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.
Conference play is tough! There’s no such thing as an easy road victory when you get to this point of the season.
That much was evident for Buffalo this past week with the Bulls facing a pair of nail biters against Northern Illinois and Kent State.
The same was true for St. Bonaventure which saw their freshman sensation, Kyle Lofton lift them to a pair of victories over UMass and Richmond.
Canisius and Niagara were both able to spend the weekend at home, picking up crucial MAAC wins.
Things are looking up the majority of the Big 4 with the calendar flipping to the final full month of the regular season.
With that said, here’s another edition of Stock Up, Stock Down!
Stock Slightly Down!
#14 Buffalo: 18-2 (6-1), Last Week: Loss at Northern Illinois, Win at Kent State
Let me start out by saying, Buffalo will be just fine.
I saw plenty of overreactions on social media following the Bulls 77-75 loss at Northern Illinois on Tuesday evening.
Was it a good loss? Is there such a thing.
Will it kill their at-large chances? No.
Could they fall out of the top 25? Potentially.
My biggest reaction to Buffalo’s first conference loss of the season is that it’s nearly impossible to go undefeated in MAC play. In fact, it’s only been done twice in the 70+ year history of the Mid-American Conference.
The Bulls killed themselves throughout the night with poor shooting and sloppy decision making. They shot 36.7% from the field and turned the ball over 17 times.
You’re not going to win many games with those numbers. Despite that, CJ Massinburg did his best to play hero ball in the final minutes.
The Bulls senior leader scored nine points in the final 1:19, hitting a game-tying three with 6.4 seconds remaining to erase what was once a 73-66 deficit one minute prior.
All signs were pointing to overtime when this happened:
To say I was shocked would be an understatement! Not by the fact that Northern Illinois scored on their final possession but more so by how easily they converted.
Trendon Hankerson attracted a double-team in the final seconds, leaving Noah McCarty wide open cutting to the hoop for an uncontested game-winning layup.
Buffalo had issues guarding Northern Illinois the entire evening. Two Huskies scored 20+ points.
Dante Thorpe posted 23 points with Eugene German right behind him, finishing with 20. Massinburg carried the Bulls with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
My initial thoughts on the loss, it hurts UB but they’ll be just fine. Mid-majors are always battling perception issues and their loss against NIU definitely won’t help them with some national figureheads.
That said, Buffalo has already built up a strong enough resume, where this loss alone won’t kill them. In the days following the NIU loss, Joe Lunardi of ESPN dropped the Bulls from a 4-seed to a 6-seed in his latest Bracketology with Jay Bilas naming UB his 9th best team in the country in his Bilas Index.
So while there will be a few repercussions following their Northern Illinois loss from a national perspective, things are still churning forward for Nate Oats and company.
It was vital for Buffalo to respond with a win over a talented Kent State squad on the road. The Golden Flashes entered Friday night’s matchup at 15-4 overall, coming off a huge victory over Toledo.
A packed crowd filled the MAC Center, one of the toughest venues to play in the Mid-American Conference with the Flashes feeling energized early.
Jaylin Walker and company stormed out to an early 13-point lead over the Bulls, hitting contested shots left and right. It looked like Buffalo could be in some trouble once again but things calmed down with UB getting back within one entering the half.
The game was a contest of runs with both teams trading buckets back-and-forth. Nick Perkins and CJ Massinburg took on the scoring load, nearly finishing with identical statistics.
Both posted 20 points, eight rebounds and three assists with Massinburg adding three steals.
UB received tremendous contributions from Dontay Caruthers and Davonta Jordan with the Bulls starting point guard stealing the show, finishing with 12 points, four assists and three steals but was even more valuable than any box score would indicate.
Buffalo also saw their two highly touted freshman, Rondo Segu and Jeenathan Williams put forth tremendous minutes while on the court.
That said, it was anyones contest with the game tied at 73 with 5:22 remaining. That’s when the Bulls decided to go for the kill.
Buffalo went on an 11-2 run, sparked by dunks from Jeremy Harris and CJ Massinburg as they were able to escape with an impressive 88-79 victory.
UB did what they needed to do, rebounding on the road to keep themselves in the good graces of the national media heading into February.
I’m not going to mince my words.
Had Buffalo lost to Kent State, they would’ve dropped out of the rankings, possibly for the rest of the season. At minimum, they would’ve dropped another few spots on the bracket line and given up any safety net they’ve established following wins over Syracuse, San Francisco and West Virginia.
Now, is it fair that mid-majors like Buffalo are held to that standard? Not at all.
Unfortunately there’s nothing anyone can really do about it until the national media and money makers behind the NCAA create a system that allows every program to be critiqued on a more level playing field.
