Buffalo Basketball Preview: #82
Overall Rank: #82
Conference Rank: #2 Mid-American Conference
2008-09: 21-12, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: CBI
Coach: Reggie Witherspoon (126-171 at Buffalo, 126-171 overall)
Buffalo certainly does not lack in depth. Ten players averaged at least ten minutes per game last year and nine of those players earned at least one start. Of the ten players who were in the regular rotation, seven are back. Add a couple newcomers who can contribute and Coach Reggie Witherspoon has at least ten players who can give him quality minutes. The rest of the team is a year older and a year wiser and will be right in the mix for a Mid-American Conference title.
Key Losses: C Vadim Fedotov, G Greg Gamble, G Andy Robinson
Zach Filzen should make the biggest impact amongst the newcomers. The transfer from Northern Arizona is a great shooter and this is a team that could use a consistent shooting threat, even if it is off of the bench. Point guard Tony Watson is a decent recruit who can handle the ball and shoot. He should battle for the starting point guard job and will at least see some minutes off the bench. Fellow guard Milton Chavis is a good athlete, but there might not be much playing time left for him.
Chavis will have to battle with Sean Smiley for minutes off the bench behind Rodney Pierce and Calvin Betts. Pierce was the only player on the team who averaged over ten points per game and he should be able to do that again. Pierce may not be the most consistent long range shooter around, but he can hit the three-point shot. However, it is his ability to get to the basket that makes him such a dynamic scorer. Betts is a 6-3 wing who can do a little bit of everything. He was a consistent outside shooter last season and ranked second on the team in scoring and led the squad in rebounding.
Usually it is a bad sign when a 6-3 guard leads the team in rebounding, but that is not really the case with the Bulls. Max Boudreau, Titus Robinson, Jawaan Alston and Mitchell Watt are not all bad rebounders. They just did not put up huge numbers because Coach Reggie Witherspoon had so many frontcourt players that he could rotate them in and out and always keep them fresh. Robinson and Watt were just freshmen last season and both could turn into much more productive players with a year of experience under their belt. In the meantime, Boudreau will be the star of the frontcourt after averaging 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds last year.
Who to Watch:
The biggest issue is replacing Greg Gamble at the point. Senior John Boyer is the experienced option. He has not played too much during his collegiate career with Buffalo, but he is a smart player who can keep the team under control and get the ball to the scorers. Byron Mulkey is also a senior, but he has played even less. Boyer will get the first shot at winning the job and is certainly the safest option. The Bulls do not need their point guard to average 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game like Gamble did last season, they just need him to control the tempo and keep the turnovers down and Boyer will likely be able to do that better than Watson.
This team will miss Gamble and Andy Robinson. Robinson was not a typical sixth man, but he could provide an offensive spark. The Bulls hope Smiley and his outside shooting can provide that spark this year. The biggest issue is finding a player who can get to the basket and create open looks for their teammates. At times, many times, last year this offense was stagnant. If Pierce and Betts cannot create shots, hopefully Filzen or Watson can. Otherwise this team will miss out on the NCAA Tournament once again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
John Boyer, Senior, Guard, 2.8 points per game
Rodney Pierce, Senior, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Calvin Betts, Senior, Guard, 9.1 points per game
Max Boudreau, Senior, Forward, 6.1 points per game
Mitchell Watt, Sophomore, Forward, 3.6 points per game