UB's men's basketball ends season on an all time high

Buffalo prepares for next season, coming off program's first tournament game win

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The men's basketball team is coming off the best season in program history. It recorded more wins than any Buffalo team in history with 27, and secured the school’s first NCAA Tournament game victory when they beat the Arizona Wildcats 89-68.

The Bulls enter the offseason preparing to exceed this past year’s success and claim a fourth Mid-American Conference title in five years. They will only lose two players, senior guard Wes Clark and junior forward Ikenna Smart, while bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in program history. Buffalo has three all-MAC players returning and is positioned to be a top team in the conference again.

“I think confidence is at an all-time high right now,” junior forward Nick Perkins said. “We had the best season in school history, so coming back you want to make it better, and I think this year really showed what we can do.”

Junior guard CJ Massinburg was a first-team all-MAC selection this year along with Perkins. Junior guard Jeremy Harris was an all-MAC second-team selection. Perkins and Massinburg enter next season as the only two Bulls with two conference championship rings. They are also the only two Bulls on the team for all of Nate Oats’s tenure as head coach.

Massinburg and Perkins said they have seen the growth the program made and they’re looking forward to gearing up for one more run together. Massinburg said the team will need to stay focused to win a conference title next season.

“I’m really looking forward to this fourth year with Oats and Perkins,” Massinburg said. “Freshman year, we got it done. Sophomore year, we learned what not to do. I feel like sophomore year we kind of got arrogant since we had won it the year before. … [We can] learn from our mistakes sophomore year and be successful next year.”

The Bulls have already started preparation for next year. They were in the gym Tuesday with the coaching staff, running drills and scrimmaging. Perkins said basketball is a year-round sport and they aren’t taking any breaks even if it’s the offseason.

“It just shows how hungry we are. We had a couple weeks off,” Massinburg said. “People got into the gym on their own, but we’ve been itching to play with each other and get back out here. We missed it.”

The loss of Clark and Smart means the Bulls have to replace a starting point guard and starting center. The current recruiting class does not have any centers but includes two point guards in Ronaldo Segu and Javion Hamlet. Hamlet was at Tuesday's practice getting acclimated to the team.

The Bulls have high expectations for Segu. 247Sports ranked Segu as the 44th best point guard in the nation this year.

“He’s a solid point guard. He plays real hard. He plays good defense [and] can create his own shot,” Harris said.

Perkins, who played more minutes at center than Smart despite coming off the bench, said he thinks the team will still be strong down low. Redshirt freshman Brock Bertram and junior forward Montell McRae are 6 foot 11 inches and 6 foot 10 inches tall respectively and will be able to fill in at the center position.

“We have [Bertram] and [McRae], and Bertram didn’t really play a lot last year but his body is really changing, and he’s getting better everyday so we got him coming back next year and we’re going to have a really good team,” Perkins said.

The point guard duties fall on sophomore Davonta Jordan and junior Dontay Caruthers, who Perkins described as “the two pit bulls” for their defensive prowess. Jordan is coming off a year where he was named to the all-MAC defensive team and Caruthers was the MAC defensive player of the year two seasons ago.

Harris also said he is excited to play with guard Jeenathan Williams. Williams is a long guard like Harris who plays well on the wing. 247Sports ranked Williams 27th in the nation at his position.

“It’s going to be a lot of length on the wings,” Harris said. “I can’t wait to get those guys up here in the summertime”

The MAC will be on high alert with the Bulls this season. Massinburg said he’s not worried about the rest of the MAC right now and is going to just focus on Buffalo.

“I have the utmost confidence in our guys, this program and our coaching staff,” Massinburg said. “I’m not really sure what the other [MAC] teams are doing or how they’re looking but I know what’s going on in this gym and we’re going to be ready.”

Daniel Petruccelli is the sports editor and can be reached at daniel.petruccelli@ubspectrum.com and @DanP_Spectrum.