BUFFALO, NY – It’s been an unbelievable four years for the University at Buffalo basketball program.
There’s been three major constants during their recent run as they prepare for their third NCAA Tournament appearance during that timeframe.
Those are UB head coach Nate Oats, guard CJ Massinburg and forward Nick Perkins.
Oats was with the program prior to Massinburg and Perkins arriving, serving as an assistant coach under Bobby Hurley. He was the Bulls top recruiter, helping Buffalo establish their current base.
Hurley left for Arizona State following UB’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015 with Oats promoted to his position shortly after.
Perkins was one of his top recruits from earlier that season. Oats first priority as head coach was convincing him to stay after Hurley decided to leave.
The Michigan native decided to honor his commitment, joining the Bulls and making an immediate impact as a freshman.
During his four years in Buffalo, Perkins has averaged 12.6 points and six rebounds per game, surpassing 1,600 points and 800 rebounds in his career.
Oats next largest priority after convincing Perkins to stay was to filling out his roster. UB lost Shannon Evans and Torian Graham to Arizona State while recruit Nate Navigato decommitted for Toledo.
With the Bulls roster in flux, Oats took a chance on a lightly regarded recruit by the name of CJ Massinburg.
By now, we all know his story but what a home run pickup that was for Buffalo.
Massinburg is UB’s Babe Ruth and Alumni Arena is the “House that Massinburg built!”
Sure, Buffalo has had great players in the past including Turner Battle, Javon McCrea and Rasaun Young who will be honored at halftime of tonight’s game against Bowling Green but none have contributed at the level that Massinburg has.
CJ “Buckets” as many like to call him, changed the UB program.
He’s a well-rounded player who had an instant impact on Buffalo, averaging 11.3 points and 4.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, guiding UB back into the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year in 2016.
Not many Bulls fans were following the team closely that season. They didn’t have sky-high expectations back then after losing half of their roster during the offseason including the defending MAC Player of the Year, Justin Moss to expulsion.
Massinburg carried the Bulls during his first two years as they fought their way to a 37-30 record.
It was during his second year at UB that a JUCO transfer by the name of Dontay Caruthers arrived in Amherst. The Rochester native made a quick impression with his fierce guarding ability, being named MAC Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore after averaging 1.8 steals per game in 2016-17.
He also showed some offensive touch in his first season, averaging 5.1 points per game but it was during the 2017-18 season for UB in which everything came together on the court.
That was the year in which Jeremy Harris and Montell McRae arrived at UB. The pair of JUCO transfers both contributed very early in their Buffalo careers.
Harris instantly became one of the Bulls leading scorers, averaging 15.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a junior. His smooth 3-point shooting and driving ability gave UB added flexibility, opening up their offense in multiple ways.
Buffalo took off with him in their starting lineup, becoming on of the most dynamic scoring teams in the country.
UB opened the 2017-18 season 7-5, losing a trio of close games to No. 12 Cincinnati, Syracuse and No. 8 Texas A&M.
The results weren’t going their way but you could see the team moving in the right direction. Missouri transfer Wes Clark made his Bulls debut against Syracuse with UB taking off from there, finishing 27-9, defeating Arizona for their first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
With five seniors returning, Buffalo entered this year with their highest expectations ever.
Those only went up after CJ Massinburg scored 43 points, guiding the Bulls to a road win over No. 13 West Virginia in Morgantown during the first week of the season.
UB opened the next week ranked for the first time in school history and haven’t dropped outside the Top 25 since.
Montell McRae has seen his playing time increase this season with Ikenna Smart transferring to Wake Forest. The senior forward is averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
Let’s take a look at what makes each senior special.
- Montell McRae has given the Bulls a decent scoring option down low behind Nick Perkins.
- Dontay Caruthers is a shutdown defender with the quickness to drive to the hoop and score when needed.
- Jeremy Harris is one of the most dynamic players in the MAC who can shoot with the best of them (has struggled this year), attack the hoop with poise and bring down boards in the paint.
- Nick Perkins is a beast down low! He has the moves to score in the paint while also displaying the touch to knock down threes and connect from mid-range. He can also defend any forward he matches up against.
- CJ Massinburg is the game-changer. He is always under control, playing with the poise and leadership needed to take the Bulls to the next level. CJ “Buckets” is the best player in program history and displays the skills needed to make it to the next level.
All of the Buffalo seniors have played a massive role in the Bulls recent renaissance. They are the reason why Alumni Arena has been rocking this season and will be for many years to come.
Nate Oats brought them to UB and now it’s time to let them all know how much this community appreciates what they’ve done for the university and surrounding community.
Tonight is the last time you’ll be able to see the Bulls 2019 senior class suit up at Alumni Arena.
The game is sold out with a record crowd anticipated.
Let’s send this historic group of Buffalo seniors out in style as they look to continue adding to their storybook careers.