That said, that’s a worry for another day with the Bulls improving to 18-2 overall. They’re still in great shape moving forward.
It’s going to be a very interesting to see where Buffalo is slotted this week. I brought up the possibility of them dropping outside of the rankings following their loss against Northern Illinois.
I no longer think that’ll happen. It could but I wouldn’t bet on it.
There were plenty of losses amongst the top 25 this past week. No. 13 Maryland, No. 16 Auburn and No. 20 Ole Miss all lost twice.
No. 14 Texas Tech, No. 19 Iowa, No. 21 North Carolina State, No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 24 Iowa State all lost as well.
That list doesn’t even include a few other ranked programs that also suffered losses.
The point being, even the great teams lose every once in a while.
Buffalo’s loss against Northern Illinois will be judged more harshly than a Power-Five school losing to another P5 program but it shouldn’t be enough to drop them outside of the rankings with plenty of other programs slotted near them also suffering losses last week.
If I were to guess, I’d predict the Bulls to be ranked 22nd in Monday’s poll.
1,000 Point Milestone:
Congratulations to Buffalo senior guard Cierra Dillard on becoming the 25th player in program history to score 1,000 points in a Bulls uniform.
She accomplished the feat in 53 games, becoming the fastest UB player to ever reach the 1,000 point milestone.
Dillard is quickly approaching another career milestone. She had 783 points at UMass prior to transferring to Buffalo, putting her career total at 1,800 points.
She’s now only 200 points away from the 2,000 career point milestone.
- CJ Massinburg is the first Bulls player with 20 or more points in three straight games since Wes Clark ended last season with 20 or more points in the MAC Championship and both NCAA Tournament games.
- Buffalo has lost two straight versus Northern Illinois after previously winning their previous 13 contests.
- Senior Nick Perkins moved into sixth place on UB’s all-time scoring list on Tuesday night at Northern Illinois. He now has 1,533 career points.
- Buffalo became the first ranked team to play at the M.A.C. Center since #20 Ball State on Feb. 22, 1989.
Next Week: vs. Ball State, at Bowling Green
Stock Way Up!
St. Bonaventure: 8-12 (4-3), Last Week: Wins vs. UMass and Richmond
If one thing is clear watching the Bonnies this year, it’s that Kyle Lofton is poised to become a star in the Atlantic 10.
Behind his strong play, St. Bonaventure is finally starting to get some momentum rolling. Bona has won four of their past six games, picking up a pair of road wins over UMass and Richmond this past week.
There’s still plenty of room for improvement but it’s a start. The Bonnies have been shutting down their opponents defensively but need to get better on the offensive side of the ball.
KenPom has their adjusted offensive ranking at 229th in the country. It’s easy to see why. Their offense is almost exclusively dependent on Kyle Lofton and Courtney Stockard.
Those two combined to go 15-36 from the field against the Spiders, finishing with 39 of the Bonnies 66 points. The rest of the Bona rotation went 9-21 for 27 points.
That’s been their theme of late, relying on those two to carry St. Bonaventure to victories.
Short-term, it’s working.
Long-term, the Bonnies need larger contributions from LaDarien Griffin and possibly Dominick Welch and Osun Osunniyi.
Jalen Poyser helped with the scoring load earlier in the season but was demoted to a bench role prior to suffering a head injury.
I’m not sure what his impact will be once Poyser returns. With that in mind, it looks like the Bonnies freshmen will continue to grow on the court early in their careers.
The good news, St. Bonaventure’s defense has been stifling. Bona has held three of their past six opponents under 60 points.
UMass struggled to even reach 50. The Minutemen need garbage time points to finish with 51, shooting 35.2% from the field.
The Bonnies will need to continue playing at that high level defensively if they want to contend in the mid-tier of the Atlantic 10.
KenPom has the Bonnies as slight underdogs in their next four games. The site projects St. Bonaventure to finish 14-17 (10-8) overall which wouldn’t be awful after the Bonnies poor start to their season.
If Bona can pull off an upset or two, they’ll have a chance to be even better but it’ll all be contingent on if Lofton and Stockard are able to carry the scoring load the rest of the way.
Mark Schmidt Win #200:
Congratulations to one of the best college basketball coaches in Western New York history, Mark Schmidt.
The Bona head coach won his 200th game at St. Bonaventure on Saturday in the Bonnies 66-57 victory over Richmond.
He’s now two wins away from the school’s all-time record of 202 victories, held by Larry Weise who coached the Bonnies 1970 Final Four team.
- St. Bonaventure has now won seven straight meetings with UMass including four in a row in the Mullins Center.
- St. Bonaventure overcame its largest deficit of the season in a win (nine by UMass in the first half)
- The win was the 200th in the St. Bonaventure career of coach Mark Schmidt. The milestone victory also moved Schmidt within two wins of tying Larry Weise for the most wins by a coach in program history.
