The Big Four basketball teams all had Friday night off on the schedule, which is something of a rarity. But all four men’s teams and two of the women’s teams go back to work on Saturday. Only the St. Bonaventure and Niagara women’s squads get the day off.
• The University at Buffalo has a huge assignment on Saturday afternoon: Stop the best team in the Mid-American Conference. The Bulls play on the road at Akron (7:30 p.m., ESPN3, Radio 1520 AM). The Zips are flying. They are 17-3 this season, including a current 10-game winning streak, and have a 7-0 record in the MAC. Akron also has won 27 straight home games. Isaiah Johnson leads Akron with an average of 15.7 points per game and he also chips in with 7.3 rebounds per game. UB (9-11, 3-4 MAC) is coming off a loss at Miami (Ohio). This is a rematch of last year’s championship game in the MAC tournament, won by the Bulls. Blake Hamilton leads the team in scoring at 15.7 point per game.
• Niagara finishes up a three-game home stand when it hosts Rider at the Gallagher Center (3 p.m., Radio 1520 AM). The Purple Eagles (7-15, 4-7 Metro Atlantic) couldn’t have asked for a better start to the busy week of home games, knocking off rival Canisius on Monday. But Niagara couldn’t turn it into a winning streak, falling by a point to Manhattan on Thursday. After this game, the Eagles play five of six games on the road, so a win on Saturday would be helpful. Rider beat Niagara earlier in the month, but since then has lost four of five games to fall to 12-9, 5-5 MAAC. Four of the Bronc starters are averaging in double figures.
• We’ll see how Canisius reacted to that Niagara loss when the Golden Griffins host Manhattan at the Koessler Athletic Center (2 p.m., Radio 1230 AM). This is the first of two home games in three days for Canisius, and it’s time for the team to turn things around. Canisius comes into the game at 12-9 overall, 5-5 in the MAAC, with a three-game losing streak. With the conference field well bunched, it’s easy to drop in the standings with a loss as the teams position themselves for the postseason. • St. Bonaventure hits the road for a good Atlantic 10 matchup at Rhode Island (2 p.m., NBCSN, 95.7 FM). The Bonnies are 5-2 in the conference while the Rams are 4-3. However, Rhode Island is 9-1 at home overall, so Bona should have its hands full. Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley continue to pile up the points for the Bonnies. They are averaging 41.2 points per game, more than half of the Bona offense.
• The University at Buffalo women’s team appears to be evenly matched with Western Michigan for their game in Kalamazoo (2 p.m, Radio 1520 AM). Both teams comes into the game with 14-5 record. The difference is that the Bulls are 4-4 in the MAC, while the Broncos are 5-3. After a slow stride, UB finally gained some momentum in conference play by winning three straight games before losing to Ball State on Wednesday. Summer Hemphill of the Bulls is averaging 7.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. JoAnna Smith needs only 12 points to move up a couple of notches and into 11th place on the university’s all-time scoring list.
• Canisius continues its visit to the eastern part of the state with a game against Marist in Poughkeepsie at 2 p.m. The Golden Griffins lost to Siena on Thursday night, falling to 6-14, 5-6 in the MAAC. That loss ended a two-game winning streak. After returning home, Canisius will play its next three games at home, which hasn’t been much of an advantage this season. The Griffins are 4-7 on the road and 2-7 at home.