Buffalo vs Western Michigan Preview and Prediction
Buffalo vs Western Michigan Preview
The Buffalo Bulls (13-5, 5-0) will try to stay red-hot tonight as they head to Kalamazoo, MI tonight to battle with the Western Michigan Broncos (11-7, 3-2).
Buffalo, winners of six straight games are undefeated in conference play (5-0) for the first time this late in the season. UB was 5-0 in 1997-98, which was its final year in the Mid-Continent Conference, but a Buffalo team has never been 6-0 in conference play.
This is a meeting of the two teams picked to win their respective divisions in the MAC preseason poll.
Western Michigan leads the all-time series 13-11 and has had the upper hand in games played in Kalamazoo. The Broncos have won the last three meetings at University Arena and Buffalo has not won at WMU since the 2010-11 season when the Bulls won twice there, including in the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. University Arena is the only arena in the MAC that Nate Oats does not have a victory in.
High Powered Offense
The Bulls have scored at least 80 points in every game during their current six-game winning streak, the first time that UB has scored 80 in six straight games since the 1970-71 season. Should the Bulls score 80 again on Friday evening, it will be the first time in school history, dating back to 1915-16, that Buffalo has done it in seven straight games.
Junior Nick Perkins tied his career high with 26 points off the bench for the Bulls on Tuesday night against Northern Illinois. Perkins has now come off the bench in eight straight games and he is averaging 18.3 points per game in those eight contests.
Perkins is the Bulls best player, and for coach Nate Oates to use him off the bench shows how in-tune with his team he is. Not many elite players in college basketball are not only willing to come off the bench, but perform very well doing so. Perkins has started 32 games in his collegiate career, but is willing to do whatever it takes for the Bulls to win–and they are winning.
The Broncos go wild with Wilder
The Broncos are led by Thomas Wilder, who many picked as the conference’s preseason player of the year. Wilder is averaging 17.6 points per game and leads WMU with 80 assists. Josh Davis is averaging 10.7 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game. Bryce Moore chips in 10.1 points as five Western Michigan players average at least 9.0 points per game.
Western Michigan Coaching Legend
Steve Hawkins stands as the current “Dean of the MAC;” now entering his 15th season as the Broncos’ head coach, he is the longest-tenured head coach in the conference, and his long resume is also bolstered by the long-standing excellence of the Bronco program. He is one of only eight coaches in MAC history to break the overall 200-win barrier, and no other coach in WMU history has ever won 100 MAC games. Hawkins has led the Broncos to overall MAC regular season championships in 2004 and 2014 as well as MAC Tournament championships in those same years, and has guided the Broncos to seven of the program’s eight MAC West division championships as well. Prior to WMU, Hawkins served for nine seasons as head coach of the basketball program at Quincy University in Illinois.
Something’s gotta give…
Western Michigan is allowing just 70.4 points per game in conference play through five games, second fewest in the league. They will have their biggest test of the season though playing a Buffalo team that is averaging 90.2 points per game in conference play.
Junior CJ Massinburg became the newest member of the 1,000-point club in the MAC opener against Toledo as he scored 27 points against the Rockets. Massinburg is the 20th player to score 1,000 points for the Bulls and he is the seventh fastest to do so, achieving it in his 73rd career game, which is quicker than previous MAC Players of the Year Turner Battle, Mitchell Watt, and all-time leading scorer, Javon McRea.
The Bulls are red-hot, but they have not had success playing in Kalamazoo. If they want to have their best conference start in program history Nick Perkins and CJ Massinburg will need to lead the charge. If both players can reach 20 points, the Bulls have a good chance at stealing an impressive road conference win. The Broncos defense is one of the most challenging in the MAC. To me, this is a race to 80 points–if the Bulls hit 80, they win. If the Broncos can hold them under 80 points, Western Michigan will win.
I think we’ll see some offense tonight.
LINE: -4.5 Buffalo
Buffalo 83 Western Michigan 75