To read our 2023-24 women’s basketball preview, click here.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The college basketball season tips off Monday night for Western New York’s Division I teams.
University at Buffalo will play its first game under new coach George Halcovage – a doubleheader following the women’s game against Canisius – while St. Bonaventure hosts Longwood and Niagara plays at Notre Dame. Canisius begins its season Wednesday night at Syracuse.
Here is a capsule preview for each team, breaking down the roster, schedule, and preseason expectations.
Coach: George Halcovage, first season
Last season: 15-17, 9-9 (6th MAC), 194 NET, 211 KenPom
Preseason projections: 9th in MAC coaches poll, 253 KenPom (9th in MAC)
Schedule highlights: Nov. 6 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (home opener), Dec. 2 vs. St. Bonaventure, Dec. 5 at Butler, Dec. 21 at Richmond, Dec. 29 vs. Niagara, Jan. 2 at Central Michigan (MAC opener), March 8 vs. Northern Illinois (home finale)
Returning: 6-6 Sr. Isaiah Adams (11.6 ppg, 5 rpg), 6-9 Sr. Jonnivius Smith (5.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg), 6-5 Jr. Kanye Jones (2.1 ppg), 6-7 So. Zaakir Williamson (1.1 ppg), 6-8 Sr. Sy Chatman (redshirt)
Arrivals: 6-7 Sr. James Graham (Missouri State), 6-4 Fr. Anquan Boldin Jr. (Delray Beach, Fla.), 6-0 So. Shawn Fulcher (Ellsworth CC), 6-3 Fr. Diovion Famakinde (Brooklyn), 6-6 Fr. Lloyd McVeigh (Australia), 6-5 Fr. Bryson Wilson (Alexandria, Va.). 6-3 Fr. Ryan Sabol (Washington, D.C.)
Departures: Curtis Jones (Iowa State), Yazid Powell (UTEP), LaQuill Hardnett (Arkansas State), Armoni Foster (graduated), Devin Ceasar (Old Dominion), Kidtrell Blocker (IUPUI)
Outlook: Shaping up to be a rebuilding project for Halcovage, a longtime assistant under Jay Wright at Villanova. He takes over for Jim Whitesell, who was fired after the Bulls had their first losing season in a decade. … Core of the team will be players who transferred in a year ago and could not go back in portal, Adams, Smith, Jones and Chatman, who averaged 13.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg before knee injury in ’22. … Non-conference schedule is unimposing. … Came back to win 71-67 in exhibition against D-2 Daemen. … Graham has not received NCAA waiver yet to play this season following his second D-1 transfer.
Coach: Reggie Witherspoon (292-340), 8th season at Canisius (94-112)
Last season: 10-20, 8-12 MAAC (8th), 261 NET, 249 KenPom
Preseason projections: 3rd in MAAC coaches poll, 261 KenPom (6th in MAAC)
Schedule highlights: Nov. 8 at Syracuse, Nov. 11 at St. Bonaventure, Nov. 20 vs. D’Youville (home opener), Dec. 1 vs. Quinnipiac (MAAC opener), Dec. 9 at Pittsburgh, Feb. 6 at Niagara, Feb. 10 vs. Iona, Feb. 23 vs. Niagara, March 3 vs. Rider (home finale)
Returning: 6-0 So. Tahj Staveskie (12.4 ppg, 2.8 apg), 6-7 Jr. Xzavier Long (6.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg), 6-7 Jr. TJ Gadsden (7.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg), 6-2 Jr. Tre Dinkins (5.9 ppg), 6-6 Sr. Siem Uijtendaal (4.3 ppg, .417 3P%), 6-7 Sr. Bryce Okpoh (3.5 ppg, 13 starts), 6-9 So. Youri Fritz (2.1 ppg), 6-3 So. Devean Williams (1.8 ppg), 6-8 Jr. Frank Mitchell (redshirt)
Arrivals: 6-10 Gr. Joe Jones III (Georgia State), 6-5 So. Cam Palesse (Valparaiso), 6-8 Jr. TJ Porter (Georgia Highlands), 6-5 So. Maji David-Maji (Erie CC), 5-10 Fr. Nicco DiGiulio (Will South)
Departures: Jacco Fritz (Hofstra), Jordan Henderson (graduated), Jamir Moultrie (graduated), George Maslennikov (graduated)
Outlook: Witherspoon is in the final year of his contract, with much to prove after losing 20 games in three of the past four seasons. But returning leaders, notably Staveskie, picked for second-team All-MAAC in preseason, after winning five of final seven last year have elevated expectations in wide-open league. … Jones, a Buffalonian who starred for The Park School, was once a prized recruit, but has befallen by injuries in college. … Porter played at Charleston Southern before junior college. … Griffs got an early start with summer practices before Ontario tour.
