Thoughts on the Conference Schedule
Earlier this week the Atlantic 10 released their composite schedule for the conference and fans around the league finally got to see where their teams will play, where they can watch the games and when they’ll play.
For St. Bonaventure fans hoping for a conference championship this year the schedule is of the utmost importance. With a dozen games on national television this year, there’s a heightened sense of importance on this season. As Jon Rothstein would say, there’s “palpable buzz in Olean.” Expectations are sky high for Jay Adams and Matt Mobley’s senior campaign and most fans will tell you it’s NCAA or bust this season….we know because we asked on Twitter.
The conference title generally comes down to a single game, or in the case of 2016, a three way tie for the title. The unbalanced league schedule means that some teams have a much more favorable road to the title than others, and these breaks can often enough create that difference between first and second place.
Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies finished in fifth place last year, just missing the all-important double bye in the conference tournament. URI, who cut down the nets in Pittsburgh, was the third seed. They absolutely destroyed the Bonnies just 24 hours after SBU smacked UMass and Derek Kellogg got fired. This season the Bonnies are not only expected to secure a top four finish and a double-bye, but they’re expected to challenge Rhode Island, among others, for the league’s regular season title.
Here are some bullet pointed thoughts about SBU’s schedule inside of Atlantic 10 play after.
- SBU seems to open vs. UMass every single year (ok, in 2017 and 2015 anyway). They’ll do it again in 2017 at home in the RC with a 2:30 tilt. It’s a must-win type of game vs. a team with a new coach and whole bunch of new faces. Avoiding early bad home losses is critical and this is one of those games.
- Back to back road games at Dayton and St. Joseph following the opener will be tough. Yes, SBU has really clubbed the Hawks recently, and even had their way at Hagan Arena, but SJU figures to be one of the most improved teams in the league…I’m signing up for a 1-1 split and a 2-1 start given a trip to UD Arena where the Brown and White almost never win regardless of the year, rosters, coaches, jerseys, etc.
- Saturday, Feb. 13th at URI (on ESPNU at 11 AM) is one of the team’s marquee games. If all goes to plan, this is a game featuring two teams clearly “inside” the tournament bubble and provides the Bonnies with a chance at a top 50 road win….massive come March. One of the top five A10 games of the year. Get the bloody Mary’s ready and invite some friends over for brunch and hoops.
- A trip to Davidson on the 19th gives the Bonnies a game on ESPN2 in front of a national audience. That’s one tough road trip though. Jack Gibbs (gone) scored 29 in a five point Cats win down south a year ago. Still, Bobby McKillop’s team brings back a ton of talent including soon to replace Tyler Cavanaugh and TJ Cline as the player you most hate: Peyton Alridge….if you don’t hate him already for knocking us out of Brooklyn in 2016.
- No stretch of play is “easy”, but some are easier than others, would more or less describe the middle portion of league play. After the Davidson game the Bonnies play home vs. Saint Joseph’s, vs. GW (rebuilding without Cavanaugh), at Mason (on the rise but still a lesser team), at Duquense (a bottom four team), vs. Saint Luis (could be really good or just eh time will tell), vs. Richmond (always solid, but no TJ Cline and no Shawn’Dre Jones) and at La Salle (Jordan Price leaves a team that lost 10 of their last 14 A10 games…woof). This is really the meat of the Bonnies schedule and this is where they need to make hay. Home games vs. SJU, GW, Saint Louis and Richmond are contests in which SBU will be the favorite in each. Sign me up for absolutely no less than three wins in those four home games. As far as the road games (at Mason, Duquense and La Salle), I’m going to need two wins in those three as well. That’s a 5-2 record in seven games. 6-1 would be great, but I think pegging a 5-2 record for this stretch is more realistic given the ups and downs of conference play each week.
- The final leg: vs. URI (ESPN2), vs. Duquesne, at VCU, vs. Davidson and at Saint Louis. We all know this URI game will be absolutely crazy and could determine the league’s champion. I’d be shocked if it wasn’t a sell out with Hurley’s boys in town and students and alums will be tipping back the beers by lunch time in town. However, it’s the four games after that that could ultimately provide those key resume building wins (or brutal losses) needed in March. Duquense home games are always trap games….this year is no different. A trip to VCU is never easy as and SBU would be searching for their first ever win there. Davidson is a contender and Saint Louis could go from a 12 win team to a 21 win team overnight with their transfers.
Those are the quick hitters on this year’s league schedule. We’ll be back with more preview type stuff soon, as always please follow us on Twitter @bonablog and interact with us by asking some questions or starting a debate.