Sunday Synopis (S17, V8): A Season On The Brink
Opening Statement: Generally speaking, the Opening Statement has been a quick paragraph or two on the week that was for the Bonnies, but given the circumstances and results of the last seven days we’re going to need some more space to fully dive into our thoughts.
In an ordinary season the Bonnies dropping back to back road games at Dayton and St. Joseph’s wouldn’t sound any alarm bells. Those are two good programs and winning on their home floors is never easy.
But as we all know, this is no ordinary season for Bona Basketball.
After winning eight games in a row including wins over Maryland and Syracuse, the Bonnies had raised expectations once again. They were back to being an NCAA at-large team with a quality resume including four wins over top 100 teams and just a lone “bad loss”. SBU was penciled into mock brackets everywhere, if you still read those sorts of things after 2016.
Trips to Dayton and St. Joe’s were going to be tough, but SBU was road favorites in both games and at worst, you probably thought they’d earn a split and head back home to the RC and Fordham at 2-1.
But, after back to back listless performances away from home, the Bonnies find themselves on the brink before the middle of January. 1-2 in the conference and now a road loss to a team whose RPI was over 200. Couple that with the Niagara loss at home the Bonnies have two really bad losses on their ledger.
St. Joe’s is a 7-7 team. Dayton is a 7-8 team. Neither team is currently inside the top 100. Neither of those “L’s” will likely look good come selection Sunday.
This is how quickly things can change once conference play begins.
In year’s past, the 1-2 start would be nothing to loose sleep over for a team trying to earn themselves a bid in the NCAA field. The Atlantic 10 is generally a top six or seven conference in the country that sends three, four teams to the NCAA’s Tournament.
That is not, and will not be the case though this season.
The opportunities for Mark Schmidt and his boys to rebuild their resume with impressive victories from here out include the following chances: at Rhode Island, vs. Rhode Island, at VCU, and MAYBE both Davidson games if you’re being generous. That’s it.
Do you believe this team can go out and win say, 13 of their final 15 league games? That’s what it would take to get to a 14-4 record (if you believe 14-4 is good enough to get back into that at-large conversation). With four games left against URI and Davidson (plus emerging teams like 3-0 Duquesne and 2-1 VCU), that will be an incredibly tall order.
It is the worst possible season to earn an at-large berth in this conference; call it a perfect storm of sorts for the Bonnies. The A10 is the 10th rated conference in the land, behind the likes of the American, West Coast, Moutain West and Missouri Valley.
Yup, that bad.
And what about all the games in between those big match-ups? Landmines. Landmines that are always so tough to avoid stepping on a few times a year; even for the best A10 clubs.
The Bonnies have backed themselves into an incredibly difficult space just a week into conference play and now have to take it one game at a time to battle back. With their hopes of an at-large berth likely slim to none at this point, they need to focus on earning a top four seed so they have a bye in DC. Without that bye, cutting down the nets in the nation’s capitol will go from a very difficult task to a nearly impossible one.
Most likely, this season’s outcome will likely depend on one weekend in Washington. It’s not how anyone wanted this season to end, but it is now the most likely scenario given recent developments.
J.P Butler writes about the Bonnies latest loss in Philly here
Where they Stand:
|RPI||KenPom||SOS||Vs. Top 100||Winning Streak|
|11-4 (1-2)||#48 (31 last week)||#60 (54 last week)||
Where Did The Defense Go? Remember when the Bonaventure defense was actually it’s calling card? Well, after giving up 78 to UMass, 82 to Dayton and 85 to St. Joe’s the Bona defense has officially gone MIA. Bonas allowed Dayton and St. Joe’s to connect on over 69% of two point shots (Incredible) and have an effective field goal percentageof 59%. Through three league games Bona ranks 13th in defense, dead last at 14th in effective field goal percentage (55.4%), 13th in FT rate, last in two point defense and just 7th in steal percentage. It was to be expected that as the competition improved the Bonnies’ defensive numbers would regress (You can’t always play Jackson State and Siena) but this week has been shocking. St. Joe’s for example, ranked 291st in shooting the basketball coming into the game and nearly put 90 on the Bonnies. Further, SBU continues to foul far too much (SJU shot 32 free throws and Dayton 34) giving up free points at the line night after night. Bonas ranks 336th, nearly last in the nation in FT rate; sending teams to the foul line more than almost anyone in America. If they want a quick fix defensively, they can start by guarding with their feet and not their hands.
The Buck Stops Here- As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a huge fan of Mark Schmidt. He will go down in Bonaventure lore as one of the best coaches the program has ever had. You cannot understate the job he has done to return this program to the competitive level we see today. Having said that, this week’s back to back no shows starts and ends with him. He’s paid a handsome some of money to coach this team and have them play up to expectations and this week was a huge disappointment. This season is far too important to allow the team to no-show for two road games to kick off league play. The club looked like they were sleep walking defensively at Dayton and played too fast and loose at St. Joe’s. Shots won’t always go down and guys like Adams and Mobley will have their off nights. That happens, that’s basketball. But Schmidt and his team can control their effort and energy level defensively every game and for three games now it has been nowhere. Yes, there were improvements in the second half of both games but the hole was too deep to dig out of on the road. The coaching staff needs to regroup the troops and return to form vs. Fordham so they can have something to feel good about before heading to URI next weekend.
