Home NCAAM Canisius College Big 4 Basketball Update: UB rolling, Canisius struggling

Big 4 Basketball Update: UB rolling, Canisius struggling

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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.

There’s no such thing as a dull week in the Big 4!

We saw that be the case once again this past week with Buffalo and St. Bonaventure putting on a pair of shows in front of their hometown fans while Canisius and Niagara both went through their share of struggles in conference play.

  • The Bulls are poised to make a GIANT leap in the polls. 
  • The Bonnies look rejuvenated with Griffin and Osunniyi leading the way.
  • The Purple Eagles are frustrating with their inconsistency on display once again.
  • The Golden Griffins are falling short of their lofty preseason expectations.

With that said, here’s another edition of Stock Up, Stock Down! 

Teams: Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Niagara, Canisius

Week: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Stock Up!

#19 Buffalo: 15-1 (3-0), Last Week: Wins over Toledo and Miami (Ohio)

Since the start of conference play, Buffalo isn’t just defeating their opponents, they’re annihilating them!

The Bulls took care of business Tuesday night at Alumni Arena, destroying Toledo by 30 points! The Rockets are possibly the second best team in the Mid-American Conference.

They’re coming off a season in which they lost to Buffalo in the MAC Championship Game and had gotten off to a 12-2 start, recently receiving five votes in the AP Poll a few weeks ago.

Toledo had no answer for Jeremy Harris and the Bulls offensive arsenal.

Harris scored a career-high 34-points against Toledo.

Harris scored a career-high 34 points on his way to averaging 25.5 points for the week. Look for him to be named the MAC Player of the Week.

Nick Perkins also had a strong performance, finishing with 21 points and six rebounds but it was much more than a two man effort.

The entire Bulls team showed up on Tuesday evening. Here’s how the box score looked:

Jeremy Harris: 34 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists

Nick Perkins: 21 points, 6 rebounds

CJ Massinburg: 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists

Jayvon Graves: 13 points, 12 rebounds

Dontay Caruthers: 10 points, 4 assists, 4 steals

After the game, Buffalo head coach Nate Oats revealed that Harris dealt with a wrist injury earlier this season that required cortisone shots. That could help explain why Harris struggled early on this year.

He’s 100% now and looks like the player we saw during MAC play last season. Oats also tweeted that Harris is one of the hardest working players he’s ever coached, something I wrote about on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bulls returned to the court at Alumni Arena hosting Miami. The Redhawks kept it close early to the surprise of the sold-out crowd but things quickly returned to normal in the second half.

Buffalo outscored Miami 52-32 in the final 20 minutes, winning 88-64 to improve to 15-1 (3-0). Harris led the Bulls with 17 points as five UB players scored in double-figures.

It was far from the Bulls best game of the season but they got it done by taking care of the ball. Buffalo had only four turnovers compared to Miami’s 18.

UB has opened MAC play with three straight double-digit victories, taking down EMU by 16, Toledo by 30 and Miami by 24. 

This is the most dominant MAC team I’ve witnessed in my 15 years of watching the conference. There’s only been two teams in Mid-American Conference history that have had a perfect record in conference play. Buffalo could very well become the third.

Operation 6000:

“If you build it, they will come”

-Field of Dreams

The above quote is one of my favorite movie lines of all-time and applicable to the UB Bulls. Nate Oats has built up the Buffalo program and now, the fans have arrived.

Tuesday evening was a good test to see how far the UB fanbase has come. The Bulls matchup against Toledo was opposite of the Sabres playing at the KeyBank Center with their students still on break.

Even with the students out, a crowd of 5,144 showed up to Alumni Arena to see UB take on Toledo.

In the past, that would mean a mediocre crowd at Alumni Arena. That wasn’t the case versus the Rockets. Buffalo announced their attendance at 5,144, a beautiful sea of blue for an early conference midweek contest.

On Saturday, the Buffalo community one-upped themselves, selling out Alumni Arena for the first time this season with 6,177 showing up for the Bulls 24-point victory over Miami.

These numbers are a great sign for UB. They’re taking the area by storm and becoming a hot ticket. If they’re finding ways to pack Alumni Arena with their students on break, just imagine how hard it’ll be to get tickets once they return!

