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UB moves up in polls as its gets ready to face Akron

The University at Buffalo gained four places in the Association Press Men’s Basketball Poll announced on Monday while some big-name teams dropped.

The Bulls (24-3, 12-2 Mid-American Conference) went from No. 25 to No. 21 in the AP media poll and improved one place to No. 23 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Perhaps even more significant, UB is rated 16th in the NCAA NET ranking.

UB will try to improve on its 24-3 record against Akron at 7 p.m today at Alumni Arena.

Among those losing ground in the AP poll was Duke, which fell from No. 1 to No. 3 after the sneaker explosion/injury to freshman star Zion Williamson and subsequent loss to North Carolina.

Another loser was defending national champion Villanova, which fell out of the top 25 after road losses to Georgetown and Xavier.
Gonzaga returned to the No. 1 position and Virginia moved up to No. 2 in both polls.

UB garnered 288 points in the AP poll, its highest total since it had 468 and was ranked 18th four weeks ago. The Bulls have been ranked as high as No. 14 on three occasions, the most recent in Week 12, when they were 17-1.

Coach Nate Oats’ team passed Villanova, Iowa State Iowa and Wisconsin in the AP poll. The Bulls jumped ahead of Louisville, Iowa State and Villanova in the USA Today poll, but were passed by Cincinnati and Maryland.

Among the more prominent AP pollsters, UB was No. 13 by John Feinstein of the Washington Post, No. 25 by Seth Davis of CBS Sports and not listed on the ballot of Dick Vitale of ESPN. Graham Couch of the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal had UB at No. 13 on his ballot.

UB has been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 16 weeks in a row. Its stay in the ranking extends the record of most weeks ranked for a Mid-American Conference team since the AP poll was initiated in the 1948-49 season.

The only week UB was not ranked in the top 25 this season was in Week 1.

Last week, UB ranked 24th in the NET rankings, which are computed daily. MAC teams besides UB ranked in the NET top 100 were Toledo at 66 and Bowling Green at 99.

Syracuse ranks 44th in the NET rankings. Among WNY Big 4 teams, St. Bonaventure was No. 141, Canisius 276 and Niagara 306.

Against Akron, UB will try to extend its 24-game home win streak, which is tied with Tennessee as the second-longest in the nation behind Houston, which has won 33 in a row.

The Bulls have won 16 straight games against MAC teams at home. The last loss was to Akron, which defeated the Bulls, 89-83, on Feb. 24, 2017.

UB has won three straight against the Zips.

In its second season under coach John Groce, Akron has four starters scoring in double figures — Daniel Utomi (14.1), Loren Cristian Jackson (13.5), Jimond Ivey (12.4 ppg, 6.5 rebounds) and Tyler Cheese (11.1).

Akron won at home over Miami (Ohio), 70-58, on Saturday, ending a four-game conference losing streak.

UB is coming off two one-sided home wins last week. The Bulls defeated Ohio, 114-67, and Kent State, 80-57, in a nationally televised game that may have enhanced its reputation with pollsters.

What was impressive in the win over Ohio was the versatility and diversified scoring UB showed. The Bulls’ scoring leaders were Javon Graves with 26 points and CJ Massinburg with 23.

Against Kent State, sixth-man Nick Perkins led the way with 27 points. The Bulls shot 57.6 percent (19 of 33 in the Ohio rout). Against Kent State, they were only 4 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc, but won it with their inside game. UB was 27 of 45 (60 percent) on two-point attempts.

No UB player played more than 25 minutes against Ohio and eight scored nine points or more.

In the Kent State game, the Bulls’ defense helped create 24 turnovers.

Following tonight’s game, UB will return to action at Miami at 2 p.m. Saturday in Oxford, Ohio, before key games at Ohio and at home against Bowling Green next week to wrap up the regular season.

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