UB announces 2014-15 nonconference basketball schedule, Bulls visit two Final Four teams

By Nick Veronica

ublogoUB announced its nonconference basketball schedule Wednesday morning, including games at Kentucky and Wisconsin, Final Four teams a season ago. Both are big pulls for second-year coach Bobby Hurley.

As agreed upon last year, UB and Canisius will play another game downtown at the First Niagara Center, on Nov 29. UB travels to Big 4 rival St. Bonaventure on Dec. 3 and hosts Niagara Dec 19.

This year’s opponents combined to finish 217-212 in 2013-14.

Full nonconference schedule
(“vs.” games are home, “at” games are away, last year’s record in parenthesis)

Nov. 14 vs. South Dakota State (19-13, 10-4 Summit)

Nov. 16 at Kentucky (29-11, 12-6 SEC, national runners-up)*

Nov. 18 at Texas-Arlington (15-17, 9-9 Sun Belt)*

Nov. 21. vs. Montana State (14-17, 9-11 Big Sky)*

Nov. 25 at Grand Canyon (15-15, 10-6 WAC)*

Nov. 29 vs. Canisius at First Niagara Center  (23-13, 14-6 MAAC)

Dec. 3 at St. Bonaventure (18-15, 6-10 Atlantic 10)

Dec. 7 at Robert Morris (22-14, 14-2 Northeast)

Dec. 16 vs. Drexel (16-14, 8-8 Colonial)

Dec. 19 vs. Niagara (7-26, 3-17 MAAC)

Dec. 28 at Wisconsin (30-8, 12-6 Big Ten, Final Four participant)

Dec. 30 at Binghamton (7-23, 4-12 America East)

Jan. 3 vs. Cornell (2-26, 1-13 Ivy)

*Part of a tournament

Billy Baron and Javon McCrea’s NBA Draft outlook

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’ Billy Baron and UB’s Javon McCrea have spent the last month flying across the country, giving workouts to as many NBA teams as possible.

If either player was able to impress a club, he’ll find out tonight during the NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN).

While the most likely scenario is that both players go undrafted, that’s not the end of the road for either of their professional dreams. Both Baron and McCrea, the MAAC and MAC players of the year, respectively, could get a look in the NBA Summer League, where they’d have additional opportunities to prove they can play at the next level.

“I know I made a pretty good impression on a few teams so we’ll just leave it up to that,” Baron said in a recent interview with Big 4 Talk’s Johnathan Snyder. “If I don’t get drafted, it’s not everything in the world,” Baron added. “There are many routes to the NBA, it’s not just on Thursday.”

“With the NBA, you never know what’s gonna happen,” McCrea told WGRZ. “I hope my name’s called, and if not, I just have to work harder throughout the summer to make sure I’m playing in November.”

Baron worked out for 10 teams — one-third of the league — prior to the draft (Chicago, Atlanta, Utah, Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, San Antonio and Detroit), while McCrea auditioned for seven (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Toronto, Memphis and Philadelphia) after a good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, which Baron opted not to attend.

McCrea was linked to the Philadelphia 76ers late in a recent ESPN mock draft, if you’re looking for a guess on where he might end up. (You have to be an Insider to see the full mock, but Hustle Belt wrote about it here.) Philadelphia has an absurd five second-round draft picks, so I’m guessing that would make them less hesitant to go off the board a bit for a player like McCrea.

Baron’s most likely destination, if you’re trying to connect the dots, is the Detroit Pistons. Their general manager, Jeff Bower, coached at Marist last year and is a big fan of Baron’s game. Their coach, Stan Van Gundy, is a former Canisius assistant and a graduate of Brockport. He visited campus two years ago and met with Baron and the team.

(Above: Stan Van Gundy at Canisius)

If you’re thinking these two have forgotten about Canisius now that they’re in the pros, think again. Jordan Heath worked out with the Pistons Wednesday and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to Summer League. If he’s on their radar, you can bet Baron is too.

Detroit only has one draft pick (38th overall), so I don’t see them using it on Baron, but they could go after him later.

Baron’s agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group, is a former Chicago Bulls point guard who also represents Derek Rose (Chicago), Al Horford (Atlanta), JaVale McGee (Denver), Gerald Henderson (Charlotte), Omer Asik (traded from Houston to New Orleans Wednesday night), Jason Terry (Sacramento) and several others.

McCrea’s agent, Mike Kneisley of The Neustadt Group, also represents Shelvin Mack of Atlanta and Darius Miller of New Orleans.

If Baron made it to the NBA, he would be the first Canisius player in the league since Mike Smrek retired in 1992. McCrea could become just the second UB player to make the NBA (Sam Pellom, 1979-83) and the school’s first draft pick. The only Big Four player currently in the NBA is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, who was selected 19th overall by Orlando in 2012.

Postgame videos: Jim Baron and player interviews from Canisius 69, UB 55

More coverage from Canisius’ come-from-behind win at the First Niagara Center:

Chris Perez and Billy Baron postgame interviews

Jim Baron postgame interview

Immediate reactions: Canisius 69, UB 55

How it happened: Just when it looked like UB was hitting enough shots to thwart every Canisius comeback attempt, a late run turned the tide, sparked by unlikely hero Phil Valenti. UB led 51-43 with 10:54 to play. But that’s when Chris Perez finally took advantage of a mismatch against Jarod Oldham and Valenti made a few clutch plays in a row to spark the rally, paced of course by Billy Baron, who led all players with 23. The Griffs closed on a 26-4 run.

What it means: Canisius showed some moxie in this one, and the come-from-behind win in front of an announced crowd of 4,703 at the First Niagara Center will be something to build on. The Griffs are now 1-1 against Big 4 rivals this season, having  dropped their meeting with St. Bonaventure earlier this season. It was a coming out party for Perez, finally attacking against smaller players, and should give Jim Baron more confidence with Valenti when the bigs get in foul trouble.

Secondary scoring? Perez and Valenti took care of that in the second half, finishing with 16 and 11 points, respectively. There wasn’t much scoring outside of Baron and Perez in the first half: Those two were 7 for 15 shooting, and all other Griffs were 3 for 17.

Rebounding? Canisius outrebounded an opponent for just the third time this season, collecting 37 boards to UB’s 33. The Griffs pulled down 14 on the offensive end, and Chris Manhertz outrebounded Javon McCrea, 9-6, in eight fewer minutes.

Stats that were good: Canisius shot 55.6 percent (15-27) in the second half after going just 10 for 30 in the first half … Phil Valenti was 4 for 5 for a career-high 11 points with five rebounds and no turnovers in 18 minutes … Canisius had just six turnovers while forcing 15 … held UB to 6 of 23 from three-points range … the second half was 43-20 Canisius.

Stats that were bad: The Griffs were 13 of 25 from the free-throw line … Dominique Raney was 2 of 7 from the field … Zach Lewis and Jeremiah Williams were 0 for 5.

Notes: It was the 21st time Billy Baron scored 20 or more points in a college game. He also turned 23 today.

Next game: Canisius plays at St. Francis (Brooklyn) on Saturday at 4 p.m.