- St. Bonaventure snapped a five-game losing skid at Richmond. The Bonnies’ last win in the Robins Center was in 2009.
Next Week: vs. Davidson
Canisius: 8-11 (5-2), Last Week: Win over Monmouth
The Golden Griffins picked a good time to get on a roll!
Things were looking very bleak for the Griffs a few weeks ago after back-to-back home losses versus Rider and Iona.
Now, that seems like forever ago.
Canisius has responded to adversity by winning three straight, taking down Quinnipiac, Fairfield and Monmouth.
Their win over the Hawks was their best one yet. Monmouth entered Wednesday night’s contest tied with the Griffs in the MAAC standings.
That was until Canisius outscored them by 14-points in the second half, pulling away for an 80-66 win.
The Golden Griffins executed at a high level on both sides of the ball shooting 59.2% from the field while holding Monmouth to 37.5%
Four Griffs scored in double-digits led by Takal Molson’s 18. Jonathan Sanks had a huge game, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds.
Isaiah Reese and Scott Hitchon both finished with 11 points with Reese adding seven assists.
The one issue Canisius did struggle with was turnovers. The Griffs coughed the ball over 17 times. That’s far too many for a team hoping to compete for a league title.
However, it is something they can fix.
The Golden Griffins have a winnable stretch in front of them with their next three games against Niagara, Quinnipiac and Marist, setting up a massive game at Rider on February 8th.
If they can go 3-0 during their next three, their game versus the Broncs could have regular season title implications.
Canisius can’t look past Niagara and Quinnipiac though. The Purple Eagles are the Griffs primary rival and always a tough matchup with both teams heading into Wednesday’s matchup coming off of wins.
I’ll be at the Gallagher Center covering that game for From the 300 Level.
- Canisius has now defeated Monmouth three-straight times, dating back to last season.
- Canisius is 20-5 in its last 25 league games, dating back to last season. That is the best 25-game MAAC stretch for the program since the 1993-94 and 1994-95 teams also went 20-5 in a 25-game span.
- Molson has now scored in double-figures in all 19 games this year and in 23-straight games, dating back to last season.
Next Week: at Niagara, vs. Quinnipiac
Niagara: 10-11 (3-5), Last Week: Loss vs. St. Peter’s, Win vs. Monmouth
It was another typical week for Niagara with them going through their share of highs and lows.
The Purple Eagles opened with a heartbreaking loss at home against St. Peter’s.
The Peacocks used a 16-4 run late in the first half to take a 40-29 lead before letting Niagara hit back-to-back three’s, making it a five-point game at the half.
Marvin Prochet tied his career-high with 24 points for the second consecutive game. Despite that, Niagara couldn’t overcome a Manny Dixon three-pointer with six seconds remaining, falling to the Peacocks 74-72.
Davauhnte Turner led the Peacocks with 31 points and six rebounds while Marvin Prochet and Raheem Solomon took on the scoring load for the Purple Eagles.
Niagara rebounded from Tuesday’s difficult loss with an impressive showing against Monmouth on Saturday.
Both teams got off to a slow offensive start with the Hawks taking a 23-22 lead into the half but their momentum would end there.
The Purple Eagles put on a clinic in the second half, outscoring Monmouth 53-25 on their way to a 75-48 victory in their most impressive showing of the season.
Niagara shot 52% in the second half, connecting on 7-12 from deep while simultaneously holding the Hawks to 34.48% shooting in the final 20 minutes.
Chris Barton and Marvin Prochet lit up the box score in the win.
Barton had the best game of his Purple Eagle career, posting a career-high 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Prochet just missed out on a double-double, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds. James Towns also chipped in 15 points.
With the victory, Niagara is sitting at 1-1 midway through their four-game home stand. It’s vital they win their next two games if the Purple Eagles want any chance at finishing in the upper half of the MAAC standings.
They take on their arch rival, Canisius on Wednesday evening at the Gallagher Center before battling Quinnipiac for the second time this season on Sunday.
- Chris Barton established a new career-high with a game-high 22 points vs. Monmouth, including 20 in the second half.
- The 27-point win is the Purple Eagles’ largest since beating Marist, 79-50, in the 2009 MAAC Tournament Quarterfinals.
- The 48 points allowed are the fewest since St. John’s scored 48 points against the Purple Eagles on December 9, 2015.
- With a pair of blocks vs. St. Peter’s, Dominic Robb now sits at 209 career blocks, just 11 from tying the program record.
Next Week: vs. Canisius, vs. Quinnipiac
Facts courtesy of the Buffalo, Niagara, St. Bonaventure and Niagara athletic departments.