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Staring Down The Musket At...The Buffalo Bulls: A Q&A With Bull Run

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The Mountaineers are back in the NCAA tournament, and they begin play tomorrow in Columbus, facing off with the MAC champion Buffalo Bulls. Matt from Bull Run took the time to join me for a round of Q&A.

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Matt: I will admit that I know very, very little about Buffalo. Like you asked me, give me a one-shot, quick answer to describe the Bulls.

Buffalo Matt: I generally have three or four key qualities of this team to roll out, so to just boil it down to one is tougher. Let's put it this way: they are a group molded in their coach's image. They are in top fitness, take care of the ball, and feed off emotion and attention.

Matt: Working from that, can you give me a brief description of your offense and defense, and a couple players to watch?

Buffalo Matt: With the ball, UB wants to run and they love to score in transition. In the half court each of Lamonte Bearden and Shannon Evans are averaging 4+ assists per game, and whether through those guards or forward Justin Moss they draw a ton of fouls. They much prefer to get the ball to the rim than to shoot from outside. They also like to do fun things, so there will probably be a big putback slam or alley-oop at some point regardless of the score or momentum.

On defense, Buffalo doesn't press as aggressively as WVU, but generates a lot of steals without fouling much themselves. On their better days, they're very good at limiting the perimeter enough to give a second player time to bring in help defense on the post. He (likely) won't fill up the stat sheet but a good name to follow here is Will Regan, a senior leader and Buffalo native who's your classic 'coach on the court.' He's rarely in the wrong place defensively.

Matt: How did going on the road early on this season and competing against teams like Kentucky and Wisconsin help this team grow up as it went through it’s MAC schedule?

Buffalo Matt: The Kentucky and Wisconsin games were definitely a big part of this season. The success in Lexington through 28 minutes forced Hurley to reevaluate his goals for the year, and Wisconsin was another chance to play. I'm sure your readers have seen in preview pieces that Buffalo's on an eight-game winning streak. That started when we were 6-6, sitting 7th in conference, and struggling to play a full 40 minutes. I think the experience on the big stages showed this team, even with only two seniors, that they could beat anyone in the MAC and they just needed to focus. Since then, they've won, and done it in a variety of ways.

tl;dr this team is pretty young but also has learned to love the stage, which they've used to see how good they can be. Also this answer to your question has zero basketball analysis whatsoever.

Matt: How much pressure have you faced this season, and how have the Bulls fared against it so far? Like I said in my responses to you, West Virginia is going to press until one of us dies, and we are not a fun team to play against.

Buffalo Matt: Like I said above, this team is super-fit and loves to run. We've seen a fair amount of press at times when teams realized games were getting away from them, but nobody's used the press successfully on the Bulls. They're used to playing fast, so taking 7 seconds to get the ball over isn't the end of the world for executing the offense. Granted, I'm talking about, like, Robert Morris, Grand Canyon State, and UT-Arlington here.

Also granted, they've definitely seen nothing like WVU. At the same time, they're smart and facile with the ball. Regan's height will play a big role in helping break over the line I imagine, and we'll see. I'll confess I still haven't watched any WVU film. I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN.

Turnovers will go up, sure, but I think WVU's offensive rebounding acumen is a much bigger threat to UB

Matt: You’re a chic upset pick this week. If you listen to some pundits, it would be an upset if WVU went to Columbus and knocked you guys off? Do you think that talk is adding more pressure to your team?

Buffalo Matt: Boy, I sure hope not. I just don't have any way of knowing what they're thinking. I do know that they play best when they're having fun and playing loose. I hope that finally having a good deal of Buffalo actually behind them instead of treating them like afterthoughts is working its way into their day-to-day more than national media.

Thanks again to Matt for the insights. You can follow Bull Run on Twitter