Published March 12, 2018
There hasn’t been anything fancy about the UB men’s basketball team this season. No dominant player who’s carried the team on his back all year. The offense, though high scoring, hasn’t followed a finesse-filled, razzle-dazzle formula.
No, the Bulls have been all meat and potatoes. That’s why it seems fitting that the Bulls’ assignment for the NCAA Tournament has them headed to America’s titan of tuber producers — Idaho.
UB garnered the 13-seed in the South Region bracket and will take on fourth-seeded Arizona on Thursday in Boise in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The game will take place at Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State campus. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS.
The Bulls earned the automatic bid — their third in the past four years — after topping Toledo Saturday night in the MAC Tournament championship game.
The women’s basketball team, which fell to top-seeded Central Michigan in the MAC championship game, will learn their fate when the women’s NCAA tourney bracket is revealed tonight.
A throng of Bulls fans packed Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill on Transit Road Sunday evening for an NCAA selection-show watch party. The 68-team tournament field was unveiled during the two-hour broadcast, which aired nationally on TBS starting at 6 p.m.
UB fans didn’t have to wait long to find out where their Bulls were headed. At 6:22 p.m., show host Greg Gumbel announced the Bulls’ pairing, and the Santora’s crowd went berserk. The Bulls basketball team, seated in front of a large projection screen, local television news cameras trained on them in anticipation of the announcement, jumped out of their chairs in excitement.
“It’s great to see so much Buffalo pride and so many people supporting the team,” said UB freshman Mary Clare Kuhn, who watched the Bulls win the MAC tourney in Cleveland.
This will be the second time a UB team has played a postseason game in Boise. The football team played there five years ago in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. “Anybody that went to the Potato Bowl in 2013 knows Boise is a really cool city. If you’ve never been to Idaho, and I’m assuming most of you haven’t, it is worth thinking about making the trip,” said the voice of the Bulls, Paul Peck, who emceed the watch party.
When asked for his thoughts on Boise, Bulls senior Wes Clark said, “I don’t know too much about Boise but potatoes, but I’ve heard it’s a nice place, so I’m looking forward to seeing the atmosphere there.”
Thursday’s game will be the first meeting between Buffalo and Arizona. The 15th-ranked Wildcats will be just the third Pac-12 school that UB has faced. Arizona (27-7 overall) boasts one of the nation’s best players in DeAndre Ayton, a projected top-three NBA Draft pick. Still, says Bulls forward Nick Perkins, “I don’t think they’ve seen anything like us all year, a team that can get out and run, with our size.”
“It’s gonna be a war for sure,” added Nate Oats, the MAC Coach of the Year. “Usually you win in the NCAA tournament with guards and I like our guard play against them.”
A Bulls victory on Thursday would be historic — UB has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game, although they played tough in their two previous appearances. UB lost to West Virginia in 2015 in its first-ever trip to the Big Dance, and was ousted by Miami in 2016.
The Buffalo-Arizona winner will face the winner of the game between No. 5 Kentucky and No. 12 Davidson on Saturday.
A limited number of tickets are available for Thursday’s game. Seating priority will be given to UB students and Blue & White Fund donors based on loyalty points. Tickets will be $100. Fans must commit to purchasing tickets for both the first and second rounds, but will only be charged for second-round tickets if the Bulls advance. Visit UBBulls.com or call the UB Athletics Ticket Office at 1-877-UB-THERE for more information.