Team preview: Buffalo

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

The Buffalo Bulls have won a combined total of 40 basketball games the last two seasons and made their first postseason appearance in 23 years and first ever as a Division I program in 2005.

Coach Reggie Witherspoon, under contract through 2008-09, is the toast of the town and his legion of "Mighty Maniacs" are going crazy.

When Buffalo posted a 23-10 mark last season, the Bulls captured the imagination of western New York state. Three MAC Tournament wins led to a heartbreaking 80-79 overtime loss to Ohio in the championship game when Leon Williams' tip in the final seconds hung on the rim and then fell through. Passed over by the NCAA Tournament, Buffalo defeated Drexel in overtime in the first round of the NIT before losing a five-point game at St. Joseph's.

Clearly the Bulls' success struck a chord. How rabid are Buffalo basketball fans? In 2004, at Alumni Arena, Buffalo dispatched Northern Illinois in a first round MAC Tournament game, 90-73, in front of 8,971. That is a MAC first-round attendance record and more than double the next highest crowd (4,374) that year.

During the summer of 2004, Alumni Arena underwent a $2 million facelift, which reduced seating capacity to 6,100. The renovation included chair back seating, remodeled bleacher seating, and a resurfacing of the playing floor. A new office suite for both men's and women's basketball was completed as well.

Fast forward to the 2005 MAC tournament first round. The Bulls again drew Northern Illinois at Alumni Arena and again packed the house, attracting 6,108 for a 73-66 UB victory. The bottom line: Buffalo has hosted more than 15,000 spectators for two first-round MAC games. These games have been a struggle, in terms of attendance, for the rest of the league. Not Buffalo.

Regardless, the show must go on without Buffalo's leading man, Turner Battle. The 6-3 senior guard willed this program to success and was MAC Player of the Year. He led the Bulls in minutes (35.2 mpg), scoring (15.5 ppg), and assists (4.4), ranked second in steals (1.4), and third in rebounds (4.6). But he also led the team in heart, and did more to change the image of UB basketball than any other player.

"[Battle's] impact was enormous," Witherspoon said. "Not just on our program, but for the entire athletic department and the university as well."