Fresh off a win against St. John’s in the First Four, No. 11-seed Arizona State is back to action this afternoon against No. 6-seed Buffalo in a first round matchup of the NCAA Tournament at the BOK Center.
The obvious storyline going into the contest is the familiarity between ASU head coach Bobby Hurley and Buffalo head coach Nate Oats.
Hurley, who was the head coach of the Bulls prior to ASU, had Oats on his coaching staff as an assistant before Oats took the reigns. Former Sun Devil guard Shannon Evans II even transferred from Buffalo to ASU after Hurley’s move to Tempe. The relationship between Hurley and his former program was something he touched on after Wednesday’s win in Dayton.
“I haven’t really had a lot of time to think about how I am going to feel on Friday but Nate and I spoke and we both agreed that we are really good friends and we both helped each other tremendously in our careers, but that’s probably not going to matter a whole lot on Friday,” Hurley said.
As for what Buffalo brings to the table, they are led by senior guard CJ Massinburg, who is averaging over 18 points per game. The Bulls have three players who are averaging double-figures in scoring between Massingburg, senior forward Nick Perkins, and senior guard Jeremy Harris.
The group is nearly outscoring its opponents by 15 points and they are averaging just under 85 points per contest. Hailing from the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Bulls have won 12 straight games as a mid-major.
They are 31-3 overall and they will be seeking blood after taking the MAC Tournament. Familiarity and plotting each move between Oats and Hurley will likely be a factor, and similar to their performance against St. John’s, the Devils will have to be ready from the opening tip-off.
“I just know watching Nate Oats team’s, they really take on his character and his personality by how hard-nosed and how fiery he is,” Hurley said. “His kids play extremely hard and they have a chip on their shoulder. The whole mid-major thing, I think they are tired of that. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”