By now, people in Buffalo are starting to take notice that this year’s UB basketball squad is quite talented.
Thru 22 games, the Bulls are 16-6 (9-2) and currently sit in second place in the Mid American Conference (MAC).
For UB to be in this position this late in the year is rare for the Bulls.
Despite winning 59 games over the past three seasons, this year’s team has a different feel to it.
The Bulls have multiple stars and their big men rank among the best in the MAC.
Even more astonishing is the fact that their best player, Javon McCrea, is only a sophomore.
After a solid freshmen season, McCrea entered 2012 with expectations of becoming an All-MAC type player and was named one of the top 100 players in college basketball according to CBS Sports.
McCrea has backed up the high expectations this year by averaging nearly 16 points a game while taking down 7.5 rebounds per game.
In addition to McCrea’s solid play, Mitchell Watt has stepped up his performance as well.
The senior big man has really improved this season while becoming a solid compliment to McCrea, putting up almost identical statistics to his more known teammate.
The two Bulls forwards have been the major reason for the Bulls success but not the only reasons.
Zach Filzen continues to contribute double-digit points per game and is a lights out three-point shooter for the Bulls while sophomore guard Jarod Oldham has really improved, averaging over six assists per game.
So you guys may ask, why am I saying that UB’s true season starts on Tuesday at Kent State?
Here are the reasons why:
- UB has won eight games in a row, but six of those games have come against MAC West opponents. The MAC West has some of the worst teams in all of division one which slightly diminished the value of those wins.
- The Bulls don’t normally finish strong. UB has had many seasons in the past where they’ve had fast starts but fizzled out during the home stretch. Will this year be the same?
- Thirdly, the MAC East is flat-out tough. The top five teams in the MAC reside in the MAC East, including four teams in the RPI top-100. This is a tough stretch for any mid-major program to go through and it only gets tougher when you have to go on the road to take on Kent State and Akron, like the Bulls have to.
- Fourthly, the Bulls must try to finish in the top 2 in the MAC regular seasons standings. The top 2 teams in the MAC will get a bye into the MAC Tournament semifinals, which would give the Bulls a tremendous edge in trying to get to the NCAA Tournament. A top 4 seed would give the Bulls a bye into the MAC Quarterfinals. UB cannot afford a hiccup or bad stretch now.
- Lastly, the Bulls are having a great season and seasons like this can help you grow a program. The Bulls already have an established star in Javon McCrea. They’ll have him for two more years after this year to build around. With the eight game winning streak, the people of Buffalo are finally starting to get interested in Bulls basketball again as evidenced by over 4,500 in attendance for their win over Western Michigan last Saturday. A strong finish down the stretch could be huge in establishing a basketball culture at UB.
With all the above points listed out, it is critical that the Bulls finish this season strong. Years like this don’t come along often for teams like UB and they must capitalize on their opportunity.
It all starts Tuesday at Kent State. The Bulls won a hard-fought game over the Flashes the last time these two teams played, January 7th at Alumni Arena (UB won 66-65).
The Bulls are having quite the season so far. How they finish will determine how they will be remembered.
Will they go down as one of the most special UB teams or will they fall back on the list of good but not great Bulls teams that UB fans are way too used to?