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After a month, four questions for Men’s Hoops

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NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the season, which Big Four game will be closest to the full picture of this UB team?

Three games against local rivals (if we can call Niagara that), three very different results. I’ll be very interested to see come March which of these three games was the ‘typical’ UB performance: a gritty, close win with Nick Perkins leading the way and lots of stats across the backcourt, a hyper-efficient offensive explosion (1.3 OPPP!) where bench points just weren’t necessary, or a loss featuring a late fade, getting beat badly on the boards, and struggles from distance.

Canisius, Niagara, and Bonaventure are in three very different classes, and I personally think the Bona game was UB’s worst showing of the season, but we got three very different glimpses of what UB can be in these games. When the only path to the NCAA Tournament is through conference success, rivalry games and developing team chemistry are all that really matters to me in OOC.

Is there relief on the horizon for Nick Perkins?

To be clear, I fully believe Perkins has what it takes to continue shouldering a 30 minute-per-night load in the front court, but his rebounding hasn’t yet taken the step forward I’d like, and it can’t hurt to get more production in 23 minutes a night out of Montell McRae, especially when conference play begins and fouls tick up, because I very much want Perkins to play big and not have to worry about fouls sinking the frontcourt. Hopefully Ikenna Smart can return before conference play begins.

Where will Wes Clark’s minutes come from?

This is still two weeks and a few of these posts away, but as far as I’m concerned it’s time to think about Wes Clark’s eligibility. One question is how much he’ll play and how quickly he’ll fit into things. A more important question is whose minutes will suffer as a result?

Jayvon Graves and James Reese as freshmen will undoubtedly see a downtick in time, but they shouldn’t go to zero. No one guard will have a straight one-to-one with Wes’ minutes, but I’ll be interested in the next two weeks as a bit of a prove-it stretch among the backcourt before Clark steps into the rotation.

Can UB hit MAC play on an upswing?

I’m a big believer in beginning conference play on a winning streak — see the Cornell game in 2014-15. With Syracuse and Texas A&M, Nate Oats has put two of his three toughest games late in the OOC slate. But I’ll feel good if the Bulls take four of the remaining six before Toledo. That could either be a sweep of the non-Power 5 foes — including Delaware tonight — or a real solid win against either the ACC or Big XII. Either way, there would be something to really hang hats on in the last month before the real season begins.