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2014-15 Buffalo Bulls Men's Basketball Preview: The Juniors

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Our Men's Basketball preview moves onto the four-deep junior class, which features one guard in his third season in Amherst and three transfer forwards who to varying degrees could compete with each other for the same minutes in the lineup.

Matt Gritzmacher

Bull Run's Men's Basketball preview moves on to the juniors, who are down to four in number after the dismissal of Marshall transfer Jamir Hanner. As a quartet, the junior class is emblematic of the Men's Basketball team as a whole: They're a Reggie recruit, a transfer Hurley brought in to play immediately last year, and two more transfers eligible to begin play this year. Two played under Nate Oats at Romulus in the Detroit area.

Jarryn Skeete - #11 - Guard

MBB Skeete Headshot

Brampton, ON

Question: After playing more minutes as a freshman than any Bull in eight years, Jarryn lost about six minutes a game to a returning Jarod Oldham and new-kid-on-the-block Shannon Evans last year. Can his increased scoring and rebounding rates hold up to potential starter's minutes at the '2'?

Random Stat: In 2013-14 Skeete had 32 turnovers and just nine steals - the worst ratio of any Bull other than Corey Raley-Ross.

Career: Skeete's had an interesting career in Amherst after coming out of Canada to play for a top-flight prep school in Maine. As a freshman, Jarod Oldham's injury thrust Skeete into an occasional starting role and the most minutes as a Buffalo freshman in years, where his 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game earned him a spot on the MAC All-Freshman team.

My defining memory of Skeete's sophomore season remains the late, ill-fated foul against Manhattan that spurred the Jaspers to a fluky overtime win. Maybe Jarryn doesn't deserve that, but a look at his game by game numbers reveals a season full of middling and down performances, none lower than a four-game DNP stretch in MAC play, with only a few highs.

A different perspective, though, shows a player who can contribute for UB. His season scoring numbers are inflated a touch by three games in the first half of the season, but he was only held without a point once, and never went without a rebound. And accounting for his 20% drop in minutes from the year before, his scoring and rebounding was actually more efficient by rate in 2013-14.

2014-15 Outlook: I honestly don't know what to make of Skeete's prospects this season: for a two-guard he's never been a particularly great three-point shooter, and I wonder how quickly Lamonte Bearden, and potentially Bobby Frasco, both of whom Hurley has praised as defenders, will force their way into the picture.

Best case: Skeete gets 2012-13 minutes and improves his scoring touch. Evans is able to create lots of room on the perimeter for kickouts, and Jarryn hits 8-10 ppg while also hustling his way to 4-5 rebounds.

Worst cast: Whether because of poor play or great play from freshman guards, Skeete once again loses minutes to Hurley recruits and falls to 7th or 8th man in the rotation, good for five-ish points on 15 or so minutes a night.

Rodell Wigginton - #20 - Guard/Forward

MBB Wigginton Headshot

Dartmouth, NS

Question: Wigginton is a JUCO transfer with immediate eligibility after averaging 16.2 points and 6.3 boards per game in his sophomore year at the College of Central Florida. As with any transfer, the big question is how well will he adjust to the higher level of competition?

Random Stat: Wigginton had a 49.3% shooting percentage last year, but was only 23% from beyond the arc and below 60% from the line.

Career: Wigginton went below 10 points just six times in his sophomore year. He came to the College of Central Florida after playing prep ball at Lee Academy in Maine, but the real story behind Wigginton is that he was scheduled to join Ohio for his junior season. Once Jim Christian was hired away by Boston College, however, Wigginton reopened his options and was scooped up by Bobby Hurley.

2014-15 Outlook: It's difficult to tell exactly what we're going to get from Wigginton, as I don't know the quality of his previous conference, but it looks like he can be an effective swingman in UB's normal offense, and he has the height to play small forward if Hurley ever wants to go small and fast. Even if there is a dropoff from 16.2 JUCO points per game, Wigginton could still be good for 10-12 points if he gets enough minutes.

Best Case: Wigginton emerges as both the best option at the three as a taller and better rebounding version of Josh Freelove, and can give Regan a breather at the four, good for 14 points and 7 boards a game.

