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Big 4 Basketball Update: Stockard shines in Bonnies return, Bulls win big in Belfast

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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.

Surprise, surprise! For the first time this year, I don’t have the UB Bulls headlining my Big 4 Basketball Update and I have a good reason why.

The Bonnies senior sensation, Courtney Stockard is finally back in their lineup, appearing in his first two games of the season this past week.

And what an impact he’s already had in limited action! Stockard scored 19 points in his season debut against Canisius and added another 16 on Saturday afternoon against Delaware State.

He’s transformed a Bonnies team that looked dead in the water during the Cayman Islands Classic into a team that has their sights set on shocking people in conference play.

As for the rest of Big 4, it was pretty much, same old, same old.

  • Buffalo keeps winning, taking home the Belfast Hall of Fame Classic title.
  • Niagara was up & down in a disappointing loss versus St. Francis (PA).
  • Canisius’ struggles continued in an U.G.L.Y performance against St. Bonaventure.

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

Week: 1, 2, 3, 4

DAYTON, OH – MARCH 13: Courtney Stockard #11 of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies celebrates the basket against the UCLA Bruins during the second half of the First Four game in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Stock Way Up!

St. Bonaventure: (3-5), Last Week: Wins over Canisius and Delaware State

I learned a pair of valuable lessons this past week!

  1. Never doubt Courtney Stockard’s impact on the court.
  2. Learn to pick your battles with Bonnies fans.

The first point is obvious. Stockard is one of the top players in the Atlantic 10 and he showed why this week averaging 17.5 points per game off the bench, shooting 12-18 (66.6%) from the field.

I knew he was a great player but I greatly undervalued his overall impact on the Bonnies success. Stupid me for thinking Stockard might be rusty after missing the first six games of the season.

I also wondered how he would adapt to being “the man” after being the 3rd option last year behind Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.

But where I failed the most was not realizing how rounded his game truly is. He COMPLETELY TRANSFORMED the Bonnies on the court. Even while on the bench, St. Bonaventure looked like a completely different team.

Here’s what Mark Schmidt had to say following the Bonnies win over Canisius:

DAYTON, OH – MARCH 13: Head coach Mark Schmidt of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies reacts late in the game against the UCLA Bruins during the second half of the First Four game in the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies defeated the UCLA Bruins 65-58. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

“I thought it was a good performance. It was good having Courtney (Stockard) back. He gave our players some courage, some confidence.”

I’m not sure what to expect from this team but one thing I can guarantee, I was wrong when I claimed they were rebuilding last week. St. Bonaventure might not win 20-games but they’re going to compete every night and will remain competitive in the Atlantic 10.

As far as my second point, let’s be real. We already knew that and it’s one the reasons I love Bona fans! They’re passionate, love their school and know what they’re talking about (most of the time at least…)

Schedule Alert:

Big Four fans rejoice! We get the largest local matchup of the season this upcoming Saturday when No. 21 Buffalo heads to St. Bonaventure to take on the Bonnies.

The Bulls (7-0) have yet to lose a game this season but haven’t played in an environment like the Reilly Center (Outside of WVU). It’s one of the top venues across college basketball when it’s hopping and it should be for this one.

UB will be looking for another quality road win as they’re hoping to head into their Syracuse matchup at 10-0.

St. Bonaventure will be looking to ruin their plans. With Stockard back in their lineup, the Bonnies are MUCH better than their 3-5 record indicates. This game could be closer than many expect.

Quick Facts:

  • St. Bonaventure now leads the all-time series with Canisius 101-66. The teams have played at least once every year since 1947
  • Poyser’s eight assists versus Delaware State were one shy of his career high, set against Western Kentucky when he was at UNLV.
  • Osun Osunniyi, who entered the weekend second in the Atlantic 10 in blocked shots, added three more against the Hornets and now has 22 this season.

Next Week: vs. Siena, vs. Buffalo

BOISE, ID – MARCH 15: Head coach Nate Oats of the Buffalo Bulls reacts against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Stock Up!

#21/20 Buffalo: (7-0), Last Week: Wins over Milwaukee and San Francisco (Belfast Hall of Fame Classic)

The UB Bulls exciting start to their season continued this past week with a pair of wins over Milwaukee and San Francisco on their way to winning the Belfast Hall of Fame Classic in Northern Ireland.

Fans had to set their alarms early on Friday and Saturday morning with UB tipping off at 5:30 eastern time Friday and 10:30 on Saturday.

Those who overslept their alarms missed a pair of breakout performances by Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris.

Many of you are thinking, “Mike, they’re both standout players. How can they have a breakout performance?”

BOISE, ID – MARCH 15: The Buffalo Bulls bench reacts in the second half against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Here’s how:

Both Perkins and Harris were off to slow starts. That completely changed during the Bulls trip overseas.

Perkins won MVP honors after averaging 21 points and seven rebounds in UB’s two games in Belfast. Harris also came up big, finding his mid-range jumper against Milwaukee, finishing with a season-high 21-points.

In winning the Belfast Hall of Fame Classic, Buffalo also picked up a solid early season win against previously undefeated San Francisco. The Dons (7-1) were ranked 12th in the NCAA’s brand new NET rankings released last week.

