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Football with Doug Marrone laced Greg Paulus' coaching career

By Tim Graham

Mike Krzyzewski was an obvious influence on Greg Paulus' basketball coaching career.

Thad Matta, too, of course.

So has Jim Boeheim.

But don't forget Doug Marrone.

That's right. Paulus credits the Buffalo Bills coach for making a difference.

Paulus essentially was immersed in Boeheim's program while growing up in Syracuse. Paulus played point guard for Krzyzewski at Duke.

Now Paulus is an assistant to Matta at Ohio State.

But in between Duke and Ohio State, the two-sport Christian Brothers Academy star decided to give football another whirl. He enrolled at Syracuse in 2009 as a graduate student and won the starting quarterback job in Marrone's first season as head coach.

"I learned a lot about myself, a lot about changing the culture of a program," Paulus said today at the First Niagara Center, where Ohio State will play Dayton on Thursday in the NCAA basketball tournament.

"We've seen where Syracuse was before Coach Marrone and where it is now. It's come a long way, and I'm proud to have had that opportunity.

"Moving forward, I lean on those experiences even though they're different sports. I know what I got out of that, a great deal."

Paulus turned down scholarships to play football at Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.), choosing instead to concentrate solely on basketball. At Duke, he became only the fourth freshman to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in assists.

He graduated from Duke in four years, leaving him one year of athletic eligibility if he wanted it. With no guarantees, he reported to his hometown program, which had been in shambles and had just hired a first-time head coach.

"It happened very quickly," Paulus said. "I ended up graduating from Duke in May, and the football season starts in August.

"I'm not someone who pays attention to the odds. All I wanted was an opportunity. I knew it was for one year, so all I wanted was a chance to compete for a starting position.

"I made the transition to try to learn the playbook, meet the guys on the team and try to help out the Syracuse program in whatever way possible. It was a quick turnaround to learn everything, but I had a lot of fun with it."

Paulus beat out incumbent Cameron Dantley and redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib for the job. Marrone wanted to establish a new culture, and a winner from a program such as Duke basketball was a gift. Paulus was named a captain.

Paulus' football stat line was mediocre. He completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 2,024 yards and 13 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. The New Orleans Saints invited Paulus to minicamp in 2010 before he focused on basketball coaching full-time.

"I would do it again in a heartbeat," Paulus said. "The opportunity to play football for a year, get my masters from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and have a chance to play for Doug Marrone is something that I'll never forget."

And when the Bills went into opening day with a total of one NFL start among their three quarterbacks, including Duke pal Thad Lewis, did Paulus have any fanciful thoughts?

"No desire," Paulus said with a laugh. "Just to see Coach Marrone do it at the highest level, I was real proud to have played for him."

If the higher seeds win Thursday, then Paulus will face Syracuse for the second time in his coaching career. Ohio State defeated Syracuse to reach the 2012 Final Four.

Canisius to CIT

By Bob DiCesare

Canisius has accepted a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and will host a first-round game at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Koessler Athletic Center against an opponent to be determined.

It's the second straight postseason appearance for the Griffs (21-12), who last Sunday fell to Iona in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.

Canisius played in the CIT last season, defeating Elon and Youngstown State before a third-round loss to Evansville.

The invitation extends the careers of Canisius seniors Billy Baron, Chris Manhertz, Chris Perez and Jordan Heath. Baron averages 24.2 points and needs eight points for reach 1,700 for his collegiate career.

McCrea Voted MAC POY

By Bob DiCesare

It’s no secret there was deep disappointment in the Javon McCrea camp when UB’s star forward failed to capture the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year award as a junior. But by the end of his senior season there wasn’t much in the way of debate. McCrea today was named the conference’s top performer by an overwhelming margin in a vote of media members who cover the league.

McCrea, a native of Newark in central New York, received 20 of a possible 25 votes to outdistance Western Michigan guard David Brown, who placed second with three. WMU center Shayne Whittington and Toledo point guard Julius Brown each received a vote.

Steve Hawkins, who guided Western Michigan to the regular-season title and the top seed in this week’s MAC Tournament, was voted Coach of the Year, also by a substantial margin. Hawkins received 16 votes to four of Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery. Toledo’s Tod Kowalcyzk was next with three votes followed by UB’s Bobby Hurley with two.