Worst Case: The jump from JUCO to MAC ball is tougher for Wigginton than it was for Freelove, and the junior loses minutes to other high-performing newcomers. In 8-12 minutes a night Rodell gets a handful of points and rebounds as a bench player.

Justin Moss - #23 - Forward

MBB Moss Headshot

Detroit, MI

Question: I would bet a good amount of money that the 2014-15 Hurley offense is even more free-flowing than last year's version. Moss is likely the frontrunner in the line of McCrea succession, but how much more mobile will he be in the offense than Javon?

Random Stat: Moss shot 6% better from the field than he did from the line: He was the Bulls' leading scorer in the former, and the worst among the eight-man rotation in the latter.

Career: Moss is the inaugural member of the #NateOatsPipeline: a string of players Hurley's assistant coach has either brought in from his 2013 Michigan State Championship team at Romulus or used his apparently excellent network in the Great Lakes to close on. After his senior season at Romulus, Moss played a year at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa, where he averaged nearly 10 points a game while shooting 77% from the line.

Moss' free JUCO transfer brought him to Buffalo, where he played in all 29 games, but joined Shannon Evans in never starting and being one of the first players off the bench. At times Moss was a point-per-minute and/or rebound-per-minute player: Over the whole season in just 6.6 minutes a night the sophomore averaged four points and three rebounds a game.

2014-15 Outlook: I have been high on Moss' prospects for this season from the end of last season. Let me say it here: He will be crowned a breakout player even if he does not improve a whit over 2013-14. Justin could get only 20 minutes a night splitting time in the two forward roles with Regan, Xavier Ford, and a hypothetical instant-impact Raheem Johnson, and would still likely get to ten and six in those 20 minutes. There will be nights this year where Moss is the best Bull on the floor.

Best Case: Moss' rate stats remain steady with an explosion of minutes, he plays his way in front of Ford and Johnson in the 5, builds on his evident chemistry with Shannon Evans*, and steamrolls his way through the MAC to the tune of 14 points, eight rebounds a game.

*This is a link to his alley-oop from Evans on Senior Night 2013. Go watch it. Wallow in sadness that we don't have video of all his putback dunks.

Worst Case: The above-mentioned scenario: Moss can't distinguish himself from the other three forwards and is caught at around 20 minutes a night. Even with that diminished playing time, Justin frequently hits double-digit scoring and averages around six boards a game

Raheem Johnson - #31 - Forward

MBB Johnson headshot

Detroit, MI

Question: Johnson is 6'10" and makes Justin Moss - a bad, bad man - look small. The tallest UB player since Mitchell Watt, can he step right in to a true center role in the MAC, even in limited minutes?

Random Stat: Playing the fourth-most minutes on his team in 2013-14, Johnson led the team in blocks, rebounds, and shooting percentage.

Career: Johnson graduated Romulus before the school won their state title, but was still part of a team that went 22-3 and finished the season ranked third in the state. He is another immediately-eligible transfer who played the last two seasons at Barton Community College. In 2013-14 he averaged better than 11 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks a night.

2014-15 Outlook: It all depends on how Johnson fits into the lineup. If he can play an effective MAC center, he'll get time when Hurley wants to go big, with a theoretical lineup of Evans, Wigginton, Regan, Moss, and Johnson that will own teams on the glass. On the other hand, if Johnson is another forward in UB's rotation - to varying degrees Buffalo's three returning forwards can play the four or the five - he may not stand out too much.

Best Case: Taller, though a bit lighter than Javon McCrea, Johnson becomes an unstoppable rebounding machine and defensive sub that forces Hurley to at times push Regan out to the three. In his first season in Amherst he hits eight points and six rebounds a game.

Worst Case: Xavier Ford takes another step forward, Justin Moss can indeed play hard for 30 minutes a night, Rodell Wigginton proves similar to and an effective sub for Regan, and UB's other 6'10" newcomer Ikenna Smart gets his career started hot. Johnson is unable to crack the top four forwards and gets five minutes a night.