The men's basketball season draws nearer, and we're nearly done with our preview series. Today we hit the two-strong senior class of Will Regan and Xavier Ford before moving onto the coaching staff on Thursday.
If you've missed any of the first three preview pieces, you can catch up at these links:
Men's Basketball Preview: The Juniors
Men's Basketball Preview: The Sophomore
Men's Basketball Preview: The Freshmen
Will Regan - #2 - Forward
Question: For Regan, it's simple. For the first time in his collegiate career Regan is his team's most experienced player. Can he reliably make opponents pay for their mistakes and draw defenders off UB's younger, less veteran contributors?
Random Stat: Buffalo was 13-3 last year when Regan scored more than 10 points, and 6-7 when he failed to hit double digits.
Career: Will had a standout high school career at The Nichols School during which he became just the seventh junior to ever win The Buffalo News Player of the Year honors, won the award again his senior year, led his team to the 2010 NYS Class A Federation Championship, and earned Class A NYS Player of the Year honors.
His first stop after Nichols was the ACC with the Virginia Cavaliers, where Will saw action in 20 games as a freshman but only averaged about a point and rebound a game. Seeking to transfer closer to home, Regan settled on UB over Niagara, Canisius, and a handful of other schools.
After his transfer year that forced him to the bench, the onetime local prep star stepped right into a scoring role in his sophomore season, averaging over 11 points and four rebounds a game as a newcomer, helping UB transition past the McCrea-Watt frontcourt. Regan's first season in Buffalo culminated in a huge, 36-point performance against Ball State in the MAC Tournament. It was the eighth-highest total in a tournament game in conference history, and the highest in Buffalo MAC tournament history.
Regan's junior year saw an extremely similar player take the floor for UB, as he matched nearly exactly many of his 2012-13 stats - the only significant differences were a 33% increase in rebounds and a decrease in three-point shooting percentage that looks worse than it really was; a difference of four made three pointers on the year would have matched his sophomore rate. On the year, Regan hit twenty points only once, in a win against Kent State, but was more consistent than the season prior, more frequently pouring in double-digit scoring totals.
2014-15 Outlook: This is Regan's year to shine. For the first time since the end of his high school career he's the clear go-to leader on a team full of new faces. It's easy to feel confident about the senior's coming contributions given his consistency over his first two years in Buffalo. By the same token, though, it's hard for me to see a significant improvement: I don't think he's going to take a drastic leap forward from his 48% shooting or step into as central a role in the offense as Javon McCrea enjoyed last year.
Best Case: For the first time in his UB career, Regan averages more than 3.5 attempts from beyond the arc per game while maintaining his interior game. The senior averages 14 points a game to form a dangerous 1-2 punch with Shannon Evans while also taking another step forward in rebounding to a little over seven a game.
Worst Case: Hurley's offense, with scads of Hurley-recruited talent in the backcourt, isn't well suited to cater to multiple forward threats, and Regan misses out on floor time and high-percentage shots to Justin Moss or a combination of newcomers. Will matches, but doesn't improve upon his junior year numbers: 10.6 points and six boards per game.
Xavier Ford - #35 - Forward
Colorado Springs, CO
Question: Ford's junior season was by far his best at UB, with increases across the scoresheet. Can he maintain his improved shooting numbers and provide some veteran minutes on a team full of newcomers?
Random Stat: In 2013-14 Ford tied for the third-highest rebounds per game mark on the team despite playing just the seventh-most minutes.
Career: Ford was a highly-respected recruit out of Colorado who averaged 27 points and nine boards a game in his senior season at Harrison High and flew under recruiting radars because of low grades. Xavier barely saw the floor in his freshman year and looked lost when he did on the way to just 29% shooting in 16 games.
His sophomore season saw a bump in minutes after the departure of Mitchell Watt, as he doubled his scoring and rebounding in ten minutes a game while enjoying a number of strong games in losses.
Last year Ford was arguably the largest beneficiary of UB's coaching change, once again improving his stats across the board, notably increasing his free throw shooting by 50% over his career average. Despite the improvement, for the second consecutive season Xavier's play and floor time dropped off once MAC play kicked up, as his last double-digit scoring performance came in December in the loss to Manhattan.
2014-15 Outlook: Ford was used primarily last year as a minutes-eater when Javon McCrea was in foul trouble, but given his increased stats and efficiency each of the last two years, he could step in as a regular part of the forward rotation on a team that's nearly half newcomers.
Best Case: Ford does indeed continue to improve, and is a regular starter over Justin Moss, getting a little over 20 minutes per night on his way to eight points and five boards a game.
Worst Case: Xavier's shooting percentage falls back off, for the third year in a row he struggles in the MAC schedule, and is once again used as a minutes-eater for the other forwards. In 13-ish minutes, he once again is around five points and three rebounds a game.