This will be a weekly feature published every Sunday on From the 300 Level and will include recaps, podcasts and any other additional Big 4 Basketball content we can think of. You can follow Mike Bundt on Twitter @Mike_Bundt.
This week, I was joined by Villa Maria College basketball assistant coach, Johnathan Snyder. He’s a former contributor for Queen City Sports, Bull Run and Snyder’s Big 4 Talk. Johnathan is most known for breaking the news of Shannon Evans transferring to Arizona State following Bobby Hurley’s departure in 2015. We spoke in-depth about Canisius, Niagara, St. Bonaventure and UB’s recent run. For more on our official UB/Cuse game preview, please click on our special edition of the Big 4 Basketball Update coming out on Tuesday morning.
Last week was a quiet one for Big 4 Hoops!
In total, there were only three games played with Buffalo, Canisius and Niagara taking the court once apiece.
The Bulls improved to 10-0, setting up a pair of HUGE games with Syracuse and Marquette while Canisius and Niagara were able to squeak out a pair of dramatic wins.
With that said, here’s another edition of Stock Up, Stock Down!
#14/15 Buffalo:(10-0), Last Week: Win over Southern Illinois
Buffalo fans have had this week circled on their calendars since the day the Bulls schedule came out.
That’s because UB will have two tremendous opportunities to polish up their NCAA Tournament resume with games at Syracuse and Marquette.
Most fans entered this season hoping for Buffalo to win at least one of their three marquee non-conference contests. (West Virginia, Syracuse, Marquette) They accomplished that right off the bat, taking down West Virginia in Morgantown but the Bulls have gone above and beyond everyone’s expectations since then.
Buffalo has shocked the nation, opening 10-0 for the first time since the 1930-31 season when they finished 15-0. Additionally, they’re the first MAC team to open the year 10-0 since the Toledo Rockets in 2013-14.
What’s most impressive about UB’s season so far is that they’ve come to play in every game. The Bulls haven’t had any letdown performances, for the most part.
They got off to slow starts against St. Francis (PA) and Le Moyne but pulled away in the second half of both games.
Additionally, their wins over Southern Illinois (x2) and San Francisco could have added value later in the season.
As far as my expectations for this week, I’m going to save that for my special edition of the Big 4 Hoops Update: UB vs. Cuse Preview set to be published on Tuesday morning.
I will say this, I expect the Bulls to win at least one of their next two games. I’ll let you know more of my thoughts in my upcoming article.
I expect Buffalo to remain 14th in the AP Poll. There weren’t many significant wins or losses by teams ranked closely to UB in the polls.
Expect the Bulls to be the only ranked team taking the court at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday when UB takes on the Cuse following Syracuse’s loss to Old Dominion on Saturday.
- Buffalo has now won 10 straight games for the first time since the 1964-65 season.
- CJ Massinburg became the 6th player in program history to surpass 1,500 career points in the Bulls win over Southern Illinois on Saturday.
- UB will become the first non-conference ranked team to play at the Carrier Dome since Villanova on December 28th, 2013.
Next Week: at No. 25 Syracuse, at No. 21 Marquette (rankings from 12/9)
Niagara: (5-4), Last Week: Win over Cornell
How bout them Purple Eagles!
Seriously though, what a crazy finish to Niagara’s 77-74 win over Cornell on Sunday.
Keleaf Tate might only be a sophomore but he’s playing like a senior, draining the game-winning three with 0.2 seconds remaining to give the Purple Eagles their third consecutive win as they’ve improved to 5-4 overall.
Tate posted a career-high 23 points, connecting on five three pointers in the victory. Marvin Prochet also lit the box score on fire, posting his fifth double-double of the season, recording a game-high 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Make sure to listen to my podcast with Johnathan Snyder to see where we ranked Prochet amongst the best players in the Big 4. (Hint, he’s near the top of the list)
It was a memorable performance for the senior forward with Prochet becoming the 47th Purple Eagle in school history to eclipse 1,000 career points.
