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Buffalo Line-up/Minutes

Plenty of time lies between now and when I have to start getting ready for flag football playoffs tonight, so I figured now would be a good time to talk about player expectations, who should start, how many minutes everyone should get, etc. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer to this, for many reasons. First of all, I am not a coach on the team who observes player development on a regular basis, so any judgment made by me strictly through watching games over the past few years, as well as having the chance to see parts of team practices here and there. Secondly, every game requires different type of skill needs, match-ups, sizes, so everything said needs to be taken as more or less as an overall average. Thirdly, players do get injured and there are always off the court situations that would greatly effect what we as fans think should happen, as opposed to what actually occurs.
Before I give my take, I would like to thank all of you who give your input in on ubfan, because there is some information that I would not be aware of if it wasn't for your participation there. The one direct example would be player heights and weights. I don't look at the UB roster on a regular basis, so thank you for providing the changes. Your input is also encouraged here on Bull-run for not only basketball, but for the entire site.

here is a look at my starting line-up...

1.Guard. John Boyer- I know having Boyer start may have a lot of people scratching their heads. I mean, hes not overly athletic, doesn't have great size, doesnt have superior ball handling skills, and doesn't have the best shot in the world. With all of these factors not being in his favor, how can he be starting? I know people want to have the most 5 athletic guys out on the floor to start a game, since they re suppose to be the best 5 players, but what Boyer does is something that is hard to teach. He controls the tempo of the game, and distributes the ball to where it needs to be. Another thing that is wanted out of a point guard consistency, which is something that you always seem to get when hes out there. With only 3 true point guards in the line-up (one being a true freshman, and the other being the inconsistent Mulkey) starting Boyer should definitely be the smartest solution, especially since a lot of the teams success last year came with him in the game.

2.Guard. Rodney Pierce- I think 95% of the audience should agree with this pick of having Pierce starting at the 2 spot. I know he doesn't have the best shooting percentage in the world, but he was the teams leading scorer for a reason. He's able to score from the outside, mid-range, and is probably the best person on the team at taking it to the hole. He led the team free throw attempts last year because of the his ability to take it to the rack, and he has to be well liked by coaches since Pierce was the one they trusted to make the play at the last second of the UCONN game. I thought Pierces defense was a lot better last year than it was 2 years ago, which helps make him an easy pick to put as a starter.

3.Guard/Forward. Calvin Betts- Possibly the most hyped person to come to UB in the years that I have been around (so this isn't counting Calvin Cage and Turner Battle) has been the best all around player that UB has. Despite how ugly I think his shot is, he does everything else so well. He's the best rebounder on the team, best defender on the team, most unique defender on the team since hes able to guard so many positions, leading shot blocker on the team, and is a pretty good scorer as well. Now listed at 6'4", 230, hes a beast of pure muscle and athleticism, and is an outstanding fit for for probably every college system in the country. I wont be offended by any opposing thoughts about playing time and who should start...except if your against Betts being in there as much as possible.

4.Forward. Max Boudreau- I know starting forwards is something that is going to receive a lot of criticism, but Max deserves to be in the starting line-up, and if not there, deserves a heck of a lot more minutes than he usually gets. I know it occasionally looks like he has rocks for hands, but everything else he does outweighs that. Solid defender, but more importantly, he is a lot better a scorer than given credit for. He had the second highest PPS (points per shot) on the team (with a non returning Fedetov having the highest) and he also has the second highest Points Per Minute Played on the team as well (Pierce having the highest). This year hes listed at 6'8", 240 pounds!!! which is a full inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than last year. He has the perfect size and ability to be an outstanding mid-major post player, and since he is the only true back-to-the-basket-scorer that UB has he needs to get at least 20 minutes a game. I didn't have many problems with how Coach Witherspoon ran things last year, except for the amount of minutes that Max was given. He really turned it on down the stretch and in tournament play last year, and if you truly watch the games, the team just looks and runs better when hes on the floor. Call it personal bias, but Max is the key to how good Buffalo does this year.

5.Forward. Mitchell Watt- From reading Ubfan, and talking to a lot of people about basketball, Watt seems to be a popular person for getting playing time and starting. At first I think that hes too skinny to be productive at this level, but at 6'10" 215, he has decent enough size, but his athleticism and height can help make up for his skinny frame. His numbers and comfort on the court got increasingly better as the year moved on. Now that's hes been in the system for a full year, I think that hes ready to take the next step in becoming a big part of Buffalo's season. He can score in many different ways, and I think that being a lefty will give him a different uniqueness to his game that most people aren't too familiar playing against.

Players that should come off the bench...
This list is not necessarily in the order of how good I think they are, but players towards the top I think are more likely/deserving of the most playing time.

Titus Robinson- The roster now has him listed at 6'7" 205...although that doesn't seem big, that's a full 15 pounds heavier than he was last year. Being the most athletic player on the roster with decent size, I wouldn't go against having him start over Max at the 4 spot. I just feel that the best low post scorer on the team (Max Boudreau) needs to get as much playing time possible. Titus didn't have great numbers last year, but I think its clear to see by his monstrous dunks and defensive athleticism that he has the potential to be a really good player, depending how much hes developed between this year and last year. He can individual defend, rebound, and block shots really well, and with long lanky body (7 foot wingspan Ive been told) can be a real boost for Buffalo. Its also why I think he should come off the bench, because he can provide a different style of play that no one else on the roster can provide.

