If UB wants to become New York’s college team, it must start recruiting from New York – like Syracuse
Despite what UB Athletics has been preaching the past three years, New York’s real college team resides two-and-a-half hours east of Alumni Arena.
This isn’t to knock what UB Athletics has been doing. The program has won five team Mid-American Conference Championships over the past year, including three for basketball – the second biggest platform in Division-I sports.
Basketball, for the time being, is Buffalo’s best opportunity to make a nationwide stand. And it doesn’t need to relocate to the Atlantic 10 to do so. What the Bulls have done in the MAC the past two years is exactly what they need – a winning culture.
But UB Athletics must understand Syracuse will always be New York’s college team. People know about Syracuse athletics, despite the fact it’s located in a city with a population of less than 150,000 people. Most people around the country have no clue about UB Athletics, despite the fact it plays in a city with a population of more than 250,000.
Syracuse is a dominant force in college athletics due to its rich history with its men’s basketball program. The program’s two best players ever, Pearl Washington and Carmelo Anthony, both hail from Brooklyn. What’s maintaining the Orange, even through scandal, is recruiting.
The Bulls have done a better job as of late recruiting top players in the Midwest, the hotbed of the MAC. But the real hotbed for recruiting that Buffalo should be taking advantage of has been under its noses the entire time.
The state of New York.
Syracuse gets it. Buffalo doesn’t.
New York has some of the best up-and-coming players in the nation – and they’re not all from New York City. Jaysean Paige, one of the best players on top-10 team West Virginia this year, was once a Jamestown High School prospect.
Syracuse backs up its notion as New York’s team. The Orange men’s Final Four squad this year has eight players from New York State and three from New Jersey.
Buffalo has two New York players on the roster – both walk-ons.
In the past three years, Buffalo has had two New York natives have a major impact on the program – UB all-time leading scorer and Newark, New York native Javon McCrea and local Buffalo product Will Regan, who helped the Bulls to a MAC Championship in 2015. Seems like New York kids work out pretty well for Buffalo.
This year’s Orange squad represents what the NCAA Tournament is all about. Syracuse went 0-4 in its first four conference games and finished with just a .500 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. They were even bounced by No. 10 seed Pittsburgh in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
And yet they still managed a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
I didn’t understand it at first, other than nepotism toward major conference teams.
But in retrospect, it was a great move by the selection committee. Syracuse is only the fourth school to make the Final Four as a double-digit seed. They knocked off No. 1 Virginia in the Elite Eight after trailing by more than 10 points. An insane run at the end of Sunday night’s game had fans around the country chanting Syracuse’s name.
I don’t think that was the case for Buffalo in its tournament game.
Again, I’m not here to knock what the Bulls did this year. Head coach Nate Oats and company did an exceptional job. I’m just telling it how it is.
I’ve heard the “where is Buffalo” statement too many times when explaining where I go to college. There was little hype, outside of Buffalo, for the team's first round NCAA Tournament game against Miami this year.
Yes, it’s fair to say Buffalo has gotten great recruits in the past few years. Sophomore Lamonte Bearden was one of Wisconsin’s best high school players. The same goes for Nick Perkins and Michigan. Next year, Quate McKinzie comes to Buffalo as one of the best players in North Carolina.
But what about New York?
There will likely not be any difference-makers from New York on the team for the second consecutive year.
So, UB, continue to keep doing what you’re doing. It’s clearly been working well in its early stages. Athletic Director Allen Greene and Danny White before him have done a great job of keeping UB Athletics relevant, but if administration wants to bring to NYBI full circle, consider truly making UB New York’s college team.