Alright, basketball season starts for real tonight. The Buffalo Bulls Women’s Basketball team will be playing their first game that counts in tonight’s home opener versus the Massachusetts Minutewomen. It’s also a special night because the Bulls will be raising their championship banner for winning last year’s Mid-American Conference Championship.
UMass starts the year off with a lot of question marks thanks to a coaching change over the offseason. Eastern Michigan’s Tory Verdi moved on to UMass and will inherit a rebuilding operation. While at EMU, Verdi accumulated a 72-61 record and would’ve had a strong program in the MAC this year.
UMass has their work cut out for them. The Minutewomen went 12-18 and 6-12 in Atlantic-10 play, but now they’re even worse off. Days before Verdi was announced as the next head coach, Cierra Dillard — leading scorer for the Minutewomen — announced that she’d be transferring to Buffalo. It gets worse from there because they also only have 10 players on roster. Want more? Well, only 7 players were healthy enough to play in their exhibition game last week.
Two players to watch for are their junior duo Alyssa Lawrence and Maggie Mulligan. They both return from last year’s team and they’re both post players. Lawrence averaged 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while Mulligan averaged 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds.
What to watch for
1. The guards should wreak havoc
The only truly experienced players on this gutted UMass team are two post players who didn’t contribute a whole lot to last season’s team. Joanna Smith, Stephanie Reid, and Katherine Ups should have a ton of fun tonight.
2. Getting some offense
Buffalo had no problem putting Bloomsburg away in their exhibition a week ago but they only managed to score 65 points against a Division II team. UMass definitely has Division I talent but they’re weak with their small and inexperienced roster. Let’s see what the Bulls can do.
3. Joanna Smith
She had limited minutes last game but still threw up 14 points with ease. Let’s see if she plays her usual amount and how much she can run up the score.
4. Cassie Oursler’s hacking fouls
Oursler fouled out versus Bloomsburg partly because of hacking at players when on defense. We’ve been told she’s improved on this front over the offseason so we’ll see if that gets better in this game.
5. The freshman
We probably won’t see Moten, but tonight’s our first chance to see Hemphill and Onwuka against Division I talent. Let’s see how this strong recruiting class actually stacks up.
Bulls have another easy win on their way as long as they don’t sleep on UMass. They may have a depleted bench, but Tory Verdi knows how to beat Coach Jack considering EMU took the Bulls down in two meetings last year.