the skills Buffalo will bring to Milwaukee.
Buffalo has the offensive firepower to keep their record spotless and get to 12-0 but they will need to rebound the way they did against Syracuse. If they can get on the boards, especially on the offensive side, they should be able to pull this one out. But, if Marquette is able to limit them on the glass and second change opportunities, I could see the Golden Eagles sneaking out with a close victory.
Buffalo Bulls - 81
Marquette Golden Eagles - 77