McCrea became UB’s all-time scoring leader this season, a campaign during which he hit double figures in points and rebounds 15 times in the same game and in 10 of 18 conference games. He scored 25 points or more four times in the final nine regular-season games and struck for a career-high 34 points against Bowling Green on Senior Day Saturday.

“This is a very deserving honor for Javon who has meant so much to our program and to the league," Hurley said in a UB release.  "He has had a monster season and he is the most complete player in the MAC.  Playing at such a high level statistically and helping us win a MAC East Championship put him in a rare group of players that have achieved and accomplished what he has in his career and we are proud of him for that."

McCrea emerged as the leading scorer and rebounder in conference play, averaging 19.6 points and 9.6 boards. He was third in field goal percentage at 57.7 percent and, in testament to his excellent passing abilities, placed 10th in assists at 2.7 a game. 

No other active player in the nation can match McCrea’s career statistically diversity of at least 1,900 points, 900 rebounds, 200 blocks and 200 assists. McCrea is three points shy of 2,000 career and 25 rebounds away from 1,000. Among MAC players he ranks 14th al-time in scoring, 18th in rebounding and fifth in blocked shots.

As a junior McCrea averaged 18 points and 7.9 rebounds but saw the MAC POY go to Ohio guard D.J. Cooper who, like McCrea, was three-time first-team all-MAC and one of the most dominant performers in conference history. Cooper averaged 14.1 points and 7.1 assists last season and led the Bobcats to a 14-2 MAC record compared to UB’s 7-9.

UB placed third overall in the MAC this season at 13-5 and claimed an outright East Division title for the first time in school history. The Bulls open the MAC Tournament at 9 Thursday night in Cleveland with a quarterfinal game against tonight’s Eastern Michigan-Northern Illinois winner.

 McCrea is the third UB played to win MAC Player of the Year honors, joining Turner Battle (2005) and Mitchell Watt (2012). He is the second Big 4 player to win a conference POY away this season. Canisius guard Billy Baron was selected as the top player in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Baron Named MAAC's POY

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Canisius guard Billy Baron, the rock-steady force behind the program's rise from the depths, this evening was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year during award festivities at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Baron is the first Griff since Darrell Barley in 1996 to receive the honor and the third overall. Craig Wise was the MAAC's top player in 1995.

A two-time first-team all-MAAC selection, Baron is the nation's No. 3 scorer at 24.4 points per game and ranks among the national top 20 in 12 statistical categories, including No. 2 in minutes played. He has averaged 25.7 points, 6 assists and 5.1 rebounds against MAAC opponents while shooting 48.1 percent from the field and 87 perfect from the foul line.

Meanwhile, on the women's side, Niagara's Victoria Rampado, a 6-foot-2 forward from Niagara Falls, Ont., was named the conference's Rookie of the Year. She averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Baron is also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award that goes to the nation's premier point guard and is a nominee for the Lute Olsen Award given to the top guard at the mid-major level.

Canisius, the No. 4 seed in the MAAC Tournament, plays Siena in a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal at 2:30 Saturday afternoon.

Other MAAC individual awards went to:

Men: Coach: Tim Cluess, Iona. Sixth Man: Maurice Barrow, Fairfield. Defensive: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (three-time winner). Top Rookie: Khallid Hart, Marist.

Women: Coach: Billi Godsey, Iona. Player: Damika Martinez, Iona. Sixth Man: Aaliyah Robinson, Iona. Defensive: Leanne Ockenden, Marist.

-- Jerry Sullivan and Bob DiCesare

Big 4 Hoops Scenarios

By Bob DiCesare

Here's where the Big 4 basketball teams stand as of 6 p.m. Saturday:

MAC

Men

UB has clinched at least a tie for the East Division title and it becomes an outright championship if Bowling Green beats Akron tonight. More importantly, the Bulls have clinched a top-four finish within the MAC overall and have earned a bye into no less than the quarterfinals in Cleveland. They can finish top 2 by winning their final two games regardless what happens in tonight's Toledo-WMU game. The Bulls are at Akron Tuesday and home to Bowling Green next Saturday.

