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Big 4 Basketball Update: Buffalo earns six seed, awaits Arizona State/St. John’s winner

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The final seconds tick off at the MAC Championship. Courtesy: @Mike_Bundt

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.

Teams: Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Niagara, Canisius

Week: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

NCAA Tournament Preview

Buffalo: 31-3 (16-2), Last Week: MAC Tournament Champions

That was underwhelming.

After an entire week of believing the Bulls were playing for a five seed, it turns out, they never were.

The confetti falls following the Bulls victory over Bowling Green.

Buffalo has won 12 games in a row. Apparently that doesn’t count for much.

That’s because UB drew a six seed, where they’ll face-off with the winner of the Arizona State-St. John’s play-in game in the first round.

I have no issue with the matchup.

Buffalo should be favored against either opponent. With a win, they’ll most likely take on Texas Tech with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.

When it comes down to it, that’s all the Bulls could ask for.

Their draw wouldn’t be much different whether they were a five or a six so I’m not going to waste my time ranting about it.

What does suck for UB is their travel. Fans hoping to see them in person had to be moaning when they saw Buffalo penciled in for Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I have nothing against Tulsa and I’m sure it’s a great city.

That said, who wants to fly halfway across the country to watch a basketball game?

We’ll have to wait and see how many Bulls fans make the trip.

Bulls getting jiggy with it. Courtesy: @Mike_Bundt

Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room… Bobby Hurley.

Should the Sun Devils defeat St. John’s, we’ll have a storyline first round matchup featuring Nate Oats against Bobby Hurley.

The headlines write themselves.

But it’s not something I was particularly hoping for heading into Selection Sunday.

As for the actual matchup, you’d have to believe the Bulls prefer to take on St. John’s, which has lost four of their past five games compared to Arizona State which has won six of their past seven.

I have no preference, I’m just excited that March Madness is finally here and that UB will have their shot to show the country what they’re capable of.

Buffalo is MAC Champions for the 4th time in five years.

MAC Champions:

Buffalo took care of business in Cleveland, becoming the first school to win four MAC Championships in five years.

The Bulls rolled Akron in the quarterfinals, squeaked by Central Michigan in the semifinals and pulled away late from Bowling Green to bring home their second consecutive title.

Jeremy Harris had a coming out party, winning MAC Tournament MVP honors.

The UB senior scored 31 points against the Falcons, willing Buffalo to victory on Saturday evening.

If he can continue to play that way in the NCAA Tournament, look out!

Jayvon Graves also had a strong championship performance, finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds against while CJ Massinburg posted a double-double, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Quick Facts: 

  • Buffalo became the first team in Mid-American Conference history to win four titles over a five-year span.
  • Buffalo set a MAC record for wins in a season (31).
  • After rolling off three wins in the MAC Tournament, Buffalo now has the nation’s fourth longest winning streak at 12 games

Next Week: NCAA Tournament vs. Arizona State/St. John’s winner

BROOKLYN, NY – MARCH 16: St. Bonaventure Bonnies Guard Kyle Lofton (0) drives the ball down the lane with Rhode Island Rams Forward Jermaine Harris (0) defending during the second half of the game between the Rhode Island Rams and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies on March 16, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Season Over!

St. Bonaventure: 18-16 (12-6), Last Week: Wins vs. George Mason, Rhode Island, Loss vs. St. Louis

It was an amazing ride but a heartbreaking finish.

The craziest season in recent St. Bonaventure history came to a close on Sunday afternoon with the Bonnies falling in the Atlantic 10 Finals versus St. Louis.

SBU jumped out to a 15-point lead in the first half but struggled to generate any offensive rhythm after the break with the Billikens coming back to complete the shocker.

Bona received the perfect draw in Brooklyn, avoiding VCU and Davidson. It was all set up for a perfect Bonnies weekend.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

St. Louis played stifling defense in the second half, holding St. Bonaventure to 19 points after the break and 33.9% shooting on the day.

BROOKLYN, NY – MARCH 17: Saint Louis Billikens Guard Tramaine Isabell Jr. (2) drives the ball down the lane with St. Bonaventure Bonnies Forward Courtney Stockard (11) defending during the second half of the game between the Saint Louis Billikens and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, on March 17, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Billikens looked to have the game under control, taking an eight-point lead, 54-46 with just under four minutes remaining but the Bonnies never quit.

Courtney Stockard hit a clutch three with under one minute to go to cut the St. Louis lead down to two

Unfortunately for St. Bonaventure, Stockard immediately fouled out of the game less than one second later.

It was an unnecessary foul with the Bonnies down two, with a chance to get the ball back with a defensive stop but you have to believe it was a gut reaction by Stockard.

St. Louis missed the ensuing free throw, giving SBU the ball with a chance to tie or win the game.

Bona had multiple great looks at the hoop but repeatedly failed to convert, ultimately watching an open corner 3 by senior Nelson Kaputo sail off the mark, watching their tremendous ride come to an end.

Despite the disappointing finish, St. Bonaventure has nothing to hang their heads about.

I had modest expectations for SBU entering the year, predicting them to go 16-15 in the regular season (which they did) and 9th in the Atlantic 10 (they finished 4th).

BROOKLYN, NY – MARCH 16: St. Bonaventure Bonnies Forward Courtney Stockard (11) shoots a layup with Rhode Island Rams Forward Cyril Langevine (10) defending. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Bonnies dealt with a plethora of injuries at the onset of their season, playing without Courtney Stockard, LaDarien Griffin and Dominick Welch for large stretches of games.

As a result, they struggled badly, stumbling to a 4-10 start.

I wrongly assumed they were rebuilding their program and would struggle to win 15 games.

I was way off the mark but couldn’t be more glad that I was.

Mark Schmidt, as he typically does, had St. Bonaventure playing their best basketball down the stretch.

We already knew that Stockard and his fellow senior, LaDarien Griffin were special talents that would carry the Bonnies throughout the season.

What we didn’t know was that they were going to receive tons of help from one of the most talented freshmen classes in program history.

And before everyone comments, I’m well aware that their freshmen class was well regarded coming in. 

But they clearly exceeded expectations in their first year at St. Bonaventure.

BROOKLYN, NY – MARCH 17: St. Bonaventure Bonnies Guard Kyle Lofton (0) dribbles the ball up the court during the first half of the game between the Saint Louis Billikens and the St. Bonaventure Bonnies, on March 17, 2019, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kyle Lofton and Osun Osunniyi have the potential to become the top players at their positions in the Atlantic 10 while Dominick Welch displays the potential to become a very dangerous shooter.

So where does Bona go from here?

Obviously, it’ll be tough replacing Stockard and Griffin.

St. Bonaventure has a very talented recruit set to arrive next year in Justin Winston.

We all know about Lofton and Osunniyi who both went there. Winston might be the best of the group which is saying something.

I see greatness in the Bonnies future. I’m not sure if it’ll all come together next year or the year after but it’s clear, Mark Schmidt has his program going in the right direction (stating the obvious).

SBU should be a 20+ win team next season, battling near the top of the Atlantic 10.

Get your popcorn ready! It’s only going to get more entertaining for St. Bonaventure during the next few years.

Preseason Prediction: 16-15 (8-10), 9th in Atlantic 10 (regular season only*)

Final Record: 18-16 (12-6), 4th in A10

Season Review: Resounding Success

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

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