Following a lackluster performance in the season opener, the Musketeers will be back in action Monday, Nov. 14 to take on the University of Buffalo. The Bulls are the two-time defending champions of the Mid-American Conference.
Buffalo’s leading scorer from a season ago transferred from the program, but second-year coach Nate Oats still returns some firepower on offense. In their opener against Niagara, the Bulls shot 53 percent from the floor and got a solid 20-point performance out of senior forward Willie Conner. Xavier, who allowed Lehigh to shoot 50 percent from the floor, will need to tighten up their defense.
Like Xavier saw with Lehigh, Buffalo is not a team that should be overlooked. They are a longer team than the Musketeers and have no trouble rebounding the ball. They don’t shoot very well from the charity stripe, but, if Xavier’s interior defense looks as soft as it did in the opener, it may not matter.
Xavier will have a very good chance against Buffalo to improve upon their three-point shooting. The Musketeers, who shot a surprising and underwhelming 23 percent from distance against Lehigh, face a Buffalo team that allowed Niagara to shoot 37 percent from behind the arc.
The keys for Xavier all lie with their own play. Their defense was atrocious in the opener and none of their 17 turnovers were remotely acceptable. The Musketeers will have to value the basketball, make smarter decisions and shoot the long ball better, as that is a big part of their offense. Look for the bigs to step up in game number two as well, as every big man not named Sean O’Mara struggled.
If Ed and Trevon play like the All-Americans we know they are, then Xavier should be able to take down the Bulls. Xavier is the more talented team and I doubt that Chris Mack allows his team to play that poorly two games in a row.