Texas Tech seeks a repeat Sweet 16, while Buffalo is in pursuit of its first ever
Success in the NCAA Tournament is nothing new for either the Buffalo Bulls or Texas Tech Red Raiders. For a second straight season, Buffalo blasted a team from the state of Arizona to advance to the Round of 32, but the Bulls now aim for a program-first Sweet 16 run.
That will have to come at the expense of a Texas Tech squad that made the Tournament's second weekend a season ago. Under head coach Chris Beard, the Red Raiders boast the most efficient defense in college basketball. They used it in the first round to stymie Horizon League champion Northern Kentucky, but face a taller task stopping Buffalo's No. 19-ranked adjusted efficiency offense.
West Region: No. 6 Buffalo Bulls (32-3) vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (27-6)
Time: 6:10 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Where: Bank of Oklahoma Center (Tulsa, Okla.)
Keys for Buffalo
Buffalo has a knack for breaking off lengthy scoring runs, setting up fast-break opportunities both off of turnovers and aggressive pushes down the floor off opponent shots. The two most recent games offer different examples of what can happen when Buffalo starts forcing the tempo. Arizona State fell behind big early and never had a chance to rally, while Bowling Green in the MAC Tournament Championship saw a lead evaporate quickly.
Buffalo's No. 10 overall adjusted tempo needs to be clicking against the outstanding defense of Texas Tech. In addition to creating fast scoring opportunities off the break, Buffalo's 3-pointers must fall to have a chance to advanced. UB features one of the better collective 3-point-shooting groups in the NCAA Tournament, with Nick Perkins, Jayvon Graves, Jeremy Harris, and C.J. Massinburg all having shot at least 123 on the season. With the exception of Harris, all have made at least 37.4 percent of their 3-pointers on the year, a torrid pace for a group as free with the deep ball as these Bulls.
Keys for Texas Tech
Of all the possible opponents in the NCAA Tournament field, Texas Tech may be best equipped to handle Buffalo's big-run ability. The Red Raiders are one of the most prolific turnover-generating defenses in college basketball, as well as one of the best at denying 3-pointers with an opponent average of 29.6 percent.
Texas Tech thrives on the defensive end but has more than enough firepower on offense to keep pace. In particular, the Red Raiders can turn to role player Tariq Owens on the interior in this matchup against a Buffalo team whose tallest player seeing significant minutes is 6-foot-8 Nick Perkins. Should Tech limit Buffalo's scoring opportunities and make effective use of interior offense, the Red Raiders should be on their way to another Sweet 16.
This West Region showdown might be the most noteworthy clash in styles in the Round of 32. Buffalo's exciting and potent offense poses a threat to any opponent, but Texas Tech is uniquely adept at forcing bad shots and turnovers to create their own scoring opportunities.
This is one likely to have a result determined in the relatively early going. If Buffalo can pounce early, as it did in the first round, the Bulls will have the edge against a Texas Tech team not designed to play catch-up. Conversely, Tech's oppressive defense means an early lead could be insurmountable — even for Buffalo's up-and-down style of play.
Prediction: Texas Tech 71, Buffalo 65