It turns out Buffalo had a secret weapon to knock off Arizona in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Boise — Timberline High’s hospitality.
Several of Buffalo’s players like to shoot late at night, and Timberline accommodated the Bulls this week, letting them use the school’s gym as late as 11 p.m.
Those late-night sessions paid off as the 13th-seeded Bulls made 15-of-30 3-pointers to upset fourth-seeded Arizona at Taco Bell Arena, tied for the largest upset so far at the tournament.
Buffalo coach Nate Oats quickly thanked Timberline for keeping the Bulls in their rhythm after the bracket-busting upset.
“Tell them that’s why we made 15 out of 30 (3-pointers),” Oats said.
Located less than 10 minutes from Taco Bell Arena, Timberline has served as a makeshift practice facility for many of the teams in Boise for the NCAA Tournament. The school hosted four teams — Buffalo, Ohio State, South Dakota State and Davidson — Wednesday, clearing its gym and pushing its physical education classes outside or to auxiliary gyms to make room for the out-of-town visitors.
“Those guys come walking through and students all around are just completely in awe of their size and talent,” Timberline Athletic Director Tol Gropp said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Gropp said other high school athletic directors in the area have teased him to share the wealth. But Timberline isn’t the only school hosting marquee teams this week.
Kentucky utilized Mountain View’s gym. Arizona practiced at Borah. UNC Greensboro used both Northwest Nazarene and Bishop Kelly. And Gonzaga used its ties to get court time at Bishop Kelly.
Bishop Kelly graduate Cory Violette played at Gonzaga from 2000-01 to 2003-04. And Max Rice, the son of Boise State coach Leon Rice, a former Gonzaga assistant, attends Bishop Kelly.
Kentucky opened its practices to Mountain View’s boys and girls basketball teams, and Mavericks boys basketball coach Jon Nettleton said Kentucky coach John Calipari was gracious with his time.
“He came in and shook everyone’s hand and introduced himself, as if we didn’t know who he was,” Nettleton said. “He was very cordial and personable. He talked to me and a couple of the other coaches on my staff for about 10 minutes before practice. He just told us some stories about being out here, of course the DK Donuts thing, which is blowing up on social media.”
Calipari has raved about the Downtown Boise donut shop and visited it for at least the third time Friday.
Nettleton said he learned a few new drills and plays he’ll use next season from Kentucky. But as a coach, he also enjoyed watching the blueblood program put a game plan in place and then execute it at the NCAA Tournament.
“It was so fun to watch the game because I knew exactly what players were supposed to be doing, and then you see it happen,” Nettleton said. “And sometimes you see a mistake and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s what he was talking about.’ ”
Borah boys basketball coach Jeremy Dennis said the largest takeaway from watching Arizona practice was its tempo. The Wildcats surprised him with their short practices that crammed in hours worth of sets and information in a fraction of the time.
“They were awesome, really nice guys,” Dennis said. “The coaches came up to us, and the players thanked us. It was quite the experience.”
Dennis joked his only regret was agreeing to take a picture with Arizona’s 7-foot-1 freshman Deandre Ayton, the projected No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft.
“The dude is a monster. He is so big and thick and athletic. I unfortunately had to take a picture with him, and it emphasized how really short I am,” the 5-7 coach said.