Dominic Robb had another strong game, just missing out on a double-double, posting 12 points and nine rebounds.
The most impressive part of this win for Niagara was their fight down the stretch. The Purple Eagles were down 66-57 with 8:16 remaining but kept battling, coming back to shock the Big Red at the Gallagher Center.
Niagara’s win sets them up well heading into the stretch run of their non-conference schedule.
They hit the road to battle Cleveland State and Army next week before finishing up non-conference play with Norfolk State and Albany. I don’t want to get overconfident but I expect the Purple Eagles to head into MAAC play with a winning record.
- Marvin Prochet became the 47th member of Niagara’s 1,000-Point Club. Prochet scored his 1,000th point on the first of two free throws with two minutes left in the game.
- Prochet notched his fifth double-double of the season with a game-high 24 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
- Niagara is 10-1 in games decided by less than four points since the 2017-18 season.
Next Week: at Cleveland State, at Army
Canisius: (3-6), Last Week: Win vs. Elon
Things are finally looking up for Canisius… At least offensively.
After a poor start on Sunday against Elon, the Griffs found their groove in the second half before barely holding on for a critical road win over the Phoenix, improving to 3-6 overall.
Canisius has won two in a row since snapping their six-game losing streak against Robert Morris.
One interesting observation from their most recent victory was that the preseason MAAC Player of the Year, Isaiah Reese opened the game on the bench.
He played only 22 minutes, finishing with seven points on 3-7 shooting.
I’m not sure the reason behind the decision, whether it be due to his poor play to open the year, an injury/illness or a confidence booster but found it interesting nonetheless.
Reese is averaging 11 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists on 34.3% shooting this year after posting 16.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 46.3% shooting last season. (entering Sunday)
Simultaneously, Takal Molson has elevated his scoring to 16.4 points per game despite his field goal percentage dropping 4%.
Regardless, it appears that Canisius is slowly starting to turn things around. It hasn’t been pretty but they’re looking more comfortable since finishing up their brutal stretch.
Jibreel Faulkner and Scott Hitchon both had their best scoring games of the season against Elon, scoring 16 points apiece with Hitchon scoring in double figures in three of his last four games.
Defensively, the Griffs have been decent for the most part this season. However, they had no answers for Tyler Seibring and Steven Santa Ana on Sunday as the two seniors combined for 49 points on 16-26 shooting. Canisius is lucky they were able to outscore the Phoenix thanks to an equally strong shooting performance.
- The 92 points on Sunday are a season-high for the Blue and Gold. Canisius is 24-6 under Witherspoon when scoring 80-plus points in a game.
- Sunday was the third 20-point game of the season for Molson, who has now scored in double-figures in 12-straight contests, dating back to last year.
- Johnson’s five assists are a season-high for the junior. He now has 321 assists in his career, making him just the 14th player in program history to dish out 320-plus assists in his time on Main Street.
Next Week: at Holy Cross
St. Bonaventure: (4-6), Last Week: N/A
There’s not much to talk about when it comes to the Bonnies. They haven’t taken the court since losing to Buffalo on December 8th.
There’s been some rumblings that LaDarien Griffin is close to returning to their lineup. That would be great news for St. Bonaventure but I’m going to be cautiously optimistic until I see him in game action.
His return will make a tremendous difference to a Bonnies squad that hasn’t been healthy the entire season.
We’ve already seen the difference that Courtney Stockard’s return has made. Add Griffin and Stockard on the court at the same time and we could see a Bona team that could be competitive in Atlantic 10 play.
We’ll find out very soon where this team stacks up. Until then, the Bonnies have a trio of road games that will test them heading into the new year.
St. Bonaventure battles a very good Vermont team Tuesday evening in Burlington. From there, they’ll head to Boston to battle Northeastern before wrapping up their non-conference schedule following Christmas at Syracuse.
Next Week: at Vermont, at Northeastern