It's that time, basketball fans, when we flip not one, but two calendars. Sure it's a new year, and we have a Olympics and a World Cup to look forward to, but more important, we turn the page from the Out Of Conference schedule to MAC play for our Bulls. With the final game for the Men in flux, and their first OOC game coming next Wednesday, I'm going to start with the Ladies, who open up tomorrow against perennial MAC Bowling Green in Northwest Ohio.
First though, let's take a look at the Buffalo season so far. If you'll remember, though last year ended with an 8-8 conference record and finished with two wins in the conference tourney, Felisha Legette-Jack's first games weren't so promising, as the Bulls made it through the first week of January with just a 2-11 record.
This year things have gone better, with the fall yielding a 7-4 record looking into MAC play, and a pretty well-established spot in the middle of Hustle Belt's Power Rankings.
I'm having trouble putting the table in between paragraphs, so just look to the bottom, but believe it or not, the 7-4 record could be even better if not from some inconsistent play. Strong road wins at Pittsburgh and Youngstown State have shown this team's potential, but close losses to Cornell, Siena, and a late blown lead against St. Bonaventure has shown its inexperience. Nevertheless, the Bulls are undoubtedly a stronger team than they were a year ago.
On the individual side of things, I can't say enough about the depth across the board this team features. In years past, the program relied on one star, from Heather Turner to Kourtney Brown to Brittany Hedderson, with the strongest stretch coming when Ashley Zuber was able to compliment Brown's post skills.
This year, the Bulls feature five or six players who are threats to put up double-digit stats. Kristen Sharkey and MacKenzie Loesing are averaging double digit points, but five other players are averaged 5+ ppg. Sharkey and All-Conference Defensive whiz Christa Baccas are averaging 8+ rebounds per game, and four other players are at 4 or higher. And while Senior Margeaux Gupilan is the reigning assist leader at 5 per game, the team as a whole is averaging nearly 15 on their 64 shots/game. Add in the defensive stats - Buffalo is near the top of the conference in those - and you have a team that can win in multiple ways and is unusually capable of overcoming foul trouble to one or two players.
While Matt Daley's rankings at Hustle Belt are appropriate, this team has the capability to beat just about anyone in the conference, especially if they take another step forward in consistency, and hopefully we see another successful MAC run in Coach Jack's second season.
The ladies will have to avoid a slow start as three of their first four games come against MAC standard bearers Bowling Green, Toledo, and Central Michigan, but as long as the bottom doesn't fall out they should once again contend for a above-average seed in the conference tourney.
|@St. Bonaventure||71-76 (OT)|