Women

UB (9-7) has the tiebreaker advantage over Toledo (8-7) as they battle for the No. 4 seed and bye into the quarterfinals. WMU (8-8) lurks. UB has Akron (18-8, 12-3) and Kent (6-20, 3-12) at home. Toledo plays Central Michigan (18-9, 14-1) Sunday and finishes with Eastern Michigan and Ball State. If UB wins out it's in the quarters. If Toledo loses to CMU the Bulls can take probably still take the No. 4 seed with a 1-1 finish. That presumes CMU beating WMU, never a sure thing in a rivalry game.

MAAC

Men

Canisius finishes with the No. 2 seed if it wins at Manhattan Sunday AND Quinnipiac loses to Marist. The Griffs get the No. 3 seed if they beat the Jaspers AND Quinnipiac beats Marist. A loss gives Canisius the No. 4 seed  and a MAAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Siena on Friday in Springfield.

Niagara will be the No. 11 seed and face the No. 6 (either Rider, Saint Peter's or Marist) at 9 p.m. Thursday in Springfield.

Women

Canisius and Niagara are 8-11 and tied for the No. 6 seed heading into Sunday's finales. Canisius is home to fifth-pace Rider (9-10) and Niagara is home to Fairfield (14-5). If Canisius and Niagara both win there will be a three-way tie for seeds 5-7. Canisius would be 3-1 among the trio, Niagara 2-2 and Rider 1-3. If Canisius wins and Niagara loses the Griffs take the No. 5 seed based on a sweep of Rider and Niagara becomes either the No. 7 or 8 seed depending on the tiebreaker with Manhattan (8-12). If Canisius and Niagara both lose it's a three-way tie for Nos. 6-8 among Canisius, Niagara and Manhattan with Manhattan being 3-1 in the group, Niagara 2-2 and the Griffs 1-3.

ATLANTIC 10

Men

Bona is 6-9 and No. 8 in the conference and can go no higher. They can drop no lower than No. 10. La Salle (5-8) and Duquesne (4-10) also factor in. Bona finishes at VCU. La Salle was playing Fordham Saturday and still has games with George Mason and Saint Joseph's. Duquesne has UMass and George Mason.

Women

The Bonnies are done with the regular season and will be the No. 2 seed behind Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They'll play the winner of the 7-10 game in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Friday in Richmond.

Canisius-Fairfield Game Wrap

Canisius 90, Fairfield 78

How Canisius Won: Recent opponents have been shredding the Canisius defense at the KAC. Manhattan did it. Iona. Quinnipiac. And Fairfield was on the same track after a 57 percent first-half shooting effort. So the number that stands out it what the Stags shot after intermission: 29 percent. Would it have been different if point guard KJ Rose hadn't been ejected? Maybe so. But you have to play the hand you're dealt.

Turning Point: The Griffs trailed by four when Jordan Heath was called for an offensive foul with 14:22 left. Bodies tangled. A skirmish ensued. Rose was ejected to his overzealous actions during during the scuffle. Billy Baron made 5 of 6 free throws to Fairfield's two and the Griffs took the lead for good soon after.

Player of the Game: Baron made just two field goals, both first-half threes. But he finished with a team-high 22 points with a 16-for-18 showing at the foul line. And he handed out nine assists, his second-highest total of the season. Funny how drastically he impacts a game when it seems like he's not impacting the game.

Best Supporting Role: Freshman guard Zach Lewis found his stroke, going 4 of 6 from three, 7 of 8 from the line and scoring 21 points. And he did it on an afternoon when Canisius needed him to do it.

Stat Check: The Griffs went 26 of 36 from the foul line in the second half alone. They were 29 of 40 for the game.

What It Means: Canisius is tied for third with Manhattan with two games left -- at Rider and at Manhattan. The Griffs can finish no worse than fourth.

In the House: Billy the Kid's among four seniors playing their final regular-season home game and it's not a sellout???? The attendance checked in at 1,909.

-- Bob DiCesare

 

 

UB-Akron Game Wrap

UB 96, Akron 90

How UB Won: Just don't see how it's possible for the Bulls to play a better offensive game. They shot 63.3 percent from the field against a quality defensive team. They had 21 assists on 38 field goals, including a career-high eight by Javon McCrea. Four players hit double figures and three went for 20 or more. They only turned it over eight times, and two of those came in the opening few minutes. It was reminiscent of when they thrashed Western Michigan, 84-63, at the end of January. When the Bulls get rolling it's a sight to behold.

