Tsuj’s Ten: College basketball, 2/10
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • February 10, 2012 @ 11:15am
1) Evaluating the Bulls’ win over CMU: There are two ways to look at the University at Buffalo’s 66-62 win over Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant (...I’m still trying to find something ‘pleasant’ about it, by the way). One way would be to say, “A Bulls’ team, one that would ordinarily collapse after being victimized for a 10-0 run with under five minutes left in the game, withstood the Chips’ rally and escaped with a win. That’s the sign of a resilient club.” The second look, however, would be: “With the talent level the Bulls have and the utter inferiority of the MAC West, there’s no way Buffalo should have let CMU sneak back into contention.”
2) A little of both?: There’s truth to both perspectives. This Bulls team tends to be a little more feisty when faced with adversity, but there’s still a tendency to play down to the level of the competition. In 2010-11, Buffalo went 2-6 in road games decided by fewer than 10 points, but this year, UB is a steady 4-4. The mid-January losses to Miami (OH) and Ohio demonstrate that this UB team obviously isn’t invincible, but the recent narrow wins over Toledo and CMU give hope for the tightly-contested, neutral-court nature of the MAC Tournament.
3) A little luck for the Bulls: Central Michigan star guard Trey Zeigler lasted only 15 minutes against Buffalo before he hurt his lower back chasing down a loose ball. The injury doesn’t appear to be too serious, although Zeigler tried to play in the second half before resigning himself to the bench. In his stead, Olivier Mbaigoto stepped up with 18 points, but head coach Ernie Zeigler missed his son’s go-to ability in a close game down the stretch. Central Michigan falls to 2-8 in conference play.
4) Gunning for eight: The Bulls are closing in on the feat of the ‘08-‘09 team that won nine straight conference games before eventually falling to Akron in the MAC Final. A win over Western Michigan on 6 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Arena (TV: ESPN3) would push the Bulls’ streak to eight, while a victory the following Tuesday at Kent State would tie the record. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves!
5) Broncos no pushover: Sure, Western Michigan has lost three straight—including a 72-48 debacle against Bowling Green—but the Broncos took Kent State and Akron to overtime before falling just short in both. WMU does possess ingredients for success—two senior guards in Mike Douglas and Demetrius Ward, an established MAC forward in Flenard Whitfield and a massive inside presence in 6’9, 290 pound sophomore Matt Stainbrook. The giant of a center—who still leads the team in scoring and dons some pleasant specs—has seen his minutes decline severely since being left home from a road trip, ostensibly due to maturity issues but officially declared a “coach’s decision.”
6) A new task for the Bulls’ D: Assuming Stainbrook does see increased minutes to combat the Bulls’ front-court size—not a safe assumption considering the spacious doghouse of head coach Steve Hawkins—Buffalo’s stingy D will be tested with a new element. Although the Bulls have squared off against the best MAC big men in Julian Mavunga (6’8, 232), Justin Greene (6’8 230) and Zeke Marshall (7’0, 235), none of them had the beef that Stainbrook brings. That said, the speed of Javon McCrea and Mitchell Watt could force Stainbrook into quick foul trouble—something to which he’s rather prone. All this long-winded Stainbrook chatter could be a moot point.
7) Canisius plays more basketball!: The Griffins lost a tough fight against Rider 71-66, and you can get the detailed recap from Canisius Griffin sports editor Nick Veronica, who also runs his own blog at It’s Always Game Seven. The same old story-lines—turnovers, lack of depth and injuries—all reared their ugly heads again as Canisius lost its 20th game of the season.
8) Saints eagerly march in: The Griffs draw Siena (10-14 overall, 5-9 in MAAC) at the Koessler Athletic Center on Saturday in a game sponsored by Buffalo.com! We’re handing out sweet stickers. Anyhow, Siena still hasn’t recovered from the exit of head coach Fran McCaffery, who bolted for the University of Iowa after leading the Saints to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in two straight seasons (‘08 and ‘09). Ryan Rossiter has (fortunately) graduated, but pogo-stick junior O.D. Anosike is tearing down rebounds at a disturbing clip (13 per game with a high of 22 against Fairfield on Feb. 5) for head coach Mitch Buonaguro. Losers of their last four MAAC games—including a 58-54 loss to reeling Niagara—Siena is surely welcoming this trip to Buffalo.
9) Juan’ya tiring: At some point, you knew the crazy demands that Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich placed on his star Juan’ya Green would test the freshman’s stamina. In the 77-69 loss to Fairfield on Feb. 3, Green played his worst game as a Purple Eagle: 5-17 shooting, zero assists and three turnovers. In fact, the Philly product is 35-106 (33%) from the floor in 10 games since Jan. 8, averaging only 12 points per outing in that span. He’s still awesome—just an overworked freshman (out of necessity) who’s adjusting to the brutal conference schedule.
10) Poorly constructed ranking of the Big 4’s top players:
— This is wildly subjective, mind you. The criteria: a hybrid, secretive blend of 2011-12 stats, value to their respective teams and what I’ve seen in watching an entirely unhealthy amount of Big 4 basketball.
1) Javon McCrea, University at Buffalo
2) Juan’ya Green, Niagara University
3) Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
4) Mitchell Watt, University at Buffalo
5) Harold Washington, Canisius College
6) Zach Filzen, University at Buffalo
7) Ameen Tanksley, Niagara University
8) Jarod Oldham, University at Buffalo
9) Demitrius Conger, St. Bonaventure
10) Antoine Mason, Niagara University
11) Alshwan Hymes, Canisius College
12) Da’Quan Cook, St. Bonaventure
13) Chris Manhertz, Canisius College
14) Titus Robinson, University at Buffalo
15) Marvin Jordan, Niagara University
16) Charlon Kloof, St. Bonaventure University
17) Tony Watson II, University at Buffalo
18) Gaby Belardo, Canisius College
19) Dave Barnett, University at Buffalo
20) Malcolm Lemmons, Niagara University
Narrowly missing the cut: Matthew Wright, St. Bonaventure; Josiah Heath, Canisius College; Scooter Gillette, Niagara University.