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 is the final Big 4 Update of the basketball season
Buffalo: 32-4 (16-2), Last Week: Win vs. Arizona State, Loss vs. Texas Tech
It had to end eventually.
Buffalo’s magical season came to a premature conclusion, falling in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Texas Tech 78-58.
The Bulls opened the tourney obliterating their former head coach, Bobby Hurley and the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Jeremy Harris and Nick Perkins were terrific on Friday, posting a pair of double-doubles (21 points, 10 rebounds).
But no one on UB was prepared for what they were up against on Sunday evening against the incredible Red Raiders defense.
Texas Tech held Buffalo under 60 points for the first time in over two years, limiting the Bulls to 36.5% shooting and 16 turnovers.
But those numbers don’t even tell the real story of the Red Raiders defensive performance.
They were dominant, even better than the final box score would indicate.
UB led just once the entire night, taking a 25-24 lead late in the first half. Texas Tech responded with a 9-0 run, entering the half with a 33-25 advantage.
They extended their run to 27-3 midway through the second half, increasing their lead to 51-28, holding the Bulls without a field goal for 11:01.
That’s an unbelievable cold spell that couldn’t have happened at a worse time for Buffalo, essentially ending any hope of a comeback.
But I’m not here to dwell about their loss to Texas Tech.
Sure, it was disappointing. The Bulls fell short of their goal of reaching the Sweet 16.
It was a sad end to a magical ride that will go down as one of the best seasons in the history of the Big Four.
UB should be proud of what they accomplished.
Buffalo won 32 games, were in the Top 25 for the entire season outside of the opening week and won a game in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
They have no reason to hang their heads. They will go down as the best team in school history.
Some will compare them to the great teams at St. Bonaventure including the 1970 Bonnies which reached the Final Four behind the play of Bob Lanier.
I’m not willing to put them at that level. SBU reached historic heights that year that no other WNY program has come close to achieving since.
That said, they might rank right behind them when it comes to the top seasons in local college basketball history.
CJ Massinburg will go down as the best player in UB history with Nick Perkins close behind.
Jeremy Harris ranks as one of the most talented players to ever suit up for Buffalo with a pro future awaiting him, most likely overseas or in the NBA G-League.
The question now becomes, what’s next for Buffalo?
They’ll lose their best senior class in school history with CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins, Jeremy Harris, Dontay Caruthers and Montell McRae departing.
Those will be big shoes to fill. There’s no doubt that the Bulls will take a step backwards next year but I don’t think it’ll be as steep as many might think.
Buffalo returns a ton of talent and has plenty of skillful newcomers joining the program.
Ultimately though, their future will be dependent on the fate of their head coach Nate Oats.
Everyone knows he signed a contract extension prior to the NCAA Tournament but that doesn’t preclude him from looking at his options.
There will be plenty of big programs interested in his services.
Should he leave, I would expect several players to consider transferring or decomitting from UB.
However, that’s a worry for another day. Right now, he’s still leading their program and it’s premature to think about him leaving.
If he stays, Buffalo has a roster that could win 20+ games next year with Jayvon Graves poised to become a star in the Mid-American Conference.
Davonta Jordan will return for his senior season with Rondo Segu and Jeenathan Williams expected to receive more playing time moving forward.
The Bulls have a pair of talented transfers from Middle Tennessee State (Antwain Johnson) and Houston (Gabe Grant) expected to make an impact next season with a trio of JUCO’s coming in joined by 3-star guard Noah Williams and possibly 3-star forward Raymond Hawkins who’s set to announce his commitment on March 30th.
Those additions will make a significant impact and determine UB’s short term future.
So while many are sad that Buffalo’s magical season has come to a close, there’s still plenty of reason for optimism beyond this year.
I expect the Bulls to continue to be in the running for another MAC Championship in 2020 as they look to win their fifth conference tournament title in six years.
But before we get to that point, we’ll need to see how things play out in the offseason first.
Preseason Prediction:26-5 (16-2), MAC Champions, NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Final Record: 32-4 (16-2), First in the MAC, NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Season Review: Historic Success
Facts courtesy of the Buffalo, Niagara, St. Bonaventure and Niagara athletic departments.