No.21 Buffalo vs Canisius Preview

Buffalo vs Canisius Preview and Prediction
(Photo: Tom Wolf/Canisius College Athletics)

A Western New York rivalry that has the local community buzzing is finally happening after the long college basketball holiday break. In what will be the first time a ranked opponent will visit the Koessler Athletic Center in its history, the Canisius ticket office announced a sell out in record time.

If you asked me in the preseason about this game, I would have said it had the potential to be even bigger than it currently is–I knew this Buffalo squad was going to be good (I said it when I predicted their season-opening upset over No.13 West Virginia), but I bought into the preseason hype surrounding the Canisius Golden Griffins and frankly, their play has been incredibly disappointing.

I may have promoted that preseason hype myself, but presently the Griffs sit at 3-7 going into this clash with No.21 Buffalo, a record they certainly thought would be better.

However, for a team like Canisius everything comes down to conference play–nothing would give the team a boost more than knocking off a ranked rival in front of your home crowd. This is the Griffs final non-conference game before conference play begins on Jan.3rd when the team heads to Marist (Canisius hosts Brown in a non-conference affair on Jan. 8th).

The UB Bulls were handed their first loss of the season, 103-85, at the hands of 20th-ranked Marquette. Potential All-American Markus Howard was insane, specifically in the second half of that contest, single-handedly pushing the Golden Eagles over the Bulls. Howard exploded for 45 points while shooting 80 percent from three-point land.

Players to Watch

Buffalo: CJ Massinburg. He is the de facto leader of the team (although they have plenty of leaders) and is fresh off being named MAC Player of the Week for the second time. Massinburg led the Bulls to a split this week, playing arguably the toughest two-game road trip by a MAC squad this year at perennial powers Syracuse and Marquette. Buffalo began the weekend with a 71-59 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night as Massinburg had 25 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.  He went 8-of-16 from the floor in the win.  The senior added 18 points and four rebounds at Marquette on Friday night, while also recording four steals defensively. For the season he is averaging 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Buffalo: Nick Perkins. His teammate above was just named Player of the Week, but a week earlier it was Nick Perkins being awarded the honor for the second time this season. Perkins is a versatile big man for his size and puts up impressive numbers without starting any games. He is averaging 12.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The 6’8 forward can bang it down low in the post or step outside and drill a three-pointer. He can hurt you in many ways and I don’t think there is a player on the Canisius roster who can match him 1-on-1.

Canisius: Takal Molson. The Buffalo native has been the Griffs best player this season. He entered his name for the NBA Draft after his freshman season, but returned to Canisius for his sophomore campaign–and he hasn’t disappointed. Molson is averaging 16.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. With a lot of Canisius’ pieces struggling to start the year, Molson has been the consistent force in the Griffs offensive attack.

Canisius: Isaiah Reese. Despite his struggles, Reese is a player to watch. He has shown signs of life during his last few games that lead me to believe the real Isaiah Reese will be showing up just in time for conference play. If you haven’t follow Canisius basketball this season, Reese was named the Preseason MAAC Player of the Year and had a lot of hype surrounding him before the season started. Reese decided to return to school (just like Molson) after testing the NBA Draft waters this past offseason. Whether it was pressure, lack of effort or just a cold streak, Reese’s numbers are down this year: 11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists. His shooting percentages are dreadful (37%-FG, 29%-3-PT, 44%-FT).

The brightside for Reese, in his last outing he scored 16 points while shooting 60% from the floor and 57% from 3-point land.

X-Factors

Buffalo: Jeremy Harris. The 6’7 senior hasn’t found his shooting stroke consistently this year, but he is beginning to heat up and can have a major impact on this game. His point totals are down from year ago when he averaged 15.5 points compared to 13.8 this year–his biggest deficiency has been from beyond the arc. Last year he made 42 percent of his shots from 3-point range–this year, he’s made 28 percent of his shots.

Canisius: Scott Hitchon. Every game Hitchon plays he seems to set a new career-high in some category (if you’ve read my work, I say this during every Canisius preview). The sophomore has improved more than any other Canisius player from his freshman season to now and his work ethic down low is evident. He isn’t the tallest, strongest or most technical forward in the post, but he does the ‘nitty-gritty’ things that go unnoticed. If Canisius were to pull the upset, Hitchon will need to have a career game.

All-time series

In 31 games, Canisius holds a 17-14 advantage.

Prediction

LINE: TBD   Update: -14 Buffalo

O/U: TBD     Update: 154

I will be intrigued to see what the line is for this game. Obviously the Bulls will be favored, but by how much? Double-digits? Likely. Despite the sell-out crowd at the Koessler Center, I’m expecting at least half in attendance to be UB fans.

Will this be the game the talent Canisius possesses finally shows up? If the Holy Cross game was any indication, it’s possible, but this UB team plays too well together to lose.

Buffalo 82 Canisius 73

Dan Schalk
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Dan Schalk

Dan Schalk is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for MFST and can be heard weekly on the 'My Fantasy Podcast'. He is likely watching Seinfeld right now, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Dan Schalk
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