What it Means: Vital victory that ties UB with Akron atop the East and puts the Bulls back in the top four in the overall standing. A slip in this one with three of the last five on the road would have strained their chances of avoiding the long road to Cleveland. Odds are they'll still need to win at either Kent, Akron or Ohio.

Player of the Game: Javon McCrea is having just a monster second half to his second season. The latest: 20 points, 13 boards, eight assists and three blocks. He's down to 20 points away from becoming the UB's all-time leading scorer. And since he's never been fond of Kent State, doubtless he wouldn't mind doing on Saturday so long as it comes in UB's first-ever road win over the Golden Flashes.

Player of the Game, Losing Effort: Zips forward Demetrius Treadwell must be the best power forward in the conference outside McCrea. He had 21-7-4.

Extenuating Circumstances: The Zips were without forwards Nick Harney (suspended) and Reggie McAdams. Sharpshooter Jake Kretzer suffered a four-stitch cut and a concussion in a second-half collision with Justin Moss's elbow. And the Zips showed UB little of their zone. The rematch March 4 in Akron will be interesting.

Stat Check: UB guards -- Josh Freelove, Jarod Oldham, Jarryn Skeete and Shannon Evans -- combined to go 22 of 31 from the field. That is just sick.

Finishing: UB got lax offensively in the Ohio loss, taking a few shots that probably weren't in their best interests. This time when Akron made its runs, the Bulls attacked the rim. They totaled 54 points in the paint.

Stat Check II: UB's 63.3 percent shooting night ranks fifth in the D-I era.

In the House: Attendance has been picking up. The Bulls went over 5,000 for Ohio Saturday and followed up with 3,579 Wednesday.

-- Bob DiCesare

Canisius-Iona Game Wrap

Iona 101, Canisius 91

How Iona Won: The Gaels made it seven straight victories and avenged an earlier loss to the Griffs by playing their fast-paced, free-wheeling style to near perfection. They had David Laury work the inside early and pounded the Griffs from long range in the second half. It's as good an inside-outside mix as there is in the league and when the ball movement's brisk, as it was Sunday, the defending MAAC champs are an awfully tough out.

Turning Point: The Griffs were up five with just under 13 minutes left but Iona burst for eight straight points, six of them on threes by Isaiah Williams. Two ties later the Gaels went ahead for good on a layup by Williams.

Player of the Game: The Gaels lost guard MoMo Jones, the MAAC Player of the Year, to graduation last season. But who notices when his replacement, sophomore guard A.J. English, goes off for a career-high 32. English was Iona's glue in the first half, scoring 18 points, before the offense really got rolling.

Player of the Game, Losing Effort: Canisius got the norm from Billy Baron (23 points) and have seen Chris Perez (24 points) have games like this before. The unknown was freshman forward Phil Valenti filling in for the injured Chris Manhertz. Valenti exceled in his first start: 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, no turnovers. Griffs could cause some matchup problems by giving him some minutes at the 3 spot. He has the athleticism.

Stat Check: Iona backup center David Laury defied the odds by going 9 of 11 at the foul line. He's a 53 percent free throw shooter.

What It Means: Iona's in the MAAC driver's seat, two games up with six to play. Canisius fell into a tie for second with Manhattan, which owns the tie-breaker advantage. It'll be a three-way tie for second if Quinnipiac beats visiting Marist Monday night.

In the House: They filled the KAC for the third time in the last four games. Apparently Jim Baron's pleas didn't fall on deaf ears.

Next Up: The Griffs head over the bridge for a Valentine's Night encounter with Niagara. The Griffs won the first meeting 87-74 but the Purple Eagles are sure to be focused and angry after suffering excrutiating one-point losses this weekend to Iona and Manhattan. It's a 9 p.m. start on ESPNU.

-- Bob DiCesare

 

 

 

 

UB-WMU Game Wrap

UB 84, Western Michigan 63

Why UB Won: If the Bulls have a better offensive game in them, look out. Just about everything clicked, as evidenced by 24 assists on 33 baskets, five players in double figures in scoring and four in double figures in shot attempts. And they didn't settle, scoring 52 points in the paint. Offensively speaking, it was a January masterpiece.

Turning Point: After watching his starters fire away at will early and miss some easy shots Bobby Hurley temporarily benched every one of them. They returned with a renewed focus and pounded it inside to Javon McCrea, who scored 10 of the game's next 12 points.

