Buffalo did it again.
A month after going into Morgantown and picking off then-No. 13 West Virginia, the now-No. 14 Bulls landed their second road win over a high-major opponent on Tuesday night, making the short jaunt to the Carrier Dome to land a 71-59 win over Syracuse.
Once again, C.J. Massinburg was the star, popping off for 25 points, seven board and five assists in the win as Buffalo remained one of just nine teams that are still undefeated on the season.
As long as Buffalo doesn’t do anything crazy over the course of their league schedule — beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, if you take a loss or three make sure they’re on the road against one of the better teams in the conference — this win should ensure that they are in the thick of the bubble conversation come Selection Sunday. Nothing is a guarantee, not when there is a very real chance that both West Virginia and Syracuse miss the NCAA tournament this season, but there is no question at this point that the Bulls are for real.
The win over Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament last March was not a fluke. The win at West Virginia was not a fluke. And Tuesday night’s win in the Battle for Upstate New York — a game where the Bulls trailed 45-39 in the second half before using a 32-14 run to close out the win — was not a fluke.
What will be interesting to see is how the discourse surrounding Buffalo differs from the likes of Lipscomb, or Furman, or any other mid-major that finds themselves in the midst of a run at an at-large. I discussed this on the podcast this week. While we have all these metrics and all this data and all these numbers to crunch on Selection Sunday, at the end of the day, there are ten human beings in that room that are making the decisions on who is going to be put where in the bracket. Like it or not, biases come into play, intentionally or not. The fact that Buffalo is undefeated with two nationally-televised road wins over major program six weeks into the season is something that is going to resonate.
We went into the season thinking that Buffalo was a team that was good enough to win games in March, so won’t these two wins help to reinforce that notion? And if that’s the case, isn’t there a chance — no matter how slim — that bias gets carried over into the selection process?
The good news for Nate Oates is that it probably won’t matter for his Buffalo team at this point, particularly if they go into Milwaukee on Friday and beat Marquette.
What might actually be more interesting now is whether or not the Orange will find their way into the dance.
As of today, Syracuse is 7-4 on the season. They lost to UConn. They lost to Oregon. They’ve now lost back-to-back home games to Old Dominion and Buffalo. They can’t score and the guys we all thought had taken a step forward haven’t. The ACC will provide Syracuse plenty of chances, and frankly, given recent history, sneaking into the tournament as a No. 10 or No. 11 seed is not necessarily a bad thing for the Orange these days.
But it is clear that Syracuse is not as good as we thought they were heading into the season.