BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Seeking a local rooting interest in the NCAA tournament? Start with one of the top Final Four contenders in the bracket.

Former University at Buffalo coach Nate Oats has guided Alabama to the No. 1 overall seed for the first time in the Crimson Tide’s history, with several familiar faces alongside him on the bench. Alabama tips off against Texas A&M-CC at 2:45 p.m. Thursday on WIVB.

Assistant coach Bryan Hodgson, a Jamestown native who was part of UB’s three NCAA tournament trips from 2016-19 under Oats, is an Alabama assistant, and a local fan favorite to be the next UB coach. The Tide’s director of scouting and analytics Adam Bauman was on Oats’ staff at UB and coached the Blue Collar U alumni team that won The Basketball Tournament championship last summer. Former UB player Christian Pino also is a ‘Bama support staffer, and Dominic Johnson, who played football and basketball at UB, is a graduate assistant.

Dom Welch, Western New York’s all-time leading scorer who played the past four seasons at St. Bonaventure, transferred to Alabama for his final college season. Welch has averaged 1.9 points in 8.9 minutes over 18 games since returning from an early-season knee injury.

Two of Welch’s former Bona teammates, Osun Osunniyi and Jaren Holmes, are grad transfer players on the Iowa State team that received a No. 6 seed and takes on 11-Pittsburgh at 3:10 p.m. Friday. Holmes has been the Cyclones’ leading scorer (13.4 ppg), and Osunniyi has averaged 8 points, 4 rebounds and a block per game.

Bobby Hurley, who coached UB to its first big dance trip in 2015 and brought Oats to the Bulls, has led Arizona State to the NCAAs in three of the past five seasons. The 11th-seeded Sun Devils won 98-73 against Nevada in one of the first four games Wednesday night, advancing to meet 6-TCU at 10:05 p.m. Friday.

Williamsville North graduate Adam Cohen is in his first season as associate head coach for Xavier, a No. 3 seed who plays 14-Kennesaw State at 12:40 p.m. Friday. Cohen was previously an assistant coach at Stanford, Vanderbilt, Harvard and Rice.

Canisius High School graduate Matt Hart is a graduate assistant manager for Utah State, a No. 10 seed going against 7-Missouri at 1:40 p.m. Hart was on the coaching staff at Daemen University last season. Former UB strength coach Sean Conaty is now on the staff at Mizzou.

NCAA women’s tournament

Amari DeBerry, the former McDonald’s All-American and top-ranked recruit from Williamsville South, is a sophomore forward at UConn. She has averaged 2.3 points in 8.6 minutes per game this season. The 11-time national champion Huskies, runners-up last season, received a No. 2 seed and open the tournament at home against 15-Vermont at 3 p.m. Friday.

The all-time winningest coach in women’s basketball, Tara VanDerveer, is a Buffalo Seminary graduate who lived in Niagara Falls. The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductee has Stanford going into the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed for the third consecutive season. The Cardinal have won three national championships and been to the Final Four 15 times under VanDerveer. The Cardinal open this year’s tournament at home against Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. Friday.

Canisius’ all-time leading scorer Shauna Green is in her first season as coach at Illinois, which lost against Mississippi State in one of the first four games on Wednesday.

Did we miss anyone? Email ReportIt@wivb.com with info if there’s someone we should add to this list.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.