Coach: Greg Paulus (51-62), 5th season
Last season: 16-15, 10-10 MAAC (5th), 244 NET, 259 KenPom
Preseason projections: 9th in MAAC coaches poll, 262 KenPom (7th in MAAC)
Schedule highlights: Nov. 6 at Notre Dame, Nov. 11 vs. Bucknell (home opener), Dec. 1 vs. Saint Peter’s (MAAC opener), Dec. 6 vs. St. Bonaventure, Dec. 10 vs. Buff State, Dec. 21 at Syracuse, Dec. 29 at Buffalo, Feb. 6 vs. Canisius, Feb. 8 vs. Iona, Feb. 23 at Canisius, March 3 vs. Mount St. Mary’s (home finale)
Returning: 6-2 Sr. Braxton Bayless (5.4 ppg, 20 starts), 6-3 Sr. Lance Erving (3.9 ppg, .404 3P%), 6-6 Gr. David Mitchell (4.2 ppg, 18 starts), 7-0 So. Harlan Obioha (2.9 ppg, .681 FG%), 5-10 So. Jalen Brown (6 minutes, 0 FGA)
Arrivals: 6-4 Gr. Randy Tucker (Green Bay), 6-5 Gr. Kwane Marble II (Loyola Marymount), 6-1 Gr. Luke Bambalough (Ball State), 6-7 Sr. Yaw Obeng-Mensah (UMBC), 6-6 Jr. Dre Bullock (Louisiana Tech), 6-2 Jr. Malik Edwards (William Penn-NAIA), 6-8 So. Aime Rutayisire (Barton-NJCAA), 5-9 Fr. Ahmad Henderson II (Monee, Ill.)
Departures: Noah Thomasson (Georgia), Aaron Gray (Indiana State), Sam Iorio (graduated), Bryce Moore (Triton-NJCAA)
Outlook: Purple Eagles swooped into MAAC semifinals for first time in 10 years before losing to champion Iona, finishing with winning record for first time in five seasons. … Will struggle to replace Thomasson, the MAAC’s leading scorer, and second option Gray, who were both initially thought to be returning. … 7-footer Obioha, only player who was on roster at end of ’21-22 season, averaged 4.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg in 14.4 mpg over final nine games. … Bottom 10 in offensive pace last season, and have never played up-tempo under Paulus, the former Duke point guard.
Coach: Mark Schmidt (364-303), 17th season at Bona (282-213)
Last season: 14-18, 8-10 Atlantic 10 (8th), 200 NET, 201 KenPom
Preseason projections: 3rd in A-10 coaches poll, 70 KenPom (2nd in A-10)
Schedule highlights: Nov. 6 vs. Longwood (home opener), Nov. 11 vs. Canisius, Dec. 2 at Buffalo, Dec. 6 at Niagara, Nov. 16 vs. Oklahoma St., Dec. 16 vs. Florida Atlantic, Dec. 30 vs. Akron (in Cleveland), Jan. 3 vs. VCU (A-10 opener), Feb. 1 at Dayton, March 9 vs. Saint Louis (home finale)
Returning: 6-3 Sr. Daryl Banks III (38.3 mpg, 15.4 ppg, 2.3 apg), 6-10 Jr. Chad Venning (12.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, .581 FG%), 5-11 Jr. Kyrell Luc (11.3 ppg, 4.3 apg, 1.7 spg), 6-3 Sr. Moses Flowers (9.3 ppg), 6-6 So. Assa Essamvous (8.9 ppg, 6 rpg, .419 3P%), 6-8 So. Barry Evans (3 ppg), 6-10 R-Fr. Melian Martinez (redshirt)
Arrivals: 6-3 Sr. Mika Adams-Woods (Cincinnati), 6-4 Sr. Charles Pride (Bryant), 6-3 Sr. Moses Flowers (Hartford), 6-11 Sr. Noel Brown (George Washington), 6-8 Fr. Duane Thompson (Boston), 6-4 Fr. Miles Rose (Rochester)
Departures: Brett Rumpel (Manhattan)
Outlook: Schmidt has oriented Bona better than most mid-majors in transfer portal era. After being the only D-1 team to not return any scorer from previous season, Bonnies bring back all five starters, with quality transfers augmenting most experienced rotation in A-10. … Expectation is Bona will contend for league title and fourth NCAA berth in 13 years. … Both Syracuse natives, Pride scored 1,528 points for Bryant, while Adams-Woods was three-year starting PG at Cincy, approaching 1,000 points. … Banks, a preseason all-conference selection, led the nation in minutes per game last season.
Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.