If you’re hoping to make it out to a game this season, the time to get your tickets is NOW!

Poll Watch:

Buffalo will make a large jump in the polls this week. The question is, how far will they rise?

Seven teams ranked ahead of the Bulls lost this past week. Here’s a look at who UB could potentially jump.

11 Auburn – Possible

12 North Carolina – Possible

13 Florida State – Unlikely

14 Mississippi State – Lock

15 North Carolina State – Lock

16 Ohio State – Lock

17 Houston – Lock

If I were a betting man, I would pick Buffalo to be slotted no lower than 15th in this week’s AP Poll. I don’t think they’ll jump Florida State with the Seminoles just missing out on upsetting No. 1 Duke. 

The question is, will the Bulls jump Auburn and North Carolina. I’m not sure right now. It’s certainly possible but that’s asking a lot for them to move up six spots to No. 13.

For now, my prediction is for UB to be ranked No. 14 in Monday’s poll.

Quick Facts: 

  • Saturday’s crowd of 6,177 was the 9th largest at Alumni Arena under its current arena configuration.
  • Their win over Miami was their 19th consecutive victory at home.
  • The 110 points scored by the Bulls on Tuesday night are the most by a ranked team in a conference game this season.
  • The 110 points UB scored against Toledo is the most they’ve ever scored in a MAC game.
  • At 15-1 overall, Buffalo is off to their best start since the 1930-31 season in which they finished 15-0.
  • Bulls head coach Nate Oats had recorded 100 or more points eight times, including seven against Division 1 opponents.  Prior to Coach Oats taking the job, it took Buffalo between 1993-94 through 2014-15 to score 100 points seven times against D-I schools.

Next Week: at Western Michigan, vs. Eastern Michigan

SYRACUSE, NY – DECEMBER 29: St. Bonaventure Bonnies Forward Courtney Stockard (11) dribbles the ball toward the basket with Syracuse Orange Guard Frank Howard (23) defending during the first half of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies versus the Syracuse Orange game on December 29, 2018, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stock Up!

St. Bonaventure: 6-10 (2-1), Last Week: Wins vs. St. Joe’s and Fordham

The Bonnies snapped out of their five-game losing streak in grand fashion last week, destroying St. Joe’s at home 73-47. It was their 9th win in their last 10 games against the Hawks and continued the Bonnies trend of obliterating teams during their victories this season.

St. Bonaventure won their first five games of the year by an average of 28.6 points with their closest victory coming in a 15-point win against Canisius.

That’s an odd average margin of victory for a team that entered Saturday’s matchup against Fordham sitting at 5-10 overall. Granted, many of those wins were against bottom tier competition.

St. Bonaventure settled for a much closer victory against the Rams, taking down Fordham 71-64 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester to improve to 2-1 in conference play.

It’s nice to see the Bonnies get off to a solid start in the Atlantic 10. It’s been a difficult season for St. Bonaventure with them battling injuries, a lack of depth, an ever changing rotation and dealing with a bunch of inexperience.

SYRACUSE, NY – DECEMBER 29: Head coach Mark Schmidt of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies shouts to his players during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on December 29, 2018 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats St. Bonaventure 81-47. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

That said, head coach Mark Schmidt is starting to piece together the parts of the puzzle.

Jalen Poyser and Amadi Ikpeze have been replaced in the starting lineup by Nelson Kaputo and Osun Osunniyi.

Dominick Welch has joined Poyser and Ikpeze on the bench following his return from injury. Short term, the moves have paid off.

Osunniyi has been one of their best players since being inserted in the Bonnies starting lineup. The freshman forward averaged 13 points, 12 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two blocks in St. Bonaventure’s pair of wins last week.

LaDarien Griffin also had himself a huge week. The senior forward looked like the player fans were hoping for heading into the season prior to his injury, averaging 18 points, 6.5 rebounds and three assists against St. Joe’s and Fordham.

That is tremendous news for Bona fans!

