Fall sports may be right around the corner but this year we have a special treat in terms of basketball. Buffalo will be taking a four game trip abroad beginning tomorrow as a tune up for their upcoming season. The Bulls will play two of their games in Canada before taking a plane ride down to The Bahamas to face the Real Deal Shockers and the College of The Bahamas.
While in Canada, Buffalo will take on the York University Lions. York is a part of Canada Interuniversity Sport — the Canadian equivalent of the NCAA — and finished their previous season with a meager 2-17 mark. Needless to say, the Bulls shouldn't have any real trouble with getting a win out of this. Since this game works with my current schedule, I will be in attendance to give you all a scoop on what I see. Anyway, here are some of the things I'll be looking for:
Who's running the point?
With the departure of Lamonte Bearden, the Bulls are left without a true point guard with NCAA Tourney experience. If this is news to you, you may be living under a rock. Don't worry though, it isn't the end of the world and Buffalo should be fine since there are numerous options for Oats and staff.
Firstly, I think the point is going to be ran by one of the following three: James Jones, Dontay Caruthers, and newly added Davonta Jordan. Jones has impressed many this summer as an all around player who shoots very well. If this remains true, I could definitely see him taking over this role but if not Dontay Caruthers should have enough experience to do so. Jordan's also one to watch since he'll be coming out of Florida as the #1 point guard prospect from the state.
Although I think it's more likely to be one of those three, CJ Massinburg and Blake Hamilton could definitely assume this role. Massinburg has continued work to be a combo guard over the offseason after Oats experimented with it throughout the previous season. Hamilton also has ran the point alongside with the now departed Bearden many times and if he does take over the spot, he'd be a gigantic matchup problem standing at 6-6.
Speaking of Jordan and Jones, Buffalo brings in their best recruiting class in school history. What'll be interesting to watch here is what kind of a role the other freshmen have. As the eleventh best player to come out of North Carolina this past year, Quate McKinzie should be able to be an instant impact player off of the bench. His finishing ability seems to be one of his stronger points along with being able to get easy dunks. The latter is something UB struggled with last season.
Bertram comes to UB as the third best player in the state of Minnesota. His size will easily make him one of the tallest players in the MAC as he stands just under 7-0. Of all the freshmen that I could see being red-shirted, Bertram is the one. This isn't to say that he isn't good enough to play this year, but the future of the program could be better off by saving him for another year while the Bulls still have Raheem Johnson at their disposal.
The front court
Buffalo's front court is loaded this season. Ikenna Smart, Nick Perkins, Blake Hamilton, and David Kadiri are all returning. Also, UB gets a nice present in the form of Raheem Johnson. Being a part of the original #NateOatsPipeline, Johnson was supposed to graduate last year but a nagging foot injury and missing the season in almost all of it's entirety granted him a medical redshirt.
There are a lot of question marks on what roles each of these players will have. I would hope that an extra year of Raheem means he's plenty good enough to start at the five spot and that means Smart will be relayed to the bench. Perkins could be the starting power forward but if not, does that mean an undersized Blake Hamilton will be put there? This situation is one of the areas I'll be paying attention to the most.
Expect a recap post Monday morning and be on the lookout here for updates on whether any of the games will be streamed.