It was a decent year for Big 4 college basketball, and an excellent year for Western New York small college basketball. Hockey, however, tops the winter season-ending College Power 10.
1. Canisius hockey. The Golden Griffins were picked for ninth in the Atlantic Hockey Conference but won the regular-season title for the first time in their 19-year tenure in the league. The Griffs’ dream season didn’t end in glory. Canisius lost in the AHC semifinals to Robert Morris, 6-2. But nobody outside the Griffs’ HarborCenter locker room envisioned a 21-11-7 campaign.
Goalie Charles Williams, the graduate student transfer from Ferris State, led the nation in save percentage. He’s a finalist for the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top goalie. Coach Dave Smith was named AHC coach of the year. Junior Ryan Schmelzer (Williamsville East) was named the AHC’s top defensive forward and sophomore Cameron Heath shared Best Defenseman honors.
2. St. Bonaventure men’s basketball. Bona fans were a tad disappointed by the team’s elimination by Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. That’s a sign of how far the program has come under coach Mark Schmidt. The Bonnies (20-12) posted 20 wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1977-78. Their 11-7, fifth-place finish in the A-10 marked their third straight winning season in conference, a first for the program. Junior point guard Jaylen Adams was first-team All-A-10. Junior off-guard Matt Mobley was a third-teamer. Prospects for a top-four finish look good for next season.
3. University at Buffalo men’s basketball. The Bulls’ Mid-American Conference quarterfinal ouster was a disappointment, but that’s also a sign of the progress of the program. UB failed to become the first team ever to win three straight MAC titles. The Bulls went down to the last possession before losing to Kent State, which went on to win the MAC title. Yet the Bulls survived the transfer of top player Lamonte Bearden and still finished third in the MAC at 11-7. UB has had a top-three seed for the MAC Tournament four straight years. Despite losing four seniors, another strong recruiting class makes a top-four finish next year a distinct possibility.
4. UB women’s basketball. UB (22-10) finished with a school-record for wins and was among the MAC’s final four for a third straight year. UB lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Toledo. The Bulls lose senior guard JoAnna Smith, who finished sixth in UB career scoring with 1,399 points. But everyone else is back.
5. Niagara CCC men’s basketball. The Thunderwolves (25-7) won two games in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Tournament before losing in the quarterfinals in Danville, Ill. Coach Bill Beilein’s team got to the nationals by beating Genesee CC, 81-80, in overtime. It was the Thunderwolves’ first regional crown since 1979.
6. Medaille men’s basketball. The Mavericks (21-7) reached the NCAA Division III tournament by winning the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title. It was the second NCAA berth in three years under coach Mike Blaine, who is 51-30 for Medaille. Senior Johnathan Belton (Amherst) earned a spot in the Reese’s Division III all-star game in Salem, Va.
7. UB wrestler Bryan Lantry. The sophomore from Walworth became the first UB wrestler since 2006 to reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Championships. The 133-pounder lost in overtime in his bid for an eighth-place and All-America finish. UB also sent Kyle Akins (125) and MAC champion Jake Gunning (heavyweight) to the NCAAs. All three NCAA qualifiers return next season.
8. Villa Maria coach Don Silveri. He was inducted last weekend into the New York State Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. Silveri has 608 wins in a career that included stops at Erie CC, Buffalo State and Daemen. Villa went 18-14 this season, Silveri’s second at the college.
9. Daemen men’s basketball. The Wildcats (19-9) reached the semifinals of the Division II East Coast Conference tournament before losing to top-seeded and eventual champion St. Thomas Aquinas, 85-66. Daemen, picked for fifth, earned the No. 4 seed. The Wildcats are 59-29 in three years under coach Mike MacDonald.
10. Buffalo State swimmer Conner Mergler. The junior from Williamsville North earned Division III All-America status by placing eighth in the 100 freestyle at the NCAA meet in Shenandoah, Texas.