By Hunter Hart
After taking home the 2017-18 Mid American Conference title, the Buffalo Bulls are back at the top of the conference and poised to return to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years.
The Bulls came into the 2018 NCAA Tournament as a 13-seed. Their reward for winning the MAC was a chance to face off against last year’s No. 1 NBA Draft selection DeAndre Ayton and the 4-seed Arizona Wildcats.
‘Zona was a popular pick in brackets to make a run to the Final Four. Buffalo quickly ended that discussion, winning the game 89-68 and advancing to the second round.
This year, the Bulls won’t be sneaking up on anybody. They are projected as a six-seed according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi. Even with a loss in the conference tournament, it is still very likely that Buffalo will make it to the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid, and the MAC would send two teams to the dance.
Potential bid-stealers include Toledo and Kent State. The Rockets captured the MAC West crown and is hitting its stride at the right time. Toledo is on a five game win streak going into the conference tournament.
Kent State features one of the best guards in the country in Jaylin Walker. The senior led the Golden Flashes to the 2017 NCAA Tournament in his sophomore campaign, and is averaging 22 points per game this season. As we’ve seen in the past, one player can often take over a conference tournament (think Kemba Walker and Connecticut in 2011) and carry his team to the Big Dance.
While those teams may provide a test for Buffalo, the Bulls are too talented and too deep to fall in the conference tournament. They will return to the tournament for the second straight season and will be a darkhorse to potentially make the Final Four.