Byron Mulkey- I think that many of us know that we never are sure of what were gonna get out of Byron, but as a senior point guard I would much rather him come off the bench first to run the offense over a freshman whose never played a collegiate game before. Ive seen him have the ability to break down defenders better than Boyer can, but Ive also seen him turn the ball many times in a short span as well. Size is something that doesn't work in his favor, but being a senior whose worked with the same players for many years should work in his favor and help the team out. I think he can have a good year and be a nice part of the team, but only if the coaching staff can really count on him being more consistent.

Zach Filzen- I know its unfair of me to say he deserves more playing time than others if none of us have ever seen him play in a live game before, but in case you are unaware, players usually only transfer if they are promised a significant amount of playing time at the new school. Hes from Minnesota, played ball over in Arizona, and is now here at Buffalo, so I don't think being closer to home is the reason why hes changing schools. From seeing film, he played pretty well as a freshman over at Northern Arizona, and has the smoothest pure shooting stroke of any Buffalo player. As a pure outside shooter I can see him getting a lot of minutes off the bench providing a nice offensive boost nailing some quick 3's right off the bat. From what Ive seen, Zach will probably take a decent amount of the pure shooting guard minutes that Smiley is usually given.

Jawaan Alston- Alston is possibly the biggest disappointment that I saw last year. After finishing up his freshman year strong, he had a sophomore year filled with a ton of missed free throws, a ridiculous amount of bad fouls, boulders for hands, and not being able to play above the rim despite being 6'8". Last year he shot 33% from the charity stripe, averaged a foul ever 5.8 minutes, 2.3 points per game with pretty much the same number of rebounds. In a line-up with a small number of forwards, he naturally is going to get more minutes than he probably deserves since we only have 3 that are clearly better than him. Although I sound really critical of him right now, Alston can still be a good role player which Buffalo can really use considering the lack of depth. I would love to see Alston prove me wrong and become a reliable forward (which he possibly can be since he was starting games as a freshman) but until we see that, Alston is just one giant question mark.

Kambi Laleye- He's never really gotten much playing time over the years, (possibly because he looks lost out on the court sometimes) but I think since its his final year here at Buffalo Kambi can have productive year and become a good role player. At 6'9" 225 (yes that is correct, he is now listed at 225) he provides some really good size that is hard to find at the mid-major level. I saw him in a few of the teams workout/practices in September, and he looks so much more comfortable and confident that he has ever looked in the past. Not trying to see hes going to be a superstar, but improvement in his game is something that is evident for this season.

Sean Smiley- A pure shooter like Smiley is always an asset to every team, but unfortunately with Filzen being allowed to play this year, I don't see Smileys minutes increasing a single bit this year. He provides an excellent spark to the offense, and has proven to do so in non-conference games in the past, but his spotty defense and inability to perform later in the year has never helped Smileys cause. With no disrespect towards him, I think his role possibly shrinks this year, especially as the year goes on deeper into conference play. I have been reading his blogs that he has recently come out with, and I think they're a great way for fans to gain a little bit of inside access to whats going on, but I'm not sure of how much Reggie will play him in what is Smileys final season.

Tony Watson- In all honesty I don't think anyone can ever really tell how much playing time a true freshman is going to get, but with only 2 true point guards on the team he is bound to get some playing time no matter how good or bad he is. All I can really tell about him is that he's an average size point guard, but also that the University has some pretty big expectations for him in the future if not now.

Dave Barnett- I don't think anyone outside the actual team knows how good Barnett really is since he doesn't really get playing time, but there are still a few things that you can assume/tell about him. First of all, if you've ever watched him in warm-ups he has really good athleticism and can definitely get up, and with a 6'5" 200 pound frame he is the perfect size that you look for in a college swingman. As a walk-on I think hes more motivated to prove himself than other players, and probably works the hardest to gain playing time, since he never really has gotten any in the past. I think it would be a smart idea for him to be played at least a little bit early in the year so we can tell if he can add a different dimension to the UB attack.

Mike Clifford- Another true freshman who we don't really know too much about. The only thing we can really tell is that he has the same type of frame that Boudreau has, so he can possibly be a nice addition in the low post game. He still has a chance for playing time since Titus and Mitchell played substantial roles for Buffalo as freshman, but its unfair of us to really put a number on how much he'll play this year.

Derek Wolfley- Transfer from Iona, has to sit out this year due to transfer rules.

That concludes the important information on this blog, but just a few final thoughts...
Everything is subject to change and personal perception. I don't know how practices are going, whose injured/banged up, and who made be on the coaching staffs good side. Everything is based on the talent level and what Ive seen over the past few years. All in all, this looks like a year that can turn out to be quite special, very possibly better than last year.
I hope all are excited to get this season full of feet stomping temper tantrums from Coach Witherspoon, retarded media time-out games, inexplicably close games to bad opponents, and rudely but enjoyable screaming "home of the bulls" during the national anthem, under way.