2024 Team of Distinction

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St. Bonaventure Men’s Basketball (1967 – 1970)

If the Bills’ four straight Super Bowl appearances in the 1990s was the ultimate high-water mark in Western New York professional sports, then St. Bonaventure men’s basketball from 1967 to 1970 represented the zenith of Western New York college athletics.

The 1967-68 St. Bona squad finished the regular season with a perfect 22-0 record and a #3 national ranking. Led by head coach Larry Weise, the team was a juggernaut, averaging 86 points per game before the advent of the 3-point line. On the floor, the team was led by senior captain Bill Butler, who averaged more than 20 points over his three varsity seasons at Bona and was later drafted by the Boston Celtics.  That season also introduced the college basketball world to Buffalo’s own future Hall of Famer Bob Lanier (who averaged 26 points and 15 rebounds a game as a sophomore that season) and Billy Kalbaugh, the unlikely center-guard duo who would lead the program to even greater heights two years later.

All the pieces came together for St. Bonaventure during that 1969-70 season.  The team suffered just one regular season loss and stormed through the first three rounds of the NCAA tournament with convincing victories over Davidson, North Carolina State and Villanova.  In the eyes of many fans and the basketball elite, only a season-ending knee injury to Lanier during the Villanova win in the Eastern Regional Final prevented the Brown and White from capturing a Cinderella national championship.

Windows of opportunity close just as quickly as they open, yet that era of St. Bonaventure basketball captured the hearts of the entire region and left an enduring impression on college basketball fans nationwide.