|Buffalo seeks respect as it faces Texas Tech|
Buffalo has been an overlooked program that continues to pile up victories.
Now the Bulls are one win away from being labeled as a Sweet 16 program.
Sixth-seeded Buffalo (32-3) looks to solidify itself as a March Madness force and aims to notch its 14th consecutive victory when it faces third-seeded Texas Tech (27-6) on Sunday in West Region play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Tulsa, Okla.
The Bulls recorded the second NCAA tourney win in school history on Friday when they rolled to a 91-74 victory over 11th-seeded Arizona State. Their first win also came against a Pac-12 school as Buffalo routed Arizona 89-68 in last season's first round.
While the trouncing of Arizona ripped up brackets all over the country, national respect didn't follow until late this season as this edition of the Bulls set a school mark for victories.
Star senior guard CJ Massinburg took notice and had a postgame message for the naysayers.
"For me, I would say that there still is one more statement to be made, just prove we belong with anybody in the country," Massinburg said during a press conference. "Some people that picked us to lose this game that we just played, so they might have thought that 'hey, they're just being hyped all year' and stuff like that.
"So I think we can play with anybody in the country, and we're going to try to make this deeper run."
Beating a sturdy Texas Tech squad that reached the Elite Eight last season would certainly qualify as an attention-grabbing victory.
The Red Raiders registered a 72-57 victory over 14th-seeded Northern Kentucky on Friday when they forced the Norse into 17 turnovers and limited them to 37.1 percent shooting.
Texas Tech was playing for the first time since a disappointing 79-74 loss to West Virginia in its first (and only) game of the Big 12 tournament on March 14.
"Put that behind us, learned and burned," star sophomore guard Jarrett Culver said in the postgame press conference. "We just focused on us, details, how we got so far and how we made a run in the Big 12 and how we got to the March Madness tournament."
Culver was in stellar form against Northern Kentucky as he recorded 29 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
"The secret is out," Red Raiders coach Chris Beard said of Culver after the contest. "Simply stated, I think Jarrett is one of the best players in college basketball. How do you go from being non-top recruit and two years later you're a lottery pick?"
Despite Culver's contributions, it is the stingy defense that fuels the Red Raiders as Friday's game marked the 17th time the club has held the opponent under 60 points. Texas Tech is allowing 59.2 points per game.
Meanwhile, the up-tempo Bulls scored 90 for the seventh time on Friday while boosting their season average to 85.1.
Beard is well aware that the NCAA Tournament is filled with matchups where the styles clash. His squad beat Stephen F. Austin, Florida and Purdue last year before falling to eventual national champion Villanova with a Final Four spot on the line.
So he has simplified it for his club: All that matters is winning twice in Tulsa.
"For our guys, we came here and it's a four-team tournament," Beard said. "We're trying to win two games in three days. The first game of the tournament is always the toughest."
Now the Bulls want to make the second game the toughest for Texas Tech.
"When the horn went off, we didn't celebrate as much because we feel like we can play with anybody in the country," Buffalo senior guard Jeremy Harris said in the press conference. "So I mean, it's good to get a win, but we're not done yet."
--Field Level Media