Kobe Bufkin hardly saw the court last season, averaging just 10.8 minutes per game. And yet those minutes have proven formative, particularly for Bufkin’s defensive transformation.
“I used to get drilled on defense last year,” Bufkin recalled Sunday with a laugh following Michigan’s wire-to-wire victory over Ohio State. “… I just try not to let it happen again.”
After flirting with a triple-double Thursday at Northwestern, Bufkin compiled another brilliant performance against the Buckeyes, notching 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He admitted that, right now, he’s playing the best basketball of his career — a declaration that is verified by both the eye test and the stat sheet.
But to his teammates, it’s not Bufkin’s offense that stands out.
“Him on defense is even better,” Jett Howard said. “He’s a great defender. He’s given me a lot of tips on how to get better. He’s helped the whole team, talking to us, telling us where to be in certain spots. Especially the first group, he’s a leader in the first group.”
Michigan has endured a fair share of defensive struggles this season; after Sunday’s game, it ranks 67th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric. Yet the Wolverines held Northwestern to just .87 points per possession and stymied Ohio State, with the Buckeyes shooting 41% from the field.
Consider Bufkin an instrumental piece in that effort.