Syracuse basketball barely came out of our nation’s capital with a win over Georgetown Saturday. It was a great comeback, but the overtime victory probably put some Orange fans back on the fence on this year’s team. The good news for the skeptics is that the remainder of SU’s non-conference schedule should be a cake walk, and the Orange won’t leave the Carrier Dome again in 2017. Jim Boeheim now has a few games to work out the kinks we saw against Georgetown, and they start Tuesday as Syracuse hosts the Buffalo Bulls.
Buffalo is hoping this year is a bounce back from 2016, when the Bulls missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years and went just 17-15. This year, the Bulls are off to a 7-3 start. The only school it has played which can even sniff the Power 5 is Cincinnati, who beat Buffalo by just six. The Bulls’ get contributions from a wide spread of players, but the biggest talking point of the roster is the junior class. All of Buffalo’s top five scorers and its top three rebounders are all juniors.
The leader of the Bulls — the matador, perhaps? No? I’ll move on… — is C.J. Massinburg. He leads the team in scoring and rebounding at 20 points and just under eight boards per contest. He started for Buffalo last season, but took over the leadership role this year after Blake Hamilton graduated. Massinburg’s three-point shooting is his biggest and newest weapon; he’s shooting 47 percent from distance this season after going just 33 percent last year. He’s shooting more per game this year than in his first two, too. The Bulls’ offense will run through him.
Nick Perkins, the Bulls’ second-leading scorer, has been at Massinburg’s side from the start. This season, he’s upped his numbers to more than 14 points and five rebounds per game. His shooting has improved drastically. Last season, Perkins shot at just 27 percent from behind the arc, and this year he is up to 36 percent. At 6-8, he’s one of the biggest Bulls and will have to get physical with players bigger than him all game.
The newest addition to the Buffalo arsenal is Jeremy Harris. He is a junior college transfer from Gulf Coast State who was the No. JUCO player in the 2017 class, according to JUCORecruiting.com. He hasn’t missed a step in his first season at the D1 level, with 12.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and starting every game for Buffalo. He shoots the second-most threes on the team behind Massinburg, so expect him to get plenty of touches throughout the night.
Syracuse has an easy route to ACC play, and SU fans don’t have to be reminded after last season how important a one-loss non-conference slate would be. The Bulls shouldn’t give the Orange much trouble, but SU can’t let Buffalo’s veteran lineup get off to a hot start.
Posted: Nathan Dickinson