The College Power 10 ranks the top performers each week in Western New York collegiate athletics. With the collegiate slate over, we look back at the best from 2017-18.
1. University at Buffalo women's basketball: As the Bulls tore through most of the regular season slate, coach Felisha Legette-Jack echoed the same sentiment: The Mid-American Conference is a multi-bid league, and if the Bulls didn’t win the conference tournament, they deserved an at-large bid. Come Selection Monday she got her wish, and her squad backed her up.
The Bulls tormented the Florida State regional, upsetting South Florida and the host Seminoles to earn UB’s first trip to the Sweet 16. UB’s Cinderella run came to an end at the hands of WNBA first-overall pick A’ja Wilson and the South Carolina Gamecocks, but not before the team gained entry into the national conversation. The Bulls were ranked No. 21 in the final USA Today Coaches Poll, UB’s first appearance in the poll.
2. University at Buffalo men’s basketball: The UB men did their own bracket busting, shutting down likely first-overall pick DeAndre Ayton in a shocking 89-68 NCAA Tournament first-round upset of the Arizona Wildcats. Coach Nate Oats and his deep roster earned the trip to Boise, Idaho, thanks to UB’s third MAC title in four years and second in three years under Oats.
Kentucky proved too formidable for the Bulls in the second round, but UB will return next season with a majority of its difference makers and will likely be the MAC favorite again.
3. Troy Keller: The Niagara County Community College wrestler and future UB Bull upset top-seeded Wyatt Jordan to win an NJCAA title in the 165-pound class in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Keller, NCCC’s all-time leader in victories, was the fifth Thunderwolf to win a national championship and the first since 2000.
4. James Bassett: The former St. Joe’s lacrosse defenseman was a major cog in Merrimack’s Division II national championship, the first in school history. Bassett started in 18 of the Warriors’ 19 games, including the one-sided 23-6 win against Saint Leo in the title game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The 2017 Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year grabbed three ground balls and forced a turnover as he closed his collegiate career in style.
5. Villa Maria men’s and women’s basketball: Both Vikings squads hovered near the top of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Coaches polls all season and proved their worth with postseason runs to the USCAA National Final Four. The women, led by USCAA Women’s Basketball Division II National Player of the Year and Tapesty graduate Shaquana Owens, made it to the national semifinals for the second straight season, while the men made it one game further, falling to top-seeded Berkeley College in the national championship game.
6. Greg Cullen: The Niagara shortstop is the leader and likely first-place finisher in batting average for NCAA Division I baseball in batting average. He finished his season batting .458 in his junior season. He also posted a .556 on-base percentage, second in the nation. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference runs leader was named the MAAC Player of the Year, earned second-team All-America honors and was selected in the 15th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Atlanta Braves.
7. St. Bonaventure men’s basketball: The trip to the NCAA Tournament was shorter lived than UB’s, but there shouldn’t be too much hand-wringing after the Bonnies earned their first trip to the Big Dance since 2012 and first tournament victory since the Bob Lanier-led team in 1970. Bona got 26 points from wing Courtney Stockard in a 65-58 victory against UCLA in the First Four but was bounced by the Florida Gators two days later. Star guard Jaylen Adams, who is now in the pre-NBA Draft process, was named the Atlantic 10 co-Player of the Year and finished ranked sixth on St. Bonaventure’s all-time scoring list.
8. Canisius baseball: The Golden Griffins rode a hot streak in the latter stages of the season, winning eight straight games en route to their third MAAC title and first under first-year coach Matt Mazurek. The title victory came in one-sided fashion, as the No. 3-seeded Griffs got a shutout performance from Championship MVP J.P. Stevenson in an 11-0 win against top-seeded Monmouth. The Griffs earned an automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament but exited quickly, falling to Minnesota and Gonzaga in the regionals.
9. Canisius men’s lacrosse: The team also succeeded under a first-year head coach. Mark Miyashita led the Golden Griffins to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2012 thanks to an improbable run in the MAAC Tournament. Canisius, the lowest seed in the four-team tournament, won overtime contests against Quinnipiac and Detroit Mercy to earn its third conference title and an automatic qualifier for the NCAAs. The Griffs’ season came to an end in the NCAA Tournament play-in game, as Northeast Conference champion Robert Morris scored a wire-to-wire victory, 12-6, at the Demske Sports Complex.
10. Jamestown CC women’s volleyball: The Jayhawks went undefeated in the regular season and claimed both the Western New York Athletic Conference and NJCAA Region 3 Division III titles before falling in the DIII tournament. SallyAnne Rudny was named conference Player of the Year and Ashley Lund was named Coach of the Year, both for the second straight season.
Honorable mention: UB women’s tennis earned its second-straight MAC title with 4-2 victory against Miami Ohio in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship.
UB football earned bowl eligibility for the third time and first time under head coach Lance Leipold.
UB football’s Drew Anderson etched his name into MAC record books in a 71-68, seven-overtime loss to Western Michigan. He set a conference high for yards in the game (597) and tied the record for touchdowns passes(seven). Stuck behind QB Tyree Jackson, Anderson transferred to Murray State for his final season.
Canisius bested Niagara in the Battle of the Bridge, 27-7, earning bragging rights over its local rival for a ninth straight season.
Canisius hockey’s Dylan McLaughlin was named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year and one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.
Hilbert women’s basketball enjoyed the most successful season in its history. The Hawks set highs for overall and conference wins and earned the school’s first automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Erie Community College men’s basketball avenged three regular-season losses to Monroe CC, defeating the Tribunes in the Region III NJCAA championship to earn a berth in the Division II national tournament.
Brockport football coach and Lancaster native Jason Mangone was named the NCAA Division III National Football Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association after leading the College at Brockport to the NCAA semifinals.
Medaille men’s soccer earned its first Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference title since 2012 thanks to a penalty kick goal from keeper Callum Christie against top-seeded Penn State-Behrend.
UB men’s tennis’ Vidit Vaghela and Petr Vodak became the school’s first doubles team to earn a spot in the NCAA rankings, which orders the top 90 pairings in Division I. The duo were as high as 64th and finished 86th.
St. Bonaventure swimming and diving freshman Lina Kutsko was named the Most Outstanding Performer at the A-10 Championships after winning four gold medals and five medals overall.
The local schools were responsible for all three players named MAAC basketball Player of the Year, as Niagara’s Kahlil Dukes and Canisius’ Jermaine Crumpton (Niagara Falls) were named co-Players of the Year on the men’s side and Niagara’s Victoria Rampado was the sole winner for the women.
Albany men’s lacrosse attackman Connor Fields (Bishop Timon-St. Jude) played through knee injuries but still finished sixth in NCAA Division I scoring and led the Great Danes to their first trip to Championship Weekend.
ECC women’s soccer earned a trip to the NJCAA National Championship tournament for the second straight year with a 2-0 victory against JCC.
Canisius swept the MAAC Players of the Year awards in lacrosse with Connor Kearnan winning on the men’s side and Jourdan Roemer on the women’s.
Buffalo State men’s soccer ended the regular season on a school-record 15-game point streak and earned a spot in the NCAA Top 25 for the first time since 1984.
Story topics: Canisius baseball/ Canisius men's lacrosse/ Greg Cullen/ Hilbert women's basketball/ James Bassett/ Jamestown CC volleyball/ Jaylen Adams/ NCCC/ Niagara baseball/ St. Bonaventure men's basketball/ Troy Keller/ UB men's basketball/ UB women's basketball/ UB women's tennis/ Villa Maria men's basketball/ Villa Maria women's basketball