Hardwood report card: Bulls season recap

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The men’s basketball team (23-10, 12-6 Mid-American Conference) ended its historic season with a loss to West Virginia (25-9, 11-7 Big 12) 68-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last Saturday. It was the first NCAA tournament bid in program history after joining Division I in the early 1990s. The loss ended a season in which Buffalo won the MAC East and the program's first-ever MAC Championship. 

Buffalo was picked in the preseason polls to finish just fourth in the MAC East after graduating three seniors including UB all-time leading scorer Javon McCrea. But with MAC Player of the Year Justin Moss, a career season for senior forward Xavier Ford and the emergence of sophomore guard Shannon Evans as the team's starting point guard, the team was able to replace the production. 

Three-point shooting: C

There were many moments throughout the season where the 3-pointer was key in a victory. Senior forward Will Regan hit a big 3-pointer to put the Bulls ahead of Bowling Green in their last game of the season and senior forward Xavier Ford’s 3-pointer tied the game with West Virginia in the dance. But it’s hard to base a team’s 3-point shooting based on clutch moments. It must be based on the season overall. And this season, the Bulls were inconsistent from deep.

The Bulls shot 34 percent from beyond the arc as a whole and not one player on the team shot above 40 percent. The closest anyone came to shooting that high was junior guard Jarryn Skeete, whose role on the team was mainly a 3-point specialist, shooting 38.6 percent.

Foul Shooting: B

A few games in the season ended up as losses for the Bulls simply because they couldn’t sink their free throws. Their game against West Virginia – where the Bulls shot just 64 percent – was a prime example.

Overall, the Bulls shot 71.9 percent from the charity stripe over the course of the season. Sophomore guard Shannon Evans had the highest percentage, shooting 79.9 percent from the line. Junior forward Justin Moss got to the line the most, taking 237 foul shots and hitting 173 (73 percent).

Rebounding: A

While the Bulls may have struggled in some areas this season, rebounding wasn’t one of them.

The Bulls averaged 38.4 rebounds a game this season, culminating with a No. 16 ranking in the nation in boards. For reference, Kentucky, the No. 1 team in the country whom Buffalo played this season, is ranked No. 21 in the country with 38.2 per game.

Moss led the way for the Bulls, and the MAC, with 9.2 rebounds a game. The closest player in rebounds was Ford, who grabbed 6.2 boards a game.

Ball Control: B

The Bulls turned the ball over many times this season, but they also made their opponents turn the ball over much more than they did.

The Bulls are ranked No. 42 in the nation in turnover margin. They turned the ball over 378 times, but Buffalo’s opponents turned it over 448 times, giving the Bulls a 2.1 turnover ratio.

Evans led the team in TOs with 84, leading anyone else on the team by 10.

Overall offense: B+

Regardless of the opponent, the Bulls have always managed to put up numbers.

The Bulls averaged 75 points per game this season, ending the season ranked No. 28 in the nation in scoring – one spot above Kentucky. The Bulls had consistent scoring throughout the roster, with six players who averaged over 7.2 points per game. Moss led the Bulls with 579 points this season, averaging 17.5 a game. Evans wasn’t far behind with 507 points and 15.4 average a game.

Defense: B

Besides outscoring their opponents 2,462 to 2,253 on the season, the Bulls also stole the ball 248 times and blocked 132 shots.

The Bulls were No. 3 in the MAC in defensive field-goal percentage, and were No. 1 in defensive three-point percentage. Conference opponents only shot 41.1 percent on average against the Bulls from the field, and 31.7 percent from beyond the arc.

In the steals category, Evans led the Bulls with 56 on the season. Junior forward Raheem Johnson led with 37 blocks.

Bench Production: B

Buffalo’s athleticism allowed for an eight-man rotation for the majority of the season, as it used only three bench players. Regan, Johnson and junior forward Rodell Wigginton were the only ones who put up significant numbers.

But all three bench players were effective

Wigginton and Johnson were key contributors on the defensive side of the ball, while Regan gave the team some points off the bench, including two huge 3-pointers in the MAC East championship and MAC championship games that helped propel the Bulls to the next round.

Wigginton averaged 7.3 points per game, and had 17 blocks to accompany his 26 steals on the season. Johnson averaged 2.8 points per game, but led the team in blocks with 37. Regan had 6.1 points per game, 16 blocks, and 17 assists in his first and only year coming off the bench.

Coaching: A

Head coach Bobby Hurley and the Bulls recorded a program record-tying 23 wins this season. He led the Bulls to a MAC championship and the school’s first ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Despite not receiving a single MAC Coach of the Year vote, Hurley was named a finalist for the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year Award, which is awarded to the country’s top mid-major coach.

The Bulls are currently 42-20 in Hurley’s two seasons as head coach. The core of the team is returning next season, and as long as Hurley does as well, he will only help Buffalo reach the next level.

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