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Tsuj’s Ten: Bulls at record low, Top 25 talk

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Even for a UB team that’s been searching high and low for offense this year, scoring only 39 points is pretty unacceptable. That output in the 54-39 loss to Temple was the Bulls’ lowest since 2003, a calamitous outing where Reggie Witherspoon’s club shot 33% from the floor and only attempted a paltry three free throws for the entire contest.

As glum as UB’s situation is, there’s encouraging news for the rest of the Big 4 teams. Canisius was much more efficient in its 83-65 victory over the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and St. Bonaventure put forth a strong effort in a narrow road loss to Ohio, 69-64. Niagara’s 11-point defeat against Iona was a valuable non-conference test, but probably not the best time for Juan’ya Green to have his second straight off-night. Let’s get to the 10.

1) Back to UB’s doldrums: Browse through Ben K.‘s live-blog of the UB vs.Temple game at Alumni Arena. Clearly, this year’s affair was a lot different than the 87-85 shootout that Temple won last December despite Javon McCrea’s 28 and Mitchell Watt’s 22. Witherspoon’s comment that the Bulls would win most games where their opponent shot lower than 40% and UB committed around 10 turnovers was accurate, as the Bulls turned the ball over 16 times—fortunate that the Owls only made 18 of their 51 shots (35%).

If you’re trying to relax on your Friday night, the UB vs. Temple game airs again on Time Warner Cable Sportsnet at 9:30 p.m. I don’t know why you’d subject yourself to that torture, but the choice is yours.

2) D-Fence: If there’s any bright spot for UB, it’s that the Bulls’ team defense was pretty solid. The vast majority of Temple’s looks close to the hoop were challenged, and buckets were hard to come by for Scootie Randall, Temple’s leading scorer at 22 per game, who finished with a measly four points on 2-6 shooting. Essentially, the Bulls forced unheralded players to beat them, and it was the sharp shooting of freshman reserve Quenton DeCosey, who scored eight points in 10 minutes off the pine for Fran Dunphy’s crew. Ben K. spoke highly of Anthony Lee’s value at both ends, as his sheer length and efficiency—he shot 5-8 with a few thunderous dunks—were game-changers for the Owls. Still 54 points for the Owls was a drastic decline from their previous average of 79 points per game.

3) Brittle and weak: You’d think Dunphy’s tactic would be to sag off the Bulls on the perimeter, daring guys like Javon McCrea, Jarod Oldham, Corey Raley-Ross and Raphell Thomas-Edwards to take shots beyond their comfort zone. At least in Thomas-Edwards’ case, that was true, but Khalif Wyatt and Will Cummings were glued tightly to Auraum Nuiriankh and Tony Watson II—the Bulls’ only two three-point shooting threats—and held them to 2-10 from downtown. The disparity in the post was even greater, as Will Regan and Xavier Ford were easily pushed out of the paint, and McCrea missed some head-scratching five-footers that he usually sinks with confidence.

4) Bangin’ backcourt: Here are St. Bonaventure’s highlights from the 69-64 loss to Ohio. Chris Johnson and Eric Mosley were electric, often buoying the Bonnies’ offense in the face of a boisterous crowd in Athens.

5) Overwhelmed: As Bona head coach Mark Schmidt noted in the post-game interview, St. Bonaventure had to fight tooth-and-nail to even hang around in this game. A Sweet 16 from last year, the Bobcats return a bevy of players—including star point guard D.J. Cooper, who stuck the dagger in the Bonnies with a go-ahead three, and exceptional former Buckeye Walter Offutt, who dropped 14 points and four treys. Even with the departure of former head coach John Groce to Illinois, the Bobcats are 6-0 and the No. 3 team in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll.

An opponent this experienced and cohesive is a bear to beat at their home venue, and hopes for UB victory in Athens on Jan. 9 are presently bleak. When Bobcats head coach Jim Christian adds Missouri transfer Kadeem Green, a 6’8 red-shirt sophomore with a 7’1 wingspan, for the fall semester, Ohio could be poised for another deep NCAA run. Scary, but good news for the Mid-American Conference as a whole. See them face No. 17 Memphis on CBS Sports Network on Dec. 5.

