If you really need me to say much more in the way of introduction/explanation, I just can't do that now. It's Senior Night. Alumni is going to be standing-room only for the first time in ten years. It's going down.
The #2 seed, and even a bye, period, is at stake tonight, but we've talked about that elsewhere. This post is to honor UB's two seniors playing in (hopefully) their last game at Alumni Arena tonight.
Xavier Ford - F - Colorado Springs, CO
Senior Stats: The X Man is averaging nearly 10 points and 6 rebounds a game, really putting it together in his senior year, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Xavier started his season much like last year - with even production in middling minutes and the occasional big game - but unlike last year didn't tail off in MAC play. After the Ohio loss he entered the starting lineup and has only upped his game, even adding a three-point shot.
Best of all, for all his energy, he's only fouled out once this year.
Before UB: Ford was a star at Harrison High School, named Third-Team All America by Parade Magazine and nominated to McDonald's All-American recognition. In his senior year he averaged a whopping 27 points and nearly 9 rebounds a game.
UB Career: As a freshman and sophomore, we saw bits and pieces of the player Ford could become, but it seemed he never put it together long enough. The transition under Bobby Hurley to a more open, transition-based offense suited Ford well both on the first shot and in having space to crash the boards. It helped that his FT% shot through the roof.
Really, if you look at the offensive numbers, Xavier's junior and senior seasons have been relatively similar. The difference has been continued improvement on the defensive end, where X has become invaluable.
Senior Moment: Just one? I guess you have to go with the explosion against Kent State, in which X doubled his career three-pointers in a single game and announced his presence alongside Moss in the UB frontcourt. But I think when we all remember Ford's season, we'll just have a foggy vision, not necessarily from any game in particular, of the senior flying down the lane, catching an offensive board above the rim, and slamming it home.
Will Regan - F - Buffalo, NY
Senior Stats: Will has also seen some transition this year - he of course being the starter that Ford replaced - but has still put together a productive season, averaging 6 points and 4 boards a game. As I highlighted preseason, UB is still excellent when he hits double-digits: 5-1 on the season.
But for Regan, it's not about the stats. Positionally, he's the soundest defender on the team, and emotionally any viewer can tell he's the bellwether who keeps the team focused during both winning and losing margins. A true coach on the court.
Before UB: We all know Regan's story. Superstar at Nichols, along with his brother, James, and onetime UB commit Stan Weir. NYS Gatorade Player of the Year finalist. Two-time Buffalo News Player of the Year. 2,000 career points in high school.
Will first headed to Virginia, where he got very limited minutes and decided to transfer closer to home, choosing UB without even making a visit to Niagara.
UB Career: Will was an instant contributor after his redshirt year, showing the talent that got him to UVA. In Reggie Witherspoon's offense and Bobby Hurley's first year he was the perfect frontcourt compliment to Javon McCrea, able to leak out for a three, snatch up a weakside rebound, or hold his own on the low block when Javon shot from mid-range. He averaged double-digit scoring as a sophomore and junior, and as I've said before, UB is great when he scores more than ten points.
Senior moment: I can't even remember which game at Alumni it was. I'm hoping Akron, because that was a win. But it was recent, after Will was displaced from the starting lineup and deep enough into the season that we've all understood and come to terms with his role as an uber-important bench player instead of a key starter.
Anyway, Will was stuck alone guarding a two-on-one. The split-second decision making made my jaw drop. Regan nearly turned his back on the dribbler and the pass option to run to a spot and stand there. It was really his only hope at defending the play, but it worked. Regan had drawn the charge.
It's small, but it's the perfect moment from a different senior year for the Buffalo native. I'm really hoping it was indeed Akron.
I also feel compelled to add that while I'm not sorry for yelling things about Canisius and Nichols at Will from the Boston College student section while he was at Virginia, I'm glad I've gotten to cheer for him for three years instead.
If Twitter buzz is any indication, tonight is going to be one hell of a show. I don't need to tell you to remember these two, because they've been key contributors all season, but there's a lot going on, and I think Senior Night itself has been overshadowed a bit by the teamwide success.
Which, knowing what I know about Will and Xavier, is exactly what they want.
Fill up Alumni Arena tonight and make it loud. After all, in a few weeks, Regan and Ford will be Alumni, too.
Thanks, guys, for four years as Bulls.