#68 Buffalo Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Buffalo Bulls
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #68
Conference Rank: #1 Mid-American
Buffalo reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year in 2015-2016. The Bulls did not have a great regular season, but they got hot at the right time and gave Miami a very good game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The most impressive thing about their second appearance was that the Bulls were a very different team with a different coach. Nate Oats was in his first season after taking over for Bobby Hurley and kept the program heading in the right direction with a few new pieces. This year Buffalo will need to fill a few more holes, but the talent is definitely there for a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
2015-16 Record: 20-15, 10-8
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Nate Oats
Coach Record: 20-15 at Buffalo, 20-15 overall
Who’s Out:
Just like last season, Buffalo was dealt a surprising blow because of a transfer. This time it was Lamonte Bearden, who led the team with 13.7 points and 4.2 assists and really stepped up to help get the Bulls to the NCAA Tournament. It is a significant loss no matter how you look at it, but Buffalo does have enough talent to overcome the departure. Jarryn Skeete started beside Bearden in the backcourt. He averaged 7.9 points per game and knocked down a team high 61 three-pointers. Rodell Wigginton started a few games on the wing. He was never much of a shooter, but Wigginton was always dangerous attacking the basket. With those three gone, Buffalo has some reloading to do on the perimeter.
Who’s In:
The reloading begins with the newcomers. Dontay Caruthers spent one year at the junior college ranks and his experience will be very important in an effort to replace Bearden. Caruthers will not likely score as much as Bearden, but he can handle the ball and develop into a leader on the floor. Incoming freshman Davonta Jordan will be thrown into the point guard mix as well. He was a very nice late pickup for the Bulls and has the potential to be more than a backup point guard. James Jones could run the point too, but he is better suited as a shooting guard. If his shots are falling, Jones could make an impact as a shooter off of the bench. Along with walk-on Graham Dolan, Coach Oats did a very good job of filling in the holes on the perimeter. The frontcourt adds Brock Bertram and Quate McKinzie. McKinzie is the one to watch for now and he can block some shots and play some tough defense.
Who to Watch:
It will be tough for McKinzie to find too much playing time though since Buffalo is loaded in the frontcourt. Ikenna Smart stepped into a starting role as freshman and played very well. He only averaged 3.2 points per game, but Smart was effective on the glass. At 6-10 and 235 pounds, he is the big body in the paint. Raheem Johnson is another 6-10, 235 pound forward. He missed last season with an injury, but he is an experienced big man who can step in and block quite a few shots. Nick Perkins had a very promising freshman campaign. After a slow start, he came on really strong at the end of the year. With his ability to stretch the defense, Perkins could step into a full-time starting job. David Kadiri will compete with the newcomers to provide even more depth in the frontcourt. Do not be surprised if Buffalo plays big with 6-6 wing Blake Hamilton and 6-5 wing Willie Conner both starting at the two and three spots, or at least spending some time there. Hamilton averaged 13.1 points per game and Conner added 11.8 and both are very good shooters who can also attack the basket. Hamilton is also the team’s top rebounder and his athleticism makes him very tough to stop on both ends of the floor. Nikola Rakicevic may not see too much playing time again this year, but he is a very talented wing who deserves more than 8.4 minutes per game.
Final Projection:
With Bearden gone, CJ Massinburg could step into the starting point guard role. However, he may be more valuable to Buffalo as a shooting guard. That will depend on the development of the other point guards. Whether he is running the point or not, Massinburg can score. He averaged 11.3 points per game and is a dangerous shooter and slasher. With a player like Hamilton who can handle the ball from the wing, Buffalo will have options when it comes to replacing Bearden. They can either play bigger and have an extra shooter on the floor with Massinburg running the show or put in a player like Caruthers and let Massinburg worry about his shooting. However it shakes out, the Bulls will be the team to beat in the MAC.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
CJ Massinburg, Sophomore, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Willie Conner, Senior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Blake Hamilton, Senior, Guard, 13.1 points per game
Nick Perkins, Sophomore, Forward, 7.6 points per game
Ikenna Smart, Sophomore, Forward, 3.2 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.4 (69th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 75.3 (260, 12)
Field-Goal Percentage: 43.7 (192, 8)
Field-Goal Defense: 43.2 (156, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.5 (120, 6)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.9 (215, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.0 (131, 7)
Rebound Margin: 2.5 (94, 5)
Assists Per Game: 12.6 (217, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.6 (256, 12)