In the wake of, really, seriously, no exaggeration, two of the greatest days in UB Athletics history, most of our wrap up and commentary on this site has come on our video podcasts.
You can find those - one from Sunday prior to and during the Men's Selection Show that's mostly about the men and one from last night - in the sidebar, but I feel compelled to put some of the biggest themes from the MAC Tournament into writing before we turn our eyes to Miami.
No surprise, but CJ, Willie, and Blake can't be undersold. I've said in a few places now that I had been planning a piece on these three, who signed their Letters of Intent within six days of each other. when all is said and done, but after this late season run it will be a less novel piece and it'll be less difficult to highlight how critical their role has been in not only this season but in maintaining a foundation for the program through turbulence.
On the tournament, the trio scored 34, 54, and 45 points, respectively, and of course in the final game they had to share the glory: Massinburg set the tone with 15 first-half points, Conner claimed Tournament MVP honors, and Hamilton hit the shot.
Bearden, not forced into the spotlight, is on his best stretch of the season. I was uncomfortable earlier in the year with not just the idea, but the outspoken party line of Lamonte taking the scoring burden on his own. Now, with Conner, Massinburg, and Hamilton, he hasn't had to, and look what happens: 40 points, 16 rebounds, 19 assists, and 7 steals to just two turnovers in the tournament.
Without Raheem Johnson, UB's game plans for a pair of big men worked fabulously. Coming into the season, we all knew size up front would be an issue. Hamilton's versatility helped plenty with that, especially once Raheem Johnson was confirmed lost for the season. Even so, Antonio Campbell and Isaiah Johnson should have given the Bulls more trouble than they did.
Against Ohio, this was terrific gameplanning that kept Campbell on the perimeter, and against Akron it was the flawless execution of freshman Nick Perkins, who fearlessly matched up with Big Dog down low but also pulled him the perimeter at the other end, forcing him to cover more ground on defense. Mark Gaughan's Extra Points at The Buffalo News, who we rarely link to, starkly outlines UB's defensive work in the final dozen possessions, and I think you'll be surprised at how large a role Perkins plays there.
From here on out, we'll be talking Miami until Friday. I've got a Q&A lined up with State of the U, and hopefully we'll be able to learn more about the Hurricanes, who while excellent return only a single player - seven-footer Tonye Jekiri from their 2013 NCAA Tournament team.