One last interesting point, the Bulls 7-0 start is their best since they finished 15-0 in 1930-31.

BOISE, ID – MARCH 15: Jeremy Harris #2 celebrates with Wes Clark #10 of the Buffalo Bulls in the second half against the Arizona Wildcats during the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Taco Bell Arena on March 15, 2018 in Boise, Idaho. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Poll Watch:

We’re getting to the point where it’s difficult to project where Buffalo will land in the polls each week. That’s because a lot of power teams ahead of them are losing games but their losses are normally against quality competition. Simultaneously, lower ranked teams behind UB are also picking up quality wins, potentially leapfrogging the Bulls.

As far as this week is concerned, I expect Buffalo to rise into the high teens, somewhere around 18/19.

Quick Facts:

  • Buffalo is 7-0 for the 2nd time in program history, first time since 1930-31 season.
  • Nick Perkins scored 20+ points in back-to-back games for the first time since he had 21 and 20 on 1/21/16 and 1/24/16.

Next Week: vs. Le Moyne, at St. Bonaventure

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 25: Head coach Chris Casey of the Niagara Purple Eagles cheers his players during a college basketball game against Iona Gaels at Madison Square Garden on January 25, 2015 in New York City. The Gaels won 87-64. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Stock Down:

Niagara: (2-4), Last Week: Loss to St. Francis (PA)

If anything is obvious early on this season, it’s that it’s going to be pretty aggravating watching Niagara play most of the time.

The reason why, one second they look awful. The next, they’re controlling the game.

The Purple Eagles are incredibly inconsistent which makes it difficult to get a read on them. If I had to guess, I’d presume they’re closer to being a 10-win team than being a MAAC contender but I’ve been wrong in the past.

They had only one game this past week, a disappointing 79-75 loss to NEC contender, St. Francis (PA).

With Marvin Prochet out of the lineup with a toe injury, Niagara quickly fell behind 17-points in the first half (26-9).

But that quickly changed once NU got their legs underneath them. The Purple Eagles went on a 41-22 run that extended into the second half, giving them a 50-48 lead with 14:17 remaining.

Unfortunately, Niagara was unable to hold on but there were some positives coming out of the loss.

Dominic Robb stepped up as the team’s primary option, scoring 22 points and adding eight rebounds.

James Towns finally found his stoke from deep, connecting on three 3-pointers, finishing with 16 points while freshman guard Raheem Solomon added a career-high 13 points.

Quick Facts:

  • Dominic Robb had three blocks vs. Saint Francis to move into sole possession of third place on Niagara’s career blocks list with 180. He also moved into 66th on the all-time scoring list.  
  • Dominic Robb has increased his point total in each game this season.

Next Week: at Pittsburgh, vs. New Hampshire

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)

Stock WAY Down:

Canisius: (1-6), Last Week: Loss to St. Bonaventure

How to put this delicately… Canisius is playing some really crappy basketball.

Do I believe the Golden Griffins are as bad as they’ve been playing? No way in hell!

Am I starting to get concerned? You better damn believe it!

I knew it would be a brutal start to the season for Canisius. Everyone with a brain knew it. While the Griffs had an amazing run last season, they don’t have the roster to compete with teams like Florida State and Villanova.

What worries me is that they’ve also looked very poor offensively against teams like Albany, UAB and St. Bonaventure.

Canisius is averaging 59.83 points per game during their current six-game losing streak. On the season, they’re shooting an abysmal 38.5% from the field and 27.5% from deep.

The Griffs are also getting destroyed on the boards by an 11.6 margin per game.

I thought some of that would change when they took on a struggling St. Bonaventure squad but boy was I wrong!

With Courtney Stockard back in the lineup, Canisius was whooped! Isaiah Reese and Takal Molson combined for only 13-points in the loss.

ORLANDO, FL – NOVEMBER 22: Canisius Golden Griffins guard Isaiah Reese (13) during the 2018 AdvoCare Invitational mens college basketball game between the Canisius Golden Griffins and Villanova Wildcats on November 22, 2018 at the HP Field House in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Reese netted only one field goal, scoring three points on 1-10 shooting. He’s gotten off to a slow start to his season, averaging 11.1 points per game on 32% shooting.

That’s down from 16.9 points and 46.3% shooting last year. Something is off. I’m not sure what it going on but Reese is clearly going through his share of struggles as the Griffs battle higher competition.

Luckily for them, their schedule levels off moving forward with their next three games against Robert Morris, Elon and Holy Cross before their Big 4 contest against No. 21 Buffalo.

Will things get better? Yes.

Will they still be a contender in the MAAC? Yes.

It’s been a frustrating start to their season but Canisius will get back on track. Fans will need to be patient as this team figures things out heading into MAAC play.

Quick Facts:

  • Molson extended his streak of scoring 10 or more points in a game to 10 straight, dating back to last year.
  • Sanks’ four made 3-point field goals against St. Bonaventure ties a career high. He also hit four treys in a road win over Saint peter’s Feb. 4, 2018.

Next Week: vs. Robert Morris

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

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