Player of the Game: The timeliness of his outburst gives McCrea (20 points, six boards) the slightest edge over freshman guard Shannon Evans (17 points, seven assists). But if you want to argue for Evans, I fully understand.

Stat Check: The Bulls made 1 of their first 9 shots and 32 of their next 55, finishing the game at 51.6 percent.

Stat Check II: Point guards Evans and Jarod Oldham combined for 15 assists against just three turnovers.

Stat Check III: Oldham was the primary guard on David Brown and held the MAC scoring leader to 11 points, more than 7 under his average.

Stat Check IV: This was WMU's most lopsided loss since Jan. 9 of last season.

Mending: Guard Jarryn Skeete missed his second straight game (knee).

What It Means: Teams ideally want to finish in the top 2 and bye into the tournament semifinals. Nos. 3 and 4 bye into the quarterfinals. Everyone else has the to win four times to take the title and the NCAA berth (and good luck with that). At 5-2 the Bulls are tied for third with Ohio, a game behind Akron and Toledo.

In the House: Nice student turnout on a frigid night pushed the crowd to 3,052. There's much room for improvement.

What's Next: UB heads to Bowling Green Sunday for a pre-Super Bowl matchup with the Falcons (9-11, 3-4).

Bob DiCesare

Griffs Crack MM Top 25

By Bob DiCesare

It's no surprise Canisius has finally cracked the collegeinsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The surprise is that they debut at No. 22, 12 spots behind Manhattan despite leading the Jaspers in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings and sitting three spots higher in the RPIs.

But the Griffs are satisfied that at least they're attracting some notice after winning 8 of their last 11 and maintaining a share of the conference lead with 8 games left on the MAAC schedule.

Wichita State tops the charts, of course, and owns all 31 first-place votes. Among the Big 4 conferences, Toledo is No. 3, Manhattan No. 10, Ohio No. 14 and Akron No. 16. The MAAC has two coaches on the poll, Jimmy Patsos of Siena and Tom Moore of conference  newcomer Quinnipiac. The Mid-American Conference also has a pair: Tod Kowalczyk of Toledo and Steve Hawkins of Western Michigan.

It's been a good week for the Griffs on the publicity front. Billy Baron was named the Lute Olson national mid-major player of the week after totaling 70 points in wins over Niagara and Marist.

The collegeinsider.com poll:

 

RECORD POINTS PREVIOUS  
1. Wichita State (31) 21-0 775 1 Missouri Valley
2. Gonzaga 18-3 740 3 West Coast
3. Toledo 17-2 694 4 Mid-American
4. Green Bay 17-3 641 5 Horizon
5. Harvard 15-3 631 2 Ivy League
6. Indiana State 16-4 630 6 Missouri Valley
7. Stephen F. Austin 18-2 566 7 Southland
8. North Dakota State 15-5 523 10 Summit
9. Princeton 12-3 493 9 Ivy League
10. Manhattan 14-5 489 8 Metro Atlantic
11. Saint Mary's 16-5 466 11 West Coast
12. Mercer 17-5 439 12 Atlantic Sun
13. Northern Colorado 13-4 353 15 Big Sky
14. Ohio 14-5 344 13 Mid-American
15. New Mexico State 15-7 314 16 WAC
16. Akron 13-6 306 17 Mid-American
17. Belmont 16-7 232 23 Ohio Valley
18. UC Irvine 13-8 224 14 Big West
19. UC Santa Barbara 12-6 165 18 Big West
20. Georgia State 14-6 156 25 Sun Belt
21. IPFW 16-6 153 24 Summit
22. Canisius 14-7 71 NR Metro Atlantic
23. Delaware 14-7 67 NR Colonial
24. North Carolina Central 13-5 66 NR MEAC
25. Chattanooga 14-8 61 NR Southern


Notice that Chattanooga also slipped in at No. 25. Former UB player and assistant coach Turner Battle is an assistant with the Mocs.

 

 
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About Campus Watch

Bob Dicesare

Bob DiCesare

Western New York native Bob DiCesare covers UB football, Big 4 basketball and writes an occasional column. He still holds a grudge against Chris Ford who, he's convinced, cost St. Bonaventure the 1970 NCAA basketball championship.

@TBNDicesare | bdicesare@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered colleges for The Buffalo News since 1999. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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