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The Big 4

In terms of Buffalo Basketball, the "Big 4" is a term used to describe the rivalry between the 4 Division One basketball programs in Western NY. That has nothing to do with what this opinionated story is about.

I remember it like it was yesterday, my sophomore year of college. It was a surprisingly warm day in the middle of february, and for some reason I had a class canceled in the middle of the day (a rarity for my time up in Buffalo), so I decided to go for a walk up to the Boulevard Mall. It was less than a mile form where my apartment was, so I figured walking there would be a good way to kill the time. I was the day after a tough home loss for the Bulls, and for us fans it was the point in which we realized that our team was definitly mediocre. An older gentleman pulled over and asked me if I wanted a ride to wherever I was going. Slightly awkward it was indeed, but he was old enough that I could kick his ass with no problem in case something bad were to happen to me. Through conversation I found out he was a big Buffalo basketball fan, and a long time season ticket holder. Our main topic of conversation was about how we had a terrible front court, with no depth at all. (I know I forgot to point it out, but this was during the 07-08 season when Fedetov had gotten injured, and we were starting Calvin Betts who was listed at 6'3", 235 pounds at the forward spot.) We talked about how this team how hard it is to win wittout at least one player who can play with his back to the basket, and how Buffalo would have no shot against a big-time opponent solely because of lack of size. We were left wondering if the Bulls would ever have any sort of talent/excitment from the Buffalo bigs...

That off-season was when Reggie got Mitchell Watt and Titus Robinson to come to UB from places in this country that are nowhere near New York. Both of them immediately showed promise, athleticicsm, size, and excellent mid-major ability to play forward. Both of them ended up starting the 2nd half of the year, and were the most exciting part of a team that fell one game short of something UB had never done before. Neither of them were the best/most important players on the team, but they brought excitement and diversity to a team that lacked skilled Big-men. Two years later Reggie pulled in another exciting/talented freshman named Javon McCrea. He was a lot more local than the 2 previous forward recruits, but he brought an equal amount of excitement (if not more) to a Buffalo team that showed it was moving in the right direction. This year the Bulls have another athletic/talented forward from the state of Colarado, Xavier Ford. It may not be the biggest accomplishment in the world, but being a Parade Magazine All-American your senior year in high school is nothing to frown upon. Not a single game has been played yet this season, but just from the high school accolades and his outstanding ability spoken about by the coaching staff it looks like Buffalo has another solid big-man for years to come.

In a matter of 3 years Buffalo has gone from having no skill at the forward position, to possibly having the most talented (if not best) front court in the Mid-American conference. I think that's the most exciting part about this team, and I think fans feel the same way whether they know it or not. Athletic/talented forwards provide offensive diversity, exhilarating dunks, crowd pleasing blocks, and above all the presence that there is no team that going to beat them purely on size. 90% of college basketball and college football games are decided by who has the bigger/better players. Its just the way college athletics work, the best players all go and play for the biggest programs. Recruiting is all about size and potential. If you watch most big time recruits early in their college careers they do the same things. They turn the ball over a lot, have terrible footwork, little understanding of a college system offense, but they're able to get the job done because there are certain things that they can do with their size and athleticism that other smaller recruits cant. This Bulls team now has the size and potential to match up with most tandems of forwards in the country, especially at the mid-major level. I follow a lot of college basketball, and I dont think there are any mid-majors in the country that have a 4-man forward rotation that the Bulls can bring this year.

Are there flaws with all of these players? Sure there is, but everyone has flaws. McCrea is only 6'7", but he has a massive wingspan and the bulk to match-up with pretty much every mid-major forward. Watt only seems to have a left handed game. True, but his height paired up with his athleticism makes him a force who can dominte on any given night. "Ford is unproven." Ok, but his accolades and his talent is something that is rare to see in the MAC, especially at forward. "Titus hasn't developed a single bit since the time he stepped on campus." Partially true, but his wingspan and athletic ability is something that every mid-major coach would love to have on his team. The main point I guess I'm trying to make is that there is no game that Buffalo will play this year without have a decent shot to win, just because of the talent the Bulls have a forward. At no point this season will Buffalo lose because of lack of size/athleticism, they can only lose because of lack of execution. Fans of other mid-major teams dream of having the talent that the Bulls have in the front court, so I think its something that Buffalo shouldn't take for granted.

This may not be the biggest front court in the world, or the bulkiest, but this Bulls team has more ability with their bigs than another of team in the MAC. I think consitency throughout the season will be based on how well the guards play, because it always is, but the potential to beat a big progrem team comes from being able to throw the ball in the paint and get good points against major conference bigs. This team can do that, and they can do that in a variety of ways. My message to the Buffalo Big 4, "You guys have something that other cinderellas around the country wish they had. Use what you got, and make this the year to put this Buffalo program on the map."