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LATE NIGHT DROP: UB MEN ON THE ROAD AGAIN
A WMU preview. Plus: Kyle Vantrease is heading south; tough break for Tyree Jackson.
Image from ubbulls.com
January was a lost month in college. Home from school, no homework, no job…the days would disappear in a blur of pickup games at Fredonia State’s Dods Hall, dollar pints at the empty college bars, endless NBA and college basketball games on TV, house parties, NFL playoff games, pizza at 2 a.m., and sleeping til noon. Not a bad life for a kid.
On the other hand, you don’t want your favorite college basketball team—especially one with designs on the NCAA Tournament—living that way. It’s a relief to see the UB men’s basketball team gets back on the court Tuesday night.
The Bulls (7-6 overall, 1-2 in Mid-American Conference play) kick off a two-game road trip with a stop in Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan (4-10, 0-3). Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. at Read Fieldhouse, and can be viewed on ESPN3.
When last we saw Buffalo, 6’10 sophomore forward David Skogman (pictured above) was having the game of his life in a 99-88 home win over Bowling Green—20 points on a perfect six-for-six from the floor and six-for-six from the free throw line and15 boards, fairly major improvements on his previous averages of 5.5 points and four rebounds per game.
That performance catapulted Skogman into the upper echelon of some obscure stats:
Skogman currently has the highest two-point field goal percentage in the country (.875%).
He’s also 19th in Division 1 in offensive rating (134.6%).
In the MAC, Skogman’s second in defensive rebound percentage (28.6%), third in three-point attempts made (.571%—that’s only for conference games), and third in offensive rating (147.5%, and again, that’s just for MAC contests).
Will Skogman, senior forward Jeenathan Williams (21 points), and senior guard Ronaldo Segu (20 points) need to be supermen again on Tuesday? Ideally, forwards Josh Mballa and Tra’Von Fagan—both sidelined with COVID since the Bulls’ Jan. 1 88-76 loss at Akron—will be back to carry some of the load.
Here’s the NCAA’s COVID guidance, updated late last week:
COVID-19 management considerations suggest five days of quarantine after a positive test with isolation ending after five days if there are no symptoms or symptoms are resolving. Considerations also include masking around others for five additional days. Participation in athletic activities without a mask during days six through 10 can be considered following a negative PCR/NAAT test or antigen test.
Cross your fingers on those tests. A little Twitter stalking on the @ubmenshoops account revealed this photo:
If you zoom in, you can see a tall fellow on the left wearing a number zero jersey who looks like Fagan. The broad-shouldered gentleman with the white, long-sleeved t-shirt on the right could be Mballa.
Let’s hope! As mentioned in our last newsletter, Mballa and Fagan are responsible for a combined 22 points, 14 rebounds, and 43 frontcourt minutes per game.
Reserve forwards Brock Bertram and Kuluel Mading also sat out the BGSU win with injuries. We’ll see where they stand, as well.
Look for the UB men, one of the highest-tempo teams in the country, to get out and run on Western Michigan, one of the weakest defensive teams in D1. Williams (18.8 points per game), Segu (16.3 points and 5.3 assists per game), and senior swingman Maceo Jack (10.5 points per game, including 16 vs. Bowling Green) could feast while Mballa, in particular, gets his sea legs back.
Or maybe Skogman goes for 40! Who knows.
Let’s see how things look in Kalamazoo.
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Western Michigan Basketball: State of the Program
Image from wmubroncos.com
Western Michigan’s Jan. 9 road game at Central Michigan was postponed due to MAC health and safety protocols. The last time the Broncos took the court was Jan. 4, an 85-79 loss to Eastern Michigan in which junior guard Lamar Norman, Jr. (pictured above) scored 34 points.
WMU fell behind by 20 points before cutting the deficit as close as five in the final minute. The defeat was Western Michigan’s fourth in a row and sixth in the past seven games.
That’s no surprise. Western Michigan is, to be kind, rebuilding its program. The Broncos have a combined 30-69 record since 2018, and have finished no better than two games over .500 since 2015.
Longtime Broncos assistant Clayton Bates took over head coaching duties shortly after the pandemic started in 2020 and 17-year incumbent Steve Hawkins’ contract was not renewed. Bates wasn’t exactly a hot candidate—he defaulted into the position when former WMU star Saddi Washington turned down the job and school administrators chose to avoid a wider, national search during a health emergency, according to The Detroit News.
“Clayton is the best person for the job at hand,” said now-retired WMU Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Western Michigan is ranked 332nd in the country in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency margin with a -15.77 AdjEM.* Buffalo, by comparison, has an AdjEM of +6.93, or 103rd overall. Similarly, the Broncos are 328th in NCAA NET ratings, while the Bulls are 125th.
