#66 of 351 19% complete
Driving from the airport, I was reminded that I will be seeing the Buffalo Bulls tonight.
I am excited to begin my fifth year visiting college basketball arenas with the goal of seeing a college basketball game at all of the 353 Division 1 schools. I have been asked several times about “Operation 351” when there are 353 schools. Given that this domain name and various media tied to my journey have the “351” incorporated into the name, it would foolish to change the name every time a school pops in and out of Division 1.
Here is a link to the latest changes to Division 1 status: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_schools_reclassifying_their_athletic_programs_to_NCAA_Division_I
I attempted to visit Buffalo last year but had to cancel because of a blizzard. The lesson learned is to schedule cold weather schools early or late in the season. Therefore, I will be visiting Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Binghamton and Cornell in the first two weeks of November. The weather for this Buffalo game was 55 degrees but with a wind blowing very hard.
If you come to a Buffalo game, prepared to look long and hard for parking if you are a visitor with no special privileges. There was a football game going on that night in the stadium next to Alumni Arena which may have exasperated the problem but it was a long blustery walk to the arena.
Many college basketball fans forget that #14 seed Buffalo defeated #3 seed Arizona last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I believe that the UMBC win over Virginia overshadowed the Buffalo win. Buffalo returns three very talented seniors this year and is picked to finish first in the MAC. C.J. Massinburg was picked to be the preseason MAC player of the year. St. Francis (PA) was picked to be first in the NEC. It is rare when two good evenly matched teams play in a season opener.
The game start time was 4PM so as to not clash with the 7PM football game start. The stands were virtually empty at the start but filled up with fans gradually. Given that I travel far and wide for games these day, I get a little paranoid showing up and finding out that the game was sold out. I buy my tickets ahead of time on the school site, Ticketmaster or Stub Hub. There was very little selection left last week so I picked an upper level seat probably paying more than I should have on Stub Hub. As it turns out, many sections are reserved for students and season ticket holders giving the appearance of scarce seats available to the general public. The Alumni Arena has great viewing from all levels so I was happy with my seat even though it was out of range from the many t -shirts thrown into the crowd at every three point basket made.
I vote this gentleman as the best singer of the national anthem in my travels so far. I did not catch his name but his voice belongs in an opera.
I was very impressed with the defense of the Buffalo guards. They drew numerous offensive charges instead of playing the matador defense I am used to seeing these days. Although their three point shooting was off tonight, their relentless pressure on the ball caused St. Francis to take many contested shots.
I saw a first tonight for me in terms of the rules. A player was called for a offensive foul. The refs conferred and reviewed the play. The call was overturned to a blocking foul. I did not not know that this call could be reviewed!
Buffalo pulled away in the second half. One could tell that this team is experienced by the ball flow on offense. They always seem to make the unselfish pass. Look for good things from this Buffalo team as they take on a tough out of league schedule including West Virginia and Cuse.
The highlight of the day was meeting Nate Mendelson who is the sports editor of the Spectrum newspaper at the University of Buffalo. He saw my posts on Reddit and came over to meet me at my seat. He interviewed me for an article in the paper. But the best part was that he invited me to the post game press conference. After the presser was over, he introduced me to coach Nate Oats and told him about my mission. He was genuinely interested as we chatted about Operation 351, his team and his friendship with UCONN coach Dan Hurley. Coach Oats, you have won over this guy to be a lifelong Buffalo fan. Good luck the rest of the way!
Next Game : Bucknell vs. St. Bonaventure 11/8/18