SYRACUSE, NY – DECEMBER 29: St. Bonaventure Bonnies Forward / Center Osun Osunniyi (21) grabs a rebound during the second half of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies versus the Syracuse Orange game on December 29, 2018, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY.(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

St. Bonaventure already knew they could rely on Courtney Stockard to step up when needed but it’s very encouraging to know he now has help besides him in the starting lineup in addition to Kyle Lofton who has had a tremendous freshman season.

As nice as the past two games have been, things are going to get a bit more difficult moving forward.

KenPom has St. Bonaventure listed as underdogs in their next eight games with their best chance to win at Richmond.

That doesn’t mean the Bonnies are destined to struggle but it should calm any expectations that St. Bonaventure is back to normal.

Five of their next eight games are on the road. If the Bonnies can manage to go .500 during that stretch, they’ll be in good shape heading into the stretch run of A10 play with their schedule easing up afterwards.

St. Bonaventure returns to action on Wednesday at Rhode Island.

Quick Facts:

  • The Bonnies have now won six straight games in their series with Fordham.
  • Coach Mark Schmidt now has 198 wins in his career at St. Bonaventure, moving him within four wins of Larry Wiese on the all-time coaching wins list.
  • St. Bonaventure is now 14-12 in games played at Blue Cross Arena, including a 2-0 mark against Fordham.
  • The Bonnies limited Saint Joseph’s to 12 first half points on 18 percent shooting, and the Hawks only finished the game making 29 percent from the field.
  • The Bonnies have now won nine of their last 10 meetings with coach Phil Martelli’s Hawks.

Next Week: at Rhode Island, vs. Dayton

Stock Neutral!

Niagara: 8-9 (1-3), Last Week: Loss at Fairfield, Win vs. Iona, Loss vs. Rider

Now, I understand why it’s frustrating to be a Niagara fan.

At times, you want to believe this Purple Eagles squad is capable of being a MAAC contender only to have that feeling viciously ripped away.

Coming off a disappointing road loss at Manhattan, it was vital for Niagara to rebound with three MAAC games in six days.

The Purple Eagles got off to a poor start in an ugly road loss against Fairfield but they responded with a tremendous home win over Iona on Friday.

Keleaf Tate scored 19 points on Sunday vs. Rider.

If I’m being completely honest, I was shocked Niagara defeated the Gaels. I expect Iona to be one of the top teams in the MAAC this season.

Upsetting the Gaels at home shows Niagara has the talent to compete with the best teams in the conference. The frustrating part is that the Purple Eagles continue to be very inconsistent.

I covered their game Sunday against Rider. Niagara got off to a solid start, entering halftime down 36-34 to the preseason MAAC favorites but things took a downhill slide in the second half.

Rider scored 68 points in the final 20 minutes to defeat the Purple Eagles 104-84. Let me repeat that, the Broncs scored 68 POINTS in the second half alone! Are you serious?

Rider couldn’t miss! They shot 73.6% from the field after the break. Normally, I’d shrug that off as a one-time occurrence except, it’s the third time in Niagara’s last four games that they’ve allowed an opponent to reach the 90-point plateau.

KenPom has the Purple Eagles down to 308th in the country in their rankings. Even worse, the site has Niagara’s defensive efficiency ranked 321st in the nation.

Chris Casey likes his team playing a fast brand of basketball which can be exciting and effective when it’s working but it can also be detrimental when it’s not.

James Towns goes up for a layup against Rider on Sunday.

The Purple Eagles force up a lot of poor shots, leading to defensive breakdowns on the other side of the court.

I am encouraged by the play of Niagara’s underclassmen. Keleaf Tate can be frustrating at times but looked solid against Rider, scoring 19 points.

Two days prior, Raheem Solomon scored a career-high 18 points against Iona. However, he struggled against the Broncs, going just 2-8 from the field for four points.

Marcus Hammond also continues to impress, recording seven assists against the Gaels. It was also nice to see Dominik Fragala have a strong week, scoring 20 points against Fairfield and continuing his solid play in limited minutes over the weekend.

After opening MAAC play 1-3, it’s now time for Niagara to settle down. They still have a chance to be decent in conference play.

I’m lowering my expectations for this year’s squad. I expect them to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, possibly 5th-7th in the MAAC. Right now, their goal should be to battle back to .500 in conference play.

