The 2010s were the greatest decade in the “modern” history of Big 4 men’s college basketball.
The University at Buffalo made four appearances in the NCAA Tournament and St. Bonaventure made two. Big 4 teams had combined to make only four NCAA appearances in the three previous decades, since the Division I schools in the East split into distinct conferences in 1979.
UB went 212-120 overall (.639) and 113-59 in the Mid-American Conference in the 10 years from the start of 2010 to the end of 2019. Of course, it was capped by last season’s 32-4 campaign, in which the Bulls finished No. 15 in the nation in the Associated Press poll.
Bona went 188-131 overall (.589) and 99-71 in the Atlantic 10 Conference and got a win over UCLA in the First Four game two seasons ago.
Canisius didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, but its program broke out of the doldrums in the past decade. Canisius endured 11 straight non-winning seasons through 2011-12. Jim Baron was hired as head coach and directed the Griffs to three winning seasons in four years. Reggie Witherspoon has had two winning seasons in the last three. The Griffs were 161-163 overall (.497) and 98-90 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Niagara endured a mostly miserable decade. The Purple Eagles let outstanding coach Joe Mihalich get away in 2013 on a quasilateral move to Hofstra. Five of the next six seasons were miserable. Niagara was 117-204 overall (.364) and 74-114 in conference.
Here are our picks for the Big 4 All-Decade Team of the 2010s:
CJ Massinburg, UB: Your team is in great shape when your best player is your hardest-working, most team-oriented player. Nobody personified that better than Massinburg, who helped the Bulls to MAC titles as a freshman, junior and senior. He was a two-time first-team All-MAC and MAC player of the year as a senior. He finished second in UB history in points (1,990) and sixth in rebounds. He might be the greatest rebounding guard in Big 4 history.
Andrew Nicholson, Bona: The 6-foot-9-inch forward put the Bonnies on his back in the unforgettable run to the 2012 Atlantic 10 Championship at Atlantic City. That NCAA Tournament berth was the exclamation point that put the dark times of the previous decade in the past. Nicholson scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the title game. He finished with 1,553 points, 621 rebounds and 143 blocks in 81 games.
Jaylen Adams, Bona: Adams produced countless highlights and heroics over four years as the quintessential scoring point guard who also made those around him better. He finished with 1,912 points, 590 assists and 170 steals in 110 games. Was A-10 co-player of the year as a senior, when he averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 assists.
Javon McCrea, UB: The center from Newark, N.Y., was a three-time first-team All-MAC pick and was MAC player of the year in 2014. He is UB’s career leading scorer (2,004), the No. 3 rebounder (988) and No. 2 in blocks (250).
Nick Perkins, UB: He exceeded high expectations as a highly touted recruit of Nate Oats out of Michigan. Perkins finished fifth on UB’s career list in scoring (1,772) and fourth in rebounding (848). He was two-time first-team All-MAC and an unprecedented three-time MAC sixth man of the year. He had numerous huge games in the MAC Tournament over four seasons and scored 21 on Arizona State in an NCAA Tournament win.
Billy Baron, Canisius: The 6-foot-2-inch guard was two-time All-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and MAAC player of the year in 2013. One of the purest shooters in Big 4 history, he averaged 24.1 ppg as a senior and scored 1,405 in only two seasons. Likely would have been a first-team all-decade pick had he played more than two years.
Matt Mobley, Bona: A stone-cold shooting guard who was Adams’ wingman in the 2017-18 NCAA Tournament season. He scored 1,209 points in two seasons. Hit a last-second shot for a key win last year over Vermont in Rochester. Made a school-record 105 threes last year.
Marcus Posley, Bona: A two-year transfer was Mr. Clutch for the Bonnies in the NIT season of 2015-16 that should have been an NCAA season. He hit buzzer-beaters in back-to-back games to beat Davidson and VCU. Scored 47 on St. Joe’s in Rochester.
Mitchell Watt, UB: Won MAC player of the year honors in 2011-12 in leading UB to a 20-11 season. The 6-foot-10-inch center scored 1,061 points (19th on UB’s career list) and had 196 blocks (third most).
Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius: The Niagara Falls product was good as a freshman and got better each year, culminating in MAAC co-player of the year honors as a senior. He’s tied for sixth on Canisius’ scoring list (1,587) and is seventh in 3-pointers made.
Justin Moss, UB: The junior-college transfer played only one year for UB and got kicked out of school before his senior season. Still, Moss was the unstoppable force in leading UB to its first NCAA Tournament bid. He averaged 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds in winning MAC player of the year honors for coach Bobby Hurley.
Jeremy Harris, UB: Smooth, unselfish wing player was a matchup nightmare for opponents and the key third option in UB’s NCAA Tournament teams the past two years. He scored 23 points in an 89-68 upset win over fourth-seeded Arizona in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Antoine Mason, Niagara: The 6-foot-1-inch guard finished as Niagara’s No. 3 all-time scorer with 1,934 points in three seasons before transferring to Auburn. Earned first-team all-MAAC honors in 2012-13 when he ranked second in the nation by averaging 25.6 points a game.
Courtney Stockard, Bona: The 6-foot-5-inch wingman overcame injuries his first two seasons to give the Bonnies two big years, scoring 840 points in 59 games. He scored 26 in an NCAA Tournament win over UCLA.
Dion Wright, Bona: The quintessential Mark Schmidt player in that he was lightly recruited and improved every season into an all-around asset. He scored 1,263 points in 108 games and was the dirty-work glue guy for the 22-win NIT team. Edges UB’s Wes Clark (great in half a season) and Kahlil Dukes and Juan’ya Green of Niagara for the final spot.
Player of the decade
Massinburg. Bona’s Nicholson was picked 19th overall by Orlando in the 2012 NBA draft. But this is about who had the best college career and made the most impact for his school. Massinburg was the best player on the best Big 4 team of the decade, played huge in the biggest moments and was the leader who helped set the culture tone for the program.
Coach of the decade
Mark Schmidt, Bona. Schmidt has 188 wins and two NCAA appearances and served all 10 years of the 2010s. That gives him the nod over Nate Oats, whose four-year run at UB may never be topped. Oats went 96-43 with three NCAA Tournament appearances.