With the college basketball season in full effect, some of the mid-major conference elites are starting to flex their muscle around the NCAA. As I dive deeper into the mix of these schools, I will go through and pick out the cream of this crop of sleeper teams who could make some noise in the NCAA tournament. I’ve packed my bags and decided to head to I-90, passing through central New York and into “bizarre world,” or as its known to the outside world, Buffalo NY.
University of New York at Buffalo (6-2, 0-0)
Latest results: Beat Youngstown State 80-72
Next game: @ BYU 12/20, 9pm
The Buffalo Bulls of the Mid-American conference are led by sophomore F Javon McCrea, a talented player who made 2011 MAC All Freshman team, and the cornerstone for the Bulls so far in this season. As a freshman, he averaged just under 12 ppg and 6.5 rpg, not too shabby if I must say. In year two, he has dominated the boards and proven to be Buffalo’s big threat, but he still needs to work on his FT shooting, which appears to be his Achilles heel. The Bulls have a great supporting cast of young players and have proven that they are among the best of the local universities. They have beaten three out of the four local schools, including Canisius College, Niagara University and Cornell, although were upset by St. Bonaventure. With a loaded eastern division in the MAC, the Bulls will have their work cut out for them as they head into conference play against key conference foes Kent State, Ohio, Ball State and Toledo.
Contenders or Pretenders?
With the warm up games ending and conference play beginning, all of the top teams in the MAC have their work cut out for them. The Bulls could easily head into conference play with 8-2 record (or at worst a 7-3), me thinks. As long as the supporting cast around McCrea contributes, and continue their early season success, I think the Bulls have what it takes to win the MAC title, make it to the NCAA tournament and even surprise a few teams.
Key Players: F Javon McCrea (as mentioned, 16.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), G Zach Filzen (16.1 ppg, 85% FT shooter), F Mitchell Watt (14.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
After researching the Bulls, I decided to stop at a couple of local dives. The first stop was in Tonawanda NY, where I stopped by the local dive known as The Dome(and Tonawanda’s finest) for some amazing Meister & Son Brew. Then I headed to Duffs, which is famous for having the BEST BUFFALO WINGS EVER! Trust me, I go there as often as I can whenever I visit the area, check it out. Once I was finished, I booked it over the state line to Ohio, where a Lebron James-less wasteland awaited me.
Cleveland State University Vikings (10-1, 2-0, 1st in Horizon League)
Latest results: Beat Akron 69-66
Next game: @ South Florida 12/19, 7pm
Some people might already know of the Vikings, as they have kind of been under the radar for a few seasons. In 2008 they upset then #13 ranked Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, and last season they made a little bit of a run in the NCAA tourney. The thing that strikes me about the Vikings this season is that, of their first eleven games, eight were on the road. Of those road games, seven were in a row. the Vikings managed to win six of the seven, which is a daunting task for any program, let alone one from the Horizon League. Their biggest victory so far this season came in the first game of the year against then #7 ranked Vanderbilt. The Vikings are an unselfish group of kids who are known for shooting the outside shot and playing hard for all forty minutes. They might lack a presence under the boards, but they do know how to pass the ball around to one another and they can cause turnovers.
Contenders or pretenders?
Without any ranked teams, and the conference’s most prized/hated team, Butler, expected to be in rebuilding mode for the year, the Horizon League should be firestorm of competition this year. Cleveland State certainly has the easiest road to the NCAA tournament, but let’s see how the rest of the season plays out for the Vikings. From the looks of it, however, they could be a force to be reckon with in the Horizon League.
Key Players: G D’Aundray Brown (12.7 ppg, 3.1 steals, 4.7 rpg), G Trevor Harmon (11.4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 83% FT shooter), G Jeremy Montgomery (9.2 ppg, 3.2 apg)
Buffalo image courtesy of: http://www.buffalobulls.com/
Cleveland State image courtesy of: Lisa DeJong, The Plain Dealer
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