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Tsuj’s Ten: Griffins soar, Bulls bumble

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Bulls roam to Koessler for tilt with Canisius

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

The Canisius Griffins (2-0) and UB Bulls (1-4) are headed in opposite directions—seemingly at rapid rates.

Tonight’s head-to-head at 8 at Canisius’ Koessler Athletic Center will serve as a strong barometer for the Griffins’ progress and the Bulls’ decline. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

A year after UB narrowly fell to Ohio in the MAC Semifinals and produced the conference player of the year in Mitchell Watt, Reggie Witherspoon’s Bulls are reeling during their busy early-season slate. Losses to Princeton at Alumni Arena and Florida State, Western Illinois and Yale have uncovered a disturbingly one-dimensional offense, amplified even more by the absence of injured Tony Watson II, Buffalo’s only dangerous perimeter shooter.

The development of sophomore Xavier Ford and transfer Will Regan isn’t quite where many Bulls fans expected, and the struggles of Corey Raley-Ross and Auraum Nuiriankh have been well-documented in Monday’s Tsuj’s Ten.

The Canisius revival makes perfect sense— it was fairly predictable—because former head coach Tom Parrotta basically threw in the towel last season in order to have a very strong 2012-13 squad. Although he’s not here to reap the rewards, Parrotta laid the personnel foundation for Jim Baron’s superior coaching ability. And remember, it was Baron who had to convince a very diverse group of someone else’s players to buy into his philosophy, so credit is deserved all-around.

Players to watch:

Billy Baron, Canisius: St. Bonaventure’s Charlon Kloof did a very good job guarding Baron last Saturday, holding him to nine points, five assists and four turnovers. Baron’s body language is a welcomed change from Gaby Belardo, the Canisius point guard who let dry spells affect him and his teammates the last two years. UB’s Jarod Oldham is a similar defender to Kloof, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Bulls play more man-to-man or zone tonight.

Baron’s not quite the knockdown shooter like his brother Jimmy, who currently plays professionally in Spain, but he can nail open shots. If Baron puts up 15 points and eight assists, while keeping his TOs at four or lower, the Griffs will probably win.

Javon McCrea, UB: The Canisius interior defense may be McCrea’s biggest challenge yet this year, even after Yale’s post players limited McCrea to a 2-11 outing by persistently swarming and fouling Buffalo’s only source of scoring. The Griffs’ lanky big Jordan Heath, bulked-up Josiah Heath and burly Chris Manhertz will all tangle with McCrea, and they’ll present different challenges for the Big 4 Preseason Player of the Year. McCrea’s game has expanded, even if he has little to no help—he’s now connecting on 83% of his free-throws (29-35), penalizing opponents for trying a “hack-a-Javon” strategy.

Even the gamblers don’t know who’s going to win Tuesday night’s contest between the Canisius Griffins and the University at Buffalo. According to VegasInsider.com, the betting line opened favoring the Bulls by 1.5 points but has since shifted to give the edge to the Griffins by 2.5. It’s true—Canisius has all the momentum—but can the University at Buffalo rebound with the emotion of a Big 4 rivalry game?

(UB header photo courtesy of Don Nieman, Canisius interior photo courtesy of Robin David Brown.)

TAGGED: billy baron, canisius griffins, college basketball, javon mccrea, jim baron, maac, mac, ub bulls

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