BracketBusting in South Dakota
Buffalo Looks to Start a New Winning Streak
Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
After playing 12 straight games in the Mid-American Conference, the men's basketball team will now step out of the league – and time zone – to play its next contest.
The Bulls (16-7, 9-3 MAC) will face South Dakota State (21-7, 13-3 Summit League) in part of the SEARS ESPN BracketBusters series. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
The Jackrabbits come into the contest undefeated on their home floor this season (11-0), and are in the midst of their best season ever in the Division 1 ranks. Buffalo will likely experience a hostile environment in Frost Arena Saturday, as they are expecting a large crowd on hand for the school's first nationally televised contest.
The key to slowing down South Dakota State will be slowing down Jackrabbit's junior guard Nate Wolters. Wolters is scoring at a clip of almost 22 points per game and has been the type of explosive guard that the Bulls have struggled to contain this season.
"We've got to go into it with the mindset that we're not going to let [Wolters] get anything easy," said Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon. "Sometimes he makes it look easy, but we want to make him work to get what he gets."
That responsibility will rest with the top of Buffalo zone to not allow the junior to get into the lane too easily. Wolters isn't known for being the most prolific shooter, so much of his successes come off of the dribble.
"He's hard to stay in front of and he's very good on the break," said South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy. "The one weakness he has is that he hasn't shot the ball great from the outside. But…when he does he's impossible to stay in front of."
Where Wolters and the Jackrabbits backcourt excel, their frontcourt falters. Their usual seven-man rotation boasts just two players over 6-foot-6, and the tallest player to receive significant playing time stands at only 6-foot-8.
For the two Bulls' leading scorers – senior forward Mitchell Watt, and sophomore forward Javon McCrea – the matchup appears to be a favorable one as even Nagy isn't sure how to stop the two big men.
"I don't know quite frankly," Nagy said when asked about his game plan for the Bulls. "They can considerably overpower us inside, the only team in our league that would be similar to that would be Oral Roberts. I don't know if we'll go zone or how, but it's going to be a big challenge for us."
On the South Dakota State side, the 6-foot-8 forward Jordan Dykstra is the only formidable interior matchup for the Bulls' bigs, and Nagy insists that guarding the paint will be more of a team effort than something that Dykstra will have to face alone.
"It ain't going to go down to one guy," Nagy said. "All five guys need to help, the only problem is that [Buffalo] shoots the ball well too, so you have to pick your poison."
Buffalo isn't the only team who can put points up, the Jackrabbits are 17th in the nation at scoring at just under 79 points per game, and their up-tempo play is something that the Bulls will have to cope with in order to pull off the road victory.
This game has little bearing on the Bulls' season, as the MAC is traditionally a one-bid league to the NCAA tournament. And, the contest comes at a brutal time, in the midst of the squad's second trip through the grueling MAC East.
"It's a challenge," Witherspoon said. "We're at a stage where we're coming down the stretch with our conference opponents, and we're trying to focus in on that. Now we're out of that and facing a team we don't know a whole lot about so it's a challenge."
Buffalo will face that challenge head on Saturday at 1 p.m.