1. Buffalo Bulls (23-8, 15-3) vs. 8 Central Michigan Chippewas (19-13, 7-11) -8.5
The MAC doesn’t really do their higher seeds any favors when it comes to the conference tournament. For most of the season, the Buffalo Bulls have been the No. 1 team in conference play. They have been rewarded with playing No. 8 seed Central Michigan Chippewas in the quarterfinals. Yes, the Chippewas had to play a first-round game to advance. However, the first-round games were played on Monday. Each team has had a full two days off before the quarterfinal matchups on Thursday.
In the first meeting, the Bulls defeated the Chippewas, 88-82. The win was nice. However, the Bulls added three losses around the same time and that greatly impacted their ability to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls have a 32 RPI rank. However, one has to wonder if it’s feasible to see a Mid-American team with 9 losses get into the Field of 68 as an At-large team. Therefore, the Bulls better be prepared to play and win three MAC Tournament games. Otherwise, there may not be any dancing in western New York. Currently, the Bulls are projected as No. 13 seed.
If you haven’t seen the Bulls, you’re missing out. They average 85 points per game this season. That’s No. 4 in country. They have outscored MAC opponents by 13 points per game. One reason, the three conference losses were by a combined eight points. Moreover, the Bulls have some of the best guard play in the country. Therefore, they have opportunities to control the pace of every game.
Four players are scoring double figure points. C.J. Massinburg leads the Bulls with 17.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. More importantly, Massingburg only turns the ball over 1.7 times per game. If the rest of the ball handlers follow his lead, they should thrive in the open court. In all the Bulls average around 13 turnovers per game. They should try to get the number under 10 during the conference tournament. Still, the Bulls have to continue to play at their up tempo pace.
The Chippewas also have four players that score in double figures on a regular basis. Cecil Williams leads the team with 15.2 points per game. He’s also 1 of 4 players with at least five rebounds per game. They have good size to match up with the Bulls. That’s why the first meeting was competitive. However, the Chippewas don’t shoot the 3-point shot at an amazing clip.
They lead the conference with 27.6 3-point attempts per game. Yet, they only make 9.3 3-pointers per game. That equates to around 34 percent from downtown. Meanwhile, the Bulls shoot over 38 percent from 3-point range. They attempt 24.6 3-pointers per game and make 9.4 shots from beyond the arc. See, it’s slightly better production on fewer attempts. That’s where the Bulls need to take advantage in the quarterfinals.
Score Prediction- Buffalo 85 – Central Michigan 78