The Spectrum season predictions: men's and women's basketball.
As the men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for their 2014-15 campaign, The Spectrum’s sports staff gives its prediction for each team’s record, breakout player and Mid-American Conference Tournament finish.
Men’s basketball predictions
Record: 15-16, 9-9 MAC
It’s going to be hard for this year’s squad to match the success of last season’s MAC East regular season title and 19 wins. The Bulls graduated three starters – Javon McCrea, Joshua Freelove and Jarod Oldham. McCrea averaged 18.5 points, 9.9 rebounds per game and won MAC Player of the Year. Freelove was second on the team in scoring (13.5 points) and Oldham averaged 8.5 points and a team-leading 5.3 assists per game. This is a lot of production to replace.
Although this is head coach Bobby Hurley’s second season in Buffalo, it’s the first year almost all the players are Hurley’s. Only three players on the roster were not brought to Buffalo by Hurley, and seven of the Bulls’ 12 players didn’t play for Buffalo last season.
The Bulls do return senior forward Will Regan, a preseason All-MAC selection, and sophomore guard Shannon Evans, a First-Team All Freshman player last season. But there may be a tougher learning curve for this year’s team than the 2013-14 roster. We predict the Bulls will go 6-7 in nonconference play and 9-9 in MAC competition – resulting in the fourth-best record in the MAC East.
Breakout player: Lamonte Bearden, freshman guard
There are a lot of possible breakout players for this season. When you graduate more than half of your scoring – Buffalo averaged 73.5 points per game last season with 40.5 coming from the three senior starters – new players will need to produce.
Hurley has many options for new rotation players, but it seems freshman guard Lamonte Bearden will be a part of the starting lineup and play major minutes.
Bearden, a 6-foot-3 guard from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was ranked as the 28th best high school point guard in the country.
Playing with players like Regan and Evans will allow him to showcase his talents, without feeling the pressure to do “too much.” And of course, Hurley teaching his player how to play guard is a nice bonus. Bearden could provide a similar spark as Evans did his freshman year, which would be major boost to the Bulls.
MAC Tournament finish
Last year, a trip to Cleveland for the MAC Tournament was all but guaranteed. This year, we can’t really say the same thing. The Bulls have a lot of talent to replace, and are doing so with a lot of young, inexperienced players. It may be asking ‘too-much-too-soon’ for this team to compete with some of the more complete MAC teams. We expect the Bulls to host a first round MAC Tournament game and advance to Cleveland, but drop their first matchup in Quicken Loans Arena.
Women’s basketball predictions
Record: 20-9, 14-4 MAC
Has there ever been more excitement surrounding Buffalo’s women’s basketball than this season? When Felisha Legette-Jack accepted the head coaching position, the women’s basketball team was coming off a nine-win season. She turned the Bulls into a 17-win team just two seasons later. Now, it’s time for the team to take another jump.
Unlike the men’s basketball team, the women’s squad returns most of its key players. After last season’s MAC quarterfinal loss, Legette-Jack was smiling because she “knew [she] had 80 percent of her offense coming back.” It was actually 77 percent, but we think you get the point.
The Bulls have challenged themselves with a tough nonconference schedule, so we have them going 6-5, but also having a historic conference season. After eight and 10 MAC wins in Legette-Jack’s first two seasons respectively, we expect the Bulls to take the MAC East with a 14-4 record.
Senior forward Christa Baccas is one of the most feared interior defenders in the MAC. She finished second in the conference in blocks and averaged 8.3 rebounds per game. It’s no secret junior Mackenzie Loeing and senior Kristen Sharkey will be the players most teams game plan for. But this allows for better matchups for other Bulls. Expect Baccas to take advantage on the offensive end this season.
She had six double-doubles, a career-high in assists and a career-low in turnovers last year. If her impact on the offensive end is as intimidating as her defensive presence, Buffalo will be a scary team.
Last year, we said this was the only part of the season that truly mattered for the men’s team. This year, the roles are reversed. The Bulls received their highest-seed last year (No. 4) but were upset in the quarterfinals. Buffalo should have a much longer stay in Cleveland this year. We expect the Bulls to reach the MAC Championship game but fall to Central Michigan. This year’s Buffalo team has the talent follow the women’s soccer team into the NCAA Tournament, but we won’t find out until March.