They’ll have a chance to improve to 2-3 on Thursday when they travel to Albany to take on Siena.

Quick Facts:

  • Dominik Fragala poured in a career-high 20 points against Fairfield.
  • Marvin Prochet added to his MAAC-leading seventh double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Iona.
  • Raheem Solomon scored a career-high 18 points against Iona, surpassing his previous high of 15 points with 16 first half points to lead all scorers.
  • The Purple Eagles defeated the Gaels at home for the first time in six seasons.  
  • Marcus Hammond dished out a game-high seven assists against Iona to set a new career-high.

Next Week:

TALLAHASSEE, FL – NOVEMBER 19: Isaiah Reese (13) guard Canisius College Golden Griffins works the corner against PJ Savoy (5) guard Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles, Monday, November 19, 2018, at the Donald L Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stock Down! 

Canisius: 5-11 (2-2), Last Week: Losses vs. Brown, Rider and Iona

I thought the last seven days had a chance to serve as a season defining week for the Golden Griffins.

It looks like I was right, but not for the reasons Canisius fans were hoping.

The Griffs opened the week losing to Brown in a game that really didn’t mean much. A non-conference game sandwiched in the middle of MAAC play never made a ton of sense in my opinion.

With that said, I didn’t really think twice when Canisius lost. I was far more concerned with how they would fare against Rider and Iona over the weekend.

THOSE were the games that would make a difference in conference play and impact their seed in the MAAC Tournament come March.

Things started out well for the Griffs against the Broncs. They stormed out to a 14-point first half lead but things took a turn for the worst in the second half.

Rider started pressing and took the game over. At one point, they went on a 23-6 run lasting 9:48 to go in front 63-59.

Canisius tied things up at 63 but it was all Broncs from that point forward. Isaiah Reese had a strong performance, posting 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists but received very little help until it was too late.

Takal Molson had 19 points and five rebounds but also turned the ball over seven times!

The loss left a bad taste on the tongue but little did Griffs fans know, it was about to get much worse on Sunday.

Taking on Iona team coming off a disappointing loss against Niagara, the Griffs looked overmatched against the Gaels.

They shot 25% in the first half of Sunday’s matchup including 11.1% from deep as they went into halftime down 42-23. 

As much as I would love to say things got better in the second half, I can’t because that would be a lie.

Canisius struggled defensively the entire afternoon, allowing Iona to score 88 points on 53.6% shooting from the field.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – NOVEMBER 19: Reggie Witherspoon head coach Canisius College Golden Griffins watches from the sideline during the game against the Florida State University (FSU) Seminoles, Monday, November 19, 2018, at the Donald L Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Four Gaels combined for 75 of their 88 points with Rickey McGill and E.J. Crawford scoring 20 points apiece.

On the other side of the court, it was a long day for Isaiah Reese and Takal Molson. The Griffs duo combined for 23 points on 6-24 shooting (25%). As a team, Canisius shot an ugly 6-31 (19.4%) from deep.

Something is definitely wrong with the Golden Griffins. I’ve been hyping them up all season, telling everyone I know that they’ll turn things around in conference play.

I still believe they’re in the upper echelon of the MAAC but I no longer believe they’re a legitimate contender. Rider and Iona both controlled Canisius for long stretches of their games this weekend.

Sure, the Griffs could turn things around between now and March but I’m starting to doubt their ability to do so with each game they play.

They’ll have another tough one in their next conference matchup Thursday at Quinnipiac.

Quick Facts:

  • Reese passed the 300-career assists milestone with his game-high five assists in the Griffs loss to Brown.
  • With four steals against Rider, Reese moved past former Griffs Darnell Wilson and Kevin Downeyon on the school’s career steals list. He now ranks eighth all-time with 150 steals to his credit.
  • Iona’s last five wins in this series have come by an average of 17.0 points per game.
  • Molson has scored in double-figures in all 16 games this season and in 20-straight games, dating back to the end of last year.

Next Week: at Quinnipiac, at Fairfield

Facts courtesy of the Buffalo, Niagara, St. Bonaventure and Niagara athletic departments.

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