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Big 4 Hoops: Two new veterans could put UB in hunt again


Where the Program Stands: The Bulls earned the No. 3 seed in the Mid-American Conference last season and narrowly lost in the quarterfinals to eventual MAC champion Kent State. That makes four straight seasons and five of the last six years UB has been a top-three seed . . . and counting.

2016-17 Record: 17-15, 11-7 (3rd Mid-American).

Players lost: G-Blake Hamilton (17.5 ppg), W-Willie Conner (13.0 ppg), F-David Kadiri (5.7 ppg), C-Raheem Johnson (3.3 ppg), Nikola Rakicevic (2.6).

Outlook: UB has re-loaded and should contend for another top-four finish in the MAC if two veteran newcomers are close to as good as advertised. One is Jeremy Harris, a 6-7 wing from Gulf Coast junior college in Florida. He’s a perimeter athlete who can score and get to the rim in transition. He was rated the No. 8 player in North Carolina coming out of high school and was one of the higher-rated junior college recruits last season. UB is counting on him to be a double-digit scorer. He’s a wing, not a post player.

The other is point-guard Wes Clark, who played for Nate Oats in high school in Michigan and transferred from Missouri. He’s a high-major athlete, a pure point man and a good outside shooter. He started 45 games for Mizzou and scored 10 ppg as a sophomore. A mid-year transfer, he will be eligible starting the Syracuse game on Dec. 19.

It’s reasonable to think solid starters CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins will improve. Both had fine sophomore years. Perkins was MAC sixth man of the year. Can one or both become top-10 players in the MAC? Massinburg was hindered the first half of the season after recovering from mononucleosis. Quate McKinzie could join the starting lineup if UB wants to go small. When it’s time to play big, UB has three role-playing low posts. Junior college transfer Montell McRae is a bigger David Kadiri type. Brock Bertram improved his conditioning as a red-shirt. He’s a good passer for a big guy.

Helping UB’s cause is the fact that MAC power Akron takes a huge step back after the loss of coach Keith Dambrot and the exodus of its best players. MAC champ Kent State and power Ohio are re-loading, too, but both lost star players.

Needs improvement: Lack of consistent outside shooting kept UB from a MAC three-peat last season. Clark has a good outside shot. Who else will step up on the perimeter? Can Massinburg improve on his .331 three-point percentage?

There’s more competition in the backcourt. So MAC defensive player of the year Dontay Caruthers needs to improve his offense to keep getting quality minutes. James Jones was recruited as a shooter. Reese and Graves fit UB’s up-tempo game. Both have size and both had celebrated high school careers. How much can they contribute as freshmen?


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