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2018-19 Buffalo Men’s Basketball Preview: The players we know well

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Here’s a look at every returning scholarship player on UB MBB

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Boise Practice Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So, we’ve talked about the newcomers for Buffalo Men’s Basketball, and if you haven’t taken a look at them yet, we’ve got you covered. But, now it’s time to talk about the guys we already know: The handsome guys that put #4 Arizona through the grinder in the NCAA Tournament.

As many of you already know, this is by far the most talented UB Men’s Basketball squad in history. I’ll evaluate more in an upcoming piece, but this team is loaded enough to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament and be a ranked team for much of the season if they play their cards (er...basketball, I hope to god they play basketball and not cards) right.

LETS. TALK. SHOOTYHOOPS.

The Guards

Jayvon Graves
Sophomore, 6-3, 193 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: Buffalo at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

There wasn’t a huge need for a freshman to make contributions on last year’s squad, but Jayvon did it anyway and it was a ton of fun to watch. He finished last season averaging 5.1 points a game, and although that didn’t seem like much, he was always a spark off the bench that you could count on, especially with clutch three-pointers.

I think Graves is going to do much of the same this year. I just wonder if he’ll be running the point more since the Bulls lost an experienced ball-handler like Wes Clark. If he continues spending time primarily as an off-guard, however, I won’t complain.

Davonta Jordan
Junior, 6-2, 187 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Buffalo vs Arizona Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If I had to compile a list of surprises from last season, Jordan may be at the top of his list. As a freshman he was inconsistent and often botched defensive assignments. It was so rough that every one of the Bull Run editors were concerned that he was going to get buried by the trove of talent at guard.

But in the most #NateOatsBlueCollar way, Jordan put in a ton of work to get better, and we saw a much different player last year.

Jordan has become one of the best defensive guards out there and his defense was a huge factor in UB’s upset over Arizona. He was also a superb backup to Wes Clark at the point and his shooting saw a huge gain from 36.8 percent to 46.9 percent.

Expect a bigger impact from Jordan now that he’ll be the starting point guard.

Dontay Caruthers
Senior, 6-1, 191 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs Kentucky Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of defense, let’s talk about the former MAC Defensive Player of the Year and my dark horse pick for this year’s team. After a quiet season that was eaten up by injury, I’d say it’s Dontay’s turn for a huge jump in scoring.

When he shot the ball last year, he was one of the most efficient on the team at roughly 60 percent. I think he could at least be a double-figures scorer this year for the Bulls, even if they’re crowded at guard. Add that to his suffocating defense and I think Caruthers will see a lot of action when the Bulls play some small ball.

CJ Massinburg
Senior, 6-3, 194 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament Championship-Buffalo vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like it was just yesterday when a severely-under-recruited freshman went into Cameron Indoor Stadium, lit up a future second-overall pick in the NBA Draft in the most bad-ass fashion, and then left with the “CJ Buckets” moniker (thank you so much for that, Matt Gritzmacher). Now, he’s a MAC Player of the Year contender in year four.

There’s plenty to praise about Mr. Buckets. He can shoot, he’s a pretty underrated perimeter defender, and he’s a vocal leader. I’ll never forget his 36-point, never-quit effort against Ohio in his freshman year, where he was coaching up teammates to put in more effort.

It’ll be hard with this loaded roster, but I think he’ll eclipse the 20 ppg mark this year with NBA scouts considering him as a second-round pick.

The Big Guys and a Mismatch Headache

Brock Bertram
Sophomore, 6-11, 249 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament Championship-Buffalo vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a quiet start at UB for “The Big Apple.” Bertram red-shirted his first season for development and played in half of UB’s games last year.

Brock is a big question mark for this year. There will be moments, especially if there’s an injury in the front court, where the Bulls will rely on him heavily. I think this is the year where he’ll really need to step up and put in solid contributions for UB. We’ll see if he’s up to the task and that the last two years in more of a scouting team role have been good for him.

Montell McRae
Senior, 6-10, 198 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs Kentucky Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Montell McRae is poised for a David Kadiri-like senior year. He had a lot of key contributions and I thought his shooting was much more consistent as the year went on.

McRae has the potential to be devastating to the other team’s morale. Not only will he be strong down low, but if he sinks some three-point shots, it’s going to send teams into panic mode. I think he’s going to be a huge impact off the bench when Nick Perkins needs some rest. My only concern: Can he stop getting overpowered on D against opposing bigs?

Jeremy Harris
Senior, 6-7, 185 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs Kentucky Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

All of the preseason hype is going to CJ Massinburg, but I don’t think enough credit is going to Jeremy Harris, a mismatch headache. He has the best shot at making it to the NBA on this team as long as he can show better finishing ability down low.

Harris has the best shot I’ve seen from a UB player, and now that he’s well-accustomed to Nate Oats’ system in year-two, I think he’ll have a huge year for UB. If Massinburg doesn’t get MAC Player of the year, I think Jeremy is the one to take it away from him.

Nick Perkins
Senior, 6-8, 250 lbs.

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament Championship-Buffalo vs Toledo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

This is the year the Bulls need Nick Perkins the most. Instead of coming off the bench, I’m hoping he’s strong out of the gate in every game.

As a stretch-five, Perkins can be an all-out machine. He’s more than capable from beyond the arc, but his 23-point game at Pitt two years ago was more than enough to show that he can destroy people down low. Expect Perk to be a force when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Also expect True Blue to call him “Dad” from time-to-time.