Wisconsin will attempt to shake off another long break when the Badgers take on Buffalo at the Kohl Center on Sunday evening. After dispatching Cal last Monday, the Badgers (11-1) head into their final non-conference tilt ranked sixth in the nation.
Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley is exactly who you think he is. The former Duke great is in his second season at the helm of this rising MAC team that took a lead over No. 1 Kentucky into halftime -- in Lexington -- before the Wildcats pulled away late. The Bulls (7-2) are led in scoring by forward Justin Moss (17.3 ppg) and point guard Shannon Evans (14.8), but really shine on the defensive end.
I asked Tim Riordan, one of the fine managers from SB Nation's superb Buffalo site Bull Run, to answer a few questions ahead of Sunday night's game.
B5Q: You don't hear much about Buffalo basketball in these parts. Is there much tradition in the program? What's the most legendary season in modern Bulls history up until now?
Bull Run (Tim): From 1846 to the 1950's UB was a small, private medical and professional school with some minor accomplishments, but nowhere near the top tier of college sports. That changed when the state effectively "bought" the university for the fledgling State University of New York (SUNY) system. By the time the 60's rolled around, UB was reclassified as a major university. Then the social upheaval of the 60's took root and the state's spartan support for athletics was unable to carry UB through the tumultuous period.
Here is a very good read Bull Run did on the school's decision to shutter athletics.
It was not until the late 70's that the school, still barred from giving athletic scholarships by SUNY, started to reintroduce football and began to build back up to Division I. In the 90's the school made the leap and then in 1999 joined the MAC.
UB has been a consistently good MAC program for about 10 years, never winning the conference, but usually among the top 3-4 teams.
B5Q: Two recent connections between UB and the state of Wisconsin are the football team hiring UW-Whitewater's Lance Leipold and Germantown grad Lamonte Bearden making an instant impact at guard for the Bulls basketball team. Explain what Bearden has done well as a freshman so far and how you might see his role growing on the team in the future.
Tim: Beardon came at just the right time. Bobby Hurley brought a new system to UB and the Bulls lost a ton of senior talent after last season. UB lost Javon McCrea, Jarod Oldham, and Josh Freelove. All of whom were great players in their own right, but losing all three at once is painful. Because of the graduations, and Hurley's propensity to use Freshman Beardon has got time right away.
The kid is a natural, very comfortable with the ball and I look forward to great things from him in the future at Buffalo.
B5Q: Buffalo played great for about 30 minutes against Kentucky early in the season and didn't look intimidated at all. What do you think the Bulls learned from that experience that might help them topple Wisconsin?
Tim: What I hope UB walked away with was an appreciation that you only get to play that last 10 minutes one time. If the Bulls have Wisconsin in their sights down the stretch, hopefully they won't get lost in the excitement.
B5Q: It appears that Bobby Hurley has gotten the Bulls to play good defense, especially against three-point shooters, despite playing at a very fast pace. What's Hurley's defensive style overall?
Tim: I'd not put a whole lot of stock in our three-point defense numbers just yet. UB has played a pretty easy schedule to date and not a lot of the teams we have played are great three-point shooters. Hurley runs a very guard-oriented offense and on defense UB seems to mostly try to man up, but the Bulls do change things up.
B5Q: Who is the x-factor in this game for Buffalo offensively?
Tim: Junior forward Justin Moss is the key for Buffalo. If he is on his game it makes it much easier for UB's guards to find decent shots. Coming off the bench, Xavier Ford has been important in many of UB's wins.
B5Q: How do you like Buffalo's chances in the MAC this season?
Tim: If you had asked me before the season, I would have said slim to none, but Hurley's Bulls look like they have been playing this system for years. Right now I think it might be safe to call the Bulls a top 4 team in the MAC and maybe a dark horse to win the division.
The MAC gives the top 2 teams byes into the semi finals so should UB manage a top two finish they have a punchers chance.
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