Stars Need to Carry Team- Speaking of Adams and Mobley, both have come under criticism this week for their play. Mobley scored just two points on 1-5 shooting last night after being face guarded by the Hawks all night long. Martelli said they’d take Mobley out of the game and they did. After the game Schmidt said “He needs to work to get the ball. They got into him physically.” That’s a nice way of saying Mobley was caught standing around too much and needs to attack. Let’s also remember that before his dramic shot to down Vermont at the buzzer Mobley basically had the same game. The senior cannot take plays off and hang his head when he can’t get the rock. He’s got to continue to work for the basketball because when he’s a non factor this team looks completely different offensively.
As far as Adams goes, the senior had a week to forget. In two games Adams averaged 17 points (not bad) but was 3-12 on 2PT shots, 5-10 from three (Great, but not enough attempts) and had 14 assists and 12 turnovers. Jay’s 21.7% TO rate is the highest of his four years and he’s had 17 turnovers in total in the Bonnies last four games. Adams found it difficult in both games to findnopen looks in any space aside from transition and missed a number of lay-up type attempts he generally finishes. An 85% foul shooter, he also shot 13-18 (72%) from the line. After Bona cut the Hawks’ lead to four last night, Josh Ayeni grabbed a defensive rebound and gave the ball up to Adams to start the fast break. However, Adams passed the ball right into the chest of Shavar Newkirk and the game was essentially over. The turnover was a tough ending to a bad week for Adams and the team.
Brockington Emerges Again- Looking for a silving lining (shot in Philadelphia actually) from the Bonnies loss in Philly? Look no further than Brockington who had a terrific game off the bench in front of friends and family. The freshman finished the game with 16 points on 6-15 shooting and had four rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in 33 minutes. While he did force a few shots he showed that great aggresiveness he’s displayed all year and looks like a junior on the floor at times. After playing just four minutes against UMass, he played 21 against Dayton and 33 last night. It is time for this kid to start playing 30+ minutes a game regularly. Whether it’s Idris Taqqee’s minutes or Stockard’s, this kid has to play more. Brockington’s offensive rating of 121 is best on the team and his plus minus (points he contribues per 100 possessions vs. a league average player) is 5.3. Taqqee’s is 4.0 for comparison, thanks to his +4.7 mark defensively. Taqqee is “worth” -0.7 points offensively.
Time to Start Ikpeze? After watching Josh Ayeni shoot 5-13 on mid-range jumpers last night many folks were calling for Amadi Ikpeze to take Ayeni’s starting job as the team’s five man. At this point I cannot disagree. Teams are giving Ayeni that 15-18 foot jump shot and saying to Schmidt, “We will give him this shot every time down because we aren’t helping off Adams and Mobley”. And it’s working. Dating back to the Syracuse game, Ayeni is shooting 10-26 (38%) on two pointers. Yes, he’s cut down on his fouls (hasn’t fouled out since Vermont) but his one redeeming quality, the single thing that keeps him on the floor is his ability to shoot it and space out a defense. At this point, that’s not there. Why not give Ikpeze, a different type of player some more minutes? Ikpeze played two minutes vs. St. Joe’s, five vs. Dayton and hasn’t played over 16 minutes in any game since Siena. I am not saying Ayeni needs to be benched, he’s still an important part of the offense when he’s on, but is he really so good that Ikpeze can’t get 20+ minutes a game?
Playing Smart- While it didn’t cost the Bonnies any points, Courtney Stockard’s technical foul after scoring on a drive inside of the final two minutes last night was a bonehead play. The junior has got to be smarter than that. Stockard had a fantastic night off the bench (17 points, 9-9 from the line, three steals, just one turnover) but that play cannot happen, especially in a big moment.
Updated Advanced Player Statistics:
The Bonnies return home on Wednesday night to face Fordham (6-9 and 1-2 in A10). The Rams are ranked 253rd via Kenpom and have lost three of four aside from their victory over Richmond. They scored just 41, yes 41 points against Duquesne last night in a 64-41 blowout loss. They rank 329th nationally in offense and 125th in defense. They do however, lead the nation in steal percentage defense and are 10th in TO percentage. A loss in this game would end any chance of an at-large berth…if you’re still holding out hope.
Following what is hopefully a Bona victory on Wednesday, the team will travel to Rhode Island to take on the 3-0 Rams on national TV in an 11 AM tip. Rhody is 11-3 and has won six straight. They have a 60th ranked offense and a 28th ranked defense nationally. They are 9-0 at home (that’s a ton of home games BTW), and are the only team in the conference who can feel good about their NCAA hopes. Danny Hurley’s team has wins over Seton Hall (18th), Providence (57th) and tough losses to Nevada, UVA and Alabama. Jared Terrell has emerged as one of the best players in the conference and URI’s back court goes six deep. They may be without wing Stanford Robinson who sat out of Saturday’s win at GW with a toe infection.
Looking for some new Bonas Hoops gear? Look no further than the Spors Locker, Olean’s number 1 sports outlet. They’ve got new for 2017 Wolf Pack shirts and a new Lady’s V-neck as well. Check them out online here or in town before your next trip to the RC!
(Photos used with permission from Steve Harrison. You can visit his website and check out his fantastic work here)