CBS Sports weighs in on Bulls basketball
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 06, 2012 @ 8:52am
Last month, the University at Buffalo men’s basketball team had the opportunity to play a four-game series in Canada, a postseason trip that the squad makes every four years. It’s a luxury to be able to start practicing and developing chemistry so early in the off-season, and it also afforded Bulls fans an idea of what to expect this winter.
Well, at least a little.
UB followers were able to read recaps and, if they searched hard enough, could even dig up box scores, but there was a major lack of analysis due to the rather distant trip to another country and the relative obscurity of the Canadian opponents. Plus, the northern jaunt came during the slowest period of basketball’s calendar year.
CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander debriefed with Bulls’ head coach Reggie Witherspoon following the Canada trip and gathered plenty of new information.
Not surprisingly, the article centers on Javon McCrea, the Bulls junior power forward. After he was selected MAC Freshman of the Year in 2011, the Newark graduate was overshadowed last season by the emergence of center Mitchell Watt, who earned conference player of the year honors. Many expected McCrea to build off his exceptional freshman campaign—and he didn’t necessarily decline—he just failed to take the step forward that most expected.
We’ll probably return regularly to this Witherspoon comment to Norlander in the coming season, so let it sink in:
“Javon needs to be more dominant. It’s different. Any time you lose one player it’s different, and it’s certainly different when you lose the number of players we lost. That means some of the people he may have deferred to in the past are not there to defer to anymore. He has to be more assertive and in doing so. He’s had dominant moments, but not dominant stretches, which is interesting for a sophomore who made the First Team in the MAC.”
The most positive result of the trip was the step forward taken by junior Auraum Nuiriankh, another junior. Against the two teams that Witherspoon considered “MAC-level,” Nuiriankh posted 17 points against Laval University and 14 against powerhouse Carleton University. It’s easy to forget that Nuiriankh is actually 6’6 and a willing defender—it’s truly icing on the cake that he’s growing in confidence offensively.
The worst news is the dual-surgery that incoming freshman Stan Wier (East Aurora, Nichols) had on both knees in March. Since there’s a glaring hole at the two-guard spot—Corey Raley-Ross and even Tony Watson II give Witherspoon less-than-inspiring options—Wier had a real chance at immediate playing time. Now that his return to the court is uncertain, his development will almost certainly be delayed.
With McCrea showing a dominant streak in the post, Nuiriankh continuing to bloom on the perimeter and the three-headed point guard monster of senior Tony Watson II, junior Jarod Oldham and freshman Jarryn Skeete battling for minutes, the Bulls should still compete in MAC play despite losing Watt, Zach Filzen, Titus Robinson and Dave Barnett.
Here’s a link to UB’s 2012-13 roster from UB Athletics.
(Header photo courtesy of Don Nieman from last year’s UB vs. Ohio gallery—see it here.)