Published March 17, 2019
Oh, what a story line it will be.
UB men’s basketball drew the No. 6 seed in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, setting the stage for a potential matchup between former Bulls head coach Bobby Hurley and Nate Oats, UB’s current leader whom Hurley plucked from the high school ranks.
The Bulls are headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where their first-round opponent will be the winner of the 11-Arizona State/St. John’s play-in game scheduled for Wednesday.
Hurley is the head coach at Arizona State. He led UB for two seasons before taking the job with the Sun Devils in 2015. Oats was Hurley’s top assistant for both of his seasons in Buffalo, including 2014-15, when the Bulls earned their first-ever trip to the Big Dance.
“You think it was coincidence?” Oats said moments after the MAC champion Bulls learned where they were headed when the bracket was revealed during the Selection Sunday show, which aired nationally on CBS.
“Coach Hurley gave me my shot,” said Oats, who was a high school coach and math teacher in the Detroit area before coming to UB. “I pull for him, I watch a lot of games, we talk a lot.” But, Oats said regarding a potential ASU-UB matchup: “Mostly, it’s not going to be fun for his sake.”
The play-in game presents a bit of a challenge for the Bulls, who for the early part of this week will have to prepare for either Arizona State or St. John’s. On the other hand, UB has an advantage in that the play-in game winner has to travel from Dayton, Ohio, to Tulsa on short notice and prep for the Bulls.
UB will be ready, no matter the opponent. “You really don’t need motivation to play hard in March,” said MAC Tournament MVP Jeremy Harris. “We’re just going to wait patiently, work on UB, and get ready for the game.”
This will be UB’s fourth March Madness appearance in five seasons. And, for the first time ever, the whole country got to see the Bulls’ reaction: A CBS Sports camera was on site at Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grill on Transit Road, where a packed house of UB supporters joined the team for the reveal. The crowd booed loudly when Syracuse — which UB defeated earlier in the season — was announced as the No. 8 seed in the West, the final bracket to be unveiled.
The Santora’s crowd went berserk a few minutes later when UB’s name was finally announced. “Just the turnout here at Santora’s was unbelievable and us being able to have CBS here to broadcast our reaction live, first time that’s ever happened, was exciting,” said UB Director of Athletics Mark Alnutt.
Oats was texting his good friend Danny Hurley, Bobby’s brother, at the start of the Selection Sunday show. “Once it got to the last bracket and we hadn’t been called and they hadn’t been called and I had seen projections — I knew we were going to be a six seed once the four and five showed and we weren’t there. I texted him, ‘They did it to us.’ Not ideal, but we’re in the tournament. We got a great seed,” Oats said.
Buffalo enters the NCAA Tournament with a 31-3 record, tied with Houston for the best mark in the country entering postseason play. The Bulls have won 12 straight games, most recently taking down Bowling Green in Cleveland on Saturday to capture their second straight MAC Tournament championship and fourth conference tournament title in five years. UB’s six seed is the highest for a MAC program since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
UB’s game will tip off at approximately 4 p.m. Eastern time on Friday and will air nationally on TNT. The winner advances to the round of 32 and would play again in Tulsa on Sunday.
The UB Ticket Office will start taking ticket order requests at 11 a.m. today. All orders will be fulfilled based on Blue and White Fund Loyalty Point Ranking. Tickets are $100 or $66. All ticket orders are for both first- and second-round games. (The second-round game will only be charged should the Bulls advance.)
Fresh off of their upset of Ohio in the MAC Tournament on Saturday, the UB women’s team will find out where it’s going in the NCAA Tournament during the Selection Monday show, which airs at 7 tonight on ESPN.