By Nick Veronica
Canisius will make the 6 1/2-mile trip to UB Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. tipoff at Alumni Arena.
Canisius Golden Griffins: 2-2 overall, 0-1 road. Streak: L1. KenPom rank: 158. RPI: 241.
University at Buffalo, the State University of New York Bulls: 3-2 overall, 2-2 vs. Division I teams, 0-0 home. Streak: W2. KenPom rank: 150. RPI: 166.
Vegas line: UB -1.5, over/under 153.5.
What’s at stake: Local bragging rights are always on the line when Big 4 teams meet, and this game is especially important for Canisius in that regard. The Griffs are coming off a four-point home loss to St. Bonaventure, so a loss Saturday would mean they’d have to sweep Niagara just to go .500 against local opponents. UB hosts St. Bonaventure on Wednesday and doesn’t play Niagara, so this appears to be the more winnable of its Big 4 games this season.
Series history: Canisius leads the all-time series, 31-16, but UB won seven of the last 10.
Canisius players to watch: Start with Malcolm McMillan, the point guard who’s fifth nationally in scoring at 25.5 points per game (it would take a 37-point game would spring him to first). Jamal Reynolds is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, good for 49th in the country, and his 23 offensive rebounds rank 10th. Junior Phil Valenti scored 11 points in both of his first two games against UB.
UB players to watch: The Bulls have received very balanced scoring through five games, with Lamonte Bearden, Rodell Wigginton, Blake Hamilton and Willie Conner all averaging double-figures. Bearden leads the team at 13.0 ppg, and he’ll look to put up another strong game against the Griffs – he had his coming out party last year at First Niagara Center against Canisius, scoring a game-high 23 points.
Home opener, of sorts: UB hosted Division III Pitt-Bradford two weeks ago, but Saturday is Nate Oats’ first true home game against real competition. It’ll be nice for the Bulls to return home following four games in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic, and a good crowd should be on hand to welcome Oats, the first-year coach who’s been dealing with his wife’s cancer diagnosis.
Saturday’s game is also UB’s first basketball game since Allen Greene was named athletic director, following Danny White’s departure. Just don’t lobby Greene to remove UB’s “New York Bulls Initiative” – that’s not up to him.
Potpourri: I missed the Canisius-Bona game, but it looks like Jim Baron had some interesting things to say in his press conference:
How to follow the game: Tickets are available at the UB box office; streaming is available via ESPN3; tweets are available via my feed and probably most of the Big 4 basketball Twitter list (are you a writer who needs to be added? DM me); and immediate reactions will be posted here shortly after the final buzzer.Follow @NickVeronica