To be fair, their strength of schedule is 63rd in Division 1 basketball, and included games against Michigan State, currently ranked #10 in the AP Top 25, #31 Iowa, and a tough Notre Dame squad. Conference rivals Ohio and Toledo are ranked 76th and 77th, respectively, in NCAA NET. The Broncos, as you’d imagine, lost all of these games.
On offense, WMU averages 65.1 points per game and shoots 42% from the floor (both 10th in the MAC), while knocking down threes at a 31% clip (11th in the conference). Western Michigan is eighth in rebounds (35.2), offensive rebounds (10.1), and defensive rebounds per game (25.1).
*Adjusted efficiency margin is, without getting too deep into math that I don’t understand, the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency, representing the number of points the team would be expected to outscore the average D-I team over 100 possessions.
Names & Notes
Image from wmubroncos.com
Look out for transfer students Lamar Norman, Jr. (Duquesne) and Markeese Hastings (Butler, pictured above), who are shouldering a heavy load for the struggling Broncos.
Norman and Hastings were teammates at Wyoming Godwin Heights (Michigan) High School, a straight shot north up Route 131 from Kalamazoo. Nice story, actually, that the 2015 Class B state champs are reuniting to help save the local college team.
Here are a few notes, courtesy of wmubroncos.com:
Western Michigan newcomer Lamar Norman Jr. has burst onto the scene, ranking third in the MAC at 18.9 points per game. With his career-high 34 against EMU, the junior extended his streak of double-digit scoring games to 12 in a row. Norman is the only player in the league to have multiple 30-point games and has six 20-point efforts, tied for second-most in the conference this season. He currently leads the MAC in made three-pointers at 3.3 per contest.
Fellow WMU newcomer Markeese Hastings ranks in the top-10 of the conference in several categories as well. The redshirt sophomore ranks 10th in field goal percentage (.495), third in rebounding (8.2), third in offensive rebounding (3.4) and seventh in defensive rebounding (4.9). Hastings is second in the conference with four double-digit rebounding games.
Western Michigan won the rebounding battle for the fourth consecutive game on Tuesday, topping Eastern Michigan 37-31. 10 of the 11 Broncos who played grabbed at least one rebound, with Titus Wright's season-high 11 leading the way. WMU has had the edge on the glass in nine of its 14 games, but owns just a 2-7 mark in those nine contests.
KYLE VANTREASE IS HEADING SOUTH
Image from @kyle_v07
Kyle Vantrease is trading #MACtion for the #FunBelt. The Ohio native is taking his talents to the southeast—Georgia Southern, to be specific. Arguably the most successful quarterback in UB history, Vantrease announced on social media today that he’s committed to the Eagles.
GSU has played D1 football in the Sun Belt Conference since 2014 and has been quite respectable, winning seven or more games five times. The 2021 season was not one of them, and former head coach Chad Lunsford was fired after a 1-3 start despite making bowl games in the previous three campaigns. Georgia Southern finished 3-9.
Vantrease won’t be the only new guy on campus—the Eagles’ head coach is Clay Helton, who made headlines this past season when he was clipped by USC two games into the schedule after the 14th-ranked Trojans lost, 46-28, to lowly Stanford on national television. Helton posted a 46-24 record in six seasons at Southern Cal.
The quarterbacks coach will be Bryan Ellis, who worked with Sam Darnold at USC and, more recently, served as the co-offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers posted the second-highest scoring offense (44.2 points per game) in 2021.
TYREE JACKSON: OUT FOR THE PLAYOFFS
Image from @tyree.jackson3
Devastating: Moments after catching his first NFL pass for his first NFL touchdown, former UB quarterback and current Philadelphia Eagles tight end Tyree Jackson suffered a season-ending ACL injury in a 51-26 loss to Dallas.
Eagles young tight end Tyree Jackson suffered a torn ACL in Saturday’s regular season finale, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.E
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo first reported the news.
This is a tough blow for the Eagles and for Jackson, who has been a great story since training camp.
Jackson was once a college quarterback for the University at Buffalo but began his transition to tight end just over a year ago. He impressed the Eagles enough during training camp for them to carry him through final cuts despite a fracture in his back.
Eventually, Jackson returned from that injury and became the Eagles’ third-string tight end behind Dallas Goedert and Jack Stoll. Jackson played 171 snaps this season and caught the first three passes of his career on Saturday night against the Cowboys. His first career catch was a touchdown in the first quarter.
But in the second half, Jackson suffered the non-contact injury on a shanked punt. He was visibly frustrated as he was helped to the sideline and was ruled out quickly.
We’re pulling for you, big man.
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