6) Griffins rectify road problems: A bout with the 1-4 Retrievers (aw! so cute and obedient!) from UMBC—who are ranked 326th out of 347 D-I teams on Kenpom.com—was just what the doctor ordered for Jim Baron’s Griffins. Three-point shooting was again a trouble area, as the Griffs only shot 3-20 from beyond the arc, and Isaac Sosa had his minutes cut again. The Canisius bigs were dominant on the glass, out-rebounding the Retrievers 44-27. Chris Manhertz (12 boards), Freddy Asprilla (seven boards) and Josiah Heath (six rebounds) made up for the Griffs’ 18 turnovers, 12 of which were by guards.

7) Big 4 team to beat: This is the first time in Canisius’ history that the program won four games in the month of November, and considering the Griffs play either four or five contests in the season’s opening month, there’s been little margin for error in the past. There hasn’t been much credit from the national media, as Niagara is the only team receiving votes in the Mid-Major poll despite their 2-4 start. Next weekend starts conference play for Baron’s squad, as a Friday trip to Fairfield (No. 155 on Kenpom) is followed by a Sunday tilt with Marist (No. 207).

8) Quick national bits: The story of Missouri guard Michael Dixon is a shameful one, as it’s agonizing when such a terrific athlete allegedly makes terrible off-the-court decisions. An outstanding sixth man last season, Dixon has left the Tigers’ program after two different sexual assault charges were filed against him. The Huffington Post elaborates.

Catch a glimpse of North Carolina State, Michigan and Indiana, if you can.

—NC State, No. 18: Like watching freshmen and can’t stand Calipari and Kentucky? Me too. Freshman wing T.J. Warren comes off the bench to lead the Wolfpack in scoring at 15 per game at a ridiculous 70% shooting clip, while fellow frosh Rodney Purvis averages double-figures in points and has hit 10 of 18 threes. Can enigmatic yet physically-blessed C.J. Leslie become a reliable force? He’ll be counted on more and more as the season progresses and the freshmen hit their first-year walls.

—Michigan, No. 3: I’m biased here, as I’ve been a Wolverine fan—Tom Brady and Chad Henne aside—since I was just a little guy. Every time I watch John Beilein’s team, I try to watch Tim Hardaway Jr. and touted freshman Mitch McGary, but also come away more impressed by dynamic point guard Trey Burke and Canadian freshman Nik Stauskas, who owns a stroke as smooth as Glen Rice.

—Indiana, No. 1: Their chemistry, ball movement and energy is outstanding, as Cody Zeller is a frighteningly athletic big and a trio of guards—Jordan Hulls (leader, sharp-shooter), Victor Oladipo (slasher, defender) and freshman Yogi Ferrell (energy, ball-handling)—all complement each other with their abilities. Tom Crean has worked some real magic here, and that beat-down of North Carolina was jaw-dropping and drool-inducing. It was a messy evening at the Tsujimoto apartment.

9) What I’m watching Saturday if I’m not drunk after excess English Premier League soccer: The trip to Olean for UB vs. St. Bonaventure is tempting, but I’m confident that the Bonnies—on their home floor in front of a rowdy student section—will dispatch the Bulls easily. Let’s say 70-56. Recently, UB has not fared well on the road, even with much more refined, veteran rosters.

1 p.m.—Illinois St. vs. Louisville, CBS Sports Network: The Cardinals plod on without their best big man, injured Giorgui Dieng, and they face the Redbirds (it’s okay, it’ll be confusing), who are ranked No. 5 on the Mid-Major Top 25. Don’t think that this will be a walk in the park for Rick Pitino.

3 p.m.—Alabama vs. No. 17 Cincinnati, ESPN2: The Bearcats are unbeaten (6-0) and rank as the nation’s best in rebounding. Alabama, however, is also 6-0 and has received the most votes in the AP Poll of any un-ranked team. They shoot a high percentage as a team (47%) and share the basketball (15 assists per game.) How will the two styles collide?

(3 p.m.—St. Joseph’s vs. Creighton, ESPN3: I know this isn’t exactly a “TV game,” but don’t pass up a chance to watch Doug McDermott, the Blue Jays’ superstar who has a real chance to be national player of the year.)

10) Final numbers (team - record - Kenpom ranking):

Canisius, 4-1—Kenpom ranking: 210
Niagara, 2-4—Kenpom ranking: 158
St. Bonaventure, 3-2—Kenpom ranking: 95
UB, 2-6—Kenpom ranking: 200

Previous Tsuj’s Tens:

Nov. 19
Nov. 27

(UB vs. Canisius photos by Robin David Brown; Indiana photo from the team’s Facebook page).

TAGGED: big 4 basketball, canisius griffins, college basketball, indiana hoosiers, maac, mac, reggie witherspoon, tsuj's ten, ub bulls

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