Posted: 11:00 a.m. Friday, Oct. 25, 2013
By Jimmy Kelley
The 2012-13 season was a rough year for the Buffalo Bulls basketball team as they went through their first losing season since 2007-08. Early season struggles led to midseason woes and the Bulls season ended with a run to the MAC Conference Quarterfinals highlighted by Will Regan’s 36-point night against Ball State.
With a 14-20 season now in the rear-view mirror, Buffalo looks forward to season in which three of their top four scorers return, headlined by standout forward Javon McCrea. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds last season and, as a senior, will be the determining factor of whether or not the Bulls hit the 20-win plateau for the third time in four years.
McCrea blossomed into a force last season, finishing second in the conference in scoring and third in rebounding while seeing his numbers improve to a staggering 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals during MAC play. He was an easy choice for All-MAC first-team honors and is the leader in the clubhouse for MAC Player of the Year this year.
But this team runs a little deeper than McCrea. Regan, now in his second season with Buffalo after transferring from Virginia, is expected to carry a bit more of the perimeter scoring with the departure of Tony Watson. His 11.1 points and 41.6 percent shooting from three were both good for third on the team and if those numbers see a small uptick, the Bulls will be a hard team to deal with, inside and out.
The return of senior guard Jarod Oldham is also going to make a big impact. The senior was averaging 10.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists last year before picking up a wrist injury in practice and missing the rest of the season. In 2011, Oldham led the MAC in assists with 5.9 helpers per game and having his distribution skills back in the lineup will make things easier on everyone.
Junior College transfer Justin Moss is also expected to make a big impact this year, joining the Bulls after a year at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. His high school coach at Romulus (Michigan) was current UB assistant Nate Oates. New head coach Bobby Hurley had this to say about him back in April.
"Justin is going to be a great addition to the program. I'm confident that he will be an immediate contributor next year," Hurley said. "He has a terrific motor. He runs the court very well. He plays above the rim and is a very good rebounder. I think he'll solidify the frontcourt depth next year and will be a big part of the future frontcourt moving forward."
The biggest difference between this year’s Bulls and last will be Hurley. Reggie Witherspoon was fired after 13-plus years at the helm and the change of leadership could go a long way towards getting Buffalo back to the top of the MAC. The former Duke legend brings experience as both a player and assistant – and his father, Bob Sr. from St. Anthony’s – that will be invaluable.
Freshmen Deyshonee Much and Shannon Evans are strong perimeter players that will find themselves in the rotation early and often. Much is a strong defensive player, which will get him plenty of run early in his career, and Evans is a much more offensive-minded player who can shoot the ball with the best of them.
ESPN and NBC have Buffalo slated fifth in the MAC East, while CBS has them finishing third.