Let’s go dancing again

Bulls will repeat last season’s success

nate-edited
The Spectrum

When former athletic director Danny White fired long-time men’s basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon, it felt like a gut-punch to a program that was on the verge of being a consistent Mid-American Conference power. 

White decided that consistency and a middling record without making winning a MAC Championship was not enough. White made a bold move and hired former Duke star Bobby Hurley to his first head coaching position. He left two years later, but Buffalo still won a MAC title.

Now Nate Oats is the head coach. Buffalo is his first college head coaching position as well. Oats has taken the program to new heights and this season, they are even higher.

Oats brought two more championships, an NCAA tournament win and a community back to the seats of UB athletic events.

The Bulls are ready to rise to the top of the college basketball world this season.

Buffalo is back in the spotlight just two games into the season.

Senior guard CJ Massinburg went off against West Virginia. He dropped 35 points in the second half and overtime to single-handedly carry the Bulls to victory against the 13th-best team in the nation. 

Admittedly, I have been a critic of Massinburg. I felt that his 17 points per game last season was a bit flawed. Every time I seemed to cover a game, I was left underwhelmed with his performance. But now I know I am wrong.

Massinburg is the glue that holds the team together. His effort on Friday was the best performance by a Bull ever and will be one of the memories celebrated when his number hangs in the rafters in Alumni Arena.

CJ can’t do it all by himself to make the Bulls the team to beat this season. Thankfully, Oats has assembled a squad with talent at every position.

Four seniors: Massinburg, forward Jeremy Harris, forward Nick Perkins and guard Dontay Caruthers are the heart and soul of this Buffalo squad. 

The Bulls are confident they can compete with any team in the country. Junior guard Davonta Jordan and Caruthers will compete against each other for MAC defensive player of the year. Harris is one of the best sharpshooters in the country. Perkins has the build to post up anyone in the NCAA. These guys will beat you from anywhere on the court.

Buffalo does not have the easiest path to the championship. Throughout non-conference they will play tough teams like the Southern Illinois Salukis, Marquette, Syracuse and possibly Stephen F. Austin. 

The Bulls should have a walk to the top seed in the conference when MAC play begins. The only team that Buffalo will have trouble with is Eastern Michigan. But the Bulls are a veteran group that knows how to face adversity.

As the great Ric Flair would say, the Bulls are a bunch of “Stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun[s].”

Basically, they’re pretty good.

Oats, a math and statistics aficionado, sat the team down and introduced them to the world of advanced basketball stats. They picked out four things on offense and four things on defense to improve on from last year.

Even after setting the program record for wins, Oats knows and wants his team to get better. The scariest part is that it is 100 percent possible.

Buffalo already proved this season it doesn’t have to shoot lights-out to win games. The Bulls look better on defense and are positioning themselves better to force turnovers instead of reaching and guessing.

Expect big things for the Bulls, buy your tickets now for the MAC Championship game and save your sick days for an NCAA tournament trip. Buffalo is heading back.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson