Is Too Much Being Asked of Jay Adams and Matt Mobley?
Following an 0-2 road trip to Dayton and St. Joseph’s, many fans believe that the Bonnies’ potential NCAA at-large hopes could be hanging by a thread.
SBU now has three losses outside of the top 125 and with the Atlantic 10 Conference only being ranked tenth nationally this season, it will be more difficult than ever to build a convincing resume between today and the middle of March.
If you still read NCAA bracket projections after 2016, you likely won’t find Mark Schmidt’s teams on any line this morning.
Sure, it can be done, as the Bonnies are capable of ripping off a long winning streak (Already with an eight-gamer under their belts) and beating any team in the league; but the pressure that surrounds the team is intense and will continue to be until the end of the season…particularly if the winning continues.
No one feels that pressure more than St. Bonaventure’s two senior guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.
Mobley and Adams have been heralded by the team’s sports information department since the late summer.
They’ve been named to every watch list you can image. National college basketball analysts from Dick Vitale to Jay Bilas to Seth Davis have heaped praise on the talented back court as potential game changers for the Bonnies. They were viewed not just as one of the most talented guard pairs among mid majors; but rather the best in all of college basketball. Most believed they would guide SBU to their first NCAA berth since 2012.
An 11-4 start to the season is likely one that most Bona fans would have signed up for months ago, but after back to back losses and a 1-2 start to the A10 slate the Bonnies are again facing incredible pressure to get back on track.
The margin for error is now likely razor thin.
No one questions the talent level of these two back court standouts.
But, is too much being asked of them?
Adams (19.4 points, 5.8 assists, 64.2% True Shooting %) and Mobley (17.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 57.2% TS%) are both performing similarly to last season (see below for advanced statistics) but if we’re being honest, they’ve been given little support from the rest of their teammates and coaching staff when comparing this to last year.
Last year’s club that went 20-12, was ranked 88th nationally offensively. They ranked 174th shooting the three, 208th on two point shots and 17th from the line. Departures included Denzel Gregg and David Andoh. Gregg was a quality low post scorer and rebounder who could score on the block, despite not being a great shooter (52%TS) and being wildly inconsistent. Andoh was essentially “last year’s version of this year’s Josh Ayeni”; a pick and pop four man who shots it whenever he’s open for better or worse.
So why then, did so many people (ourselves included) believe this year’s team would be vastly improved to the point they could contend for an at-large (contending for the A10 title is entirely different as the league is down)?
Sure, Bona added a versatile two way player in Courtney Stockard and a dynamic two guard in Izaiah Brockington, but really that’s it.
Yes, LaDarrien Griffin has improved a bit. But, Idris Taqqee is the same offensive player. Brockington still goes through freshman ups and downs. Nelson Kaputo plays six minutes a half. Josh Ayeni has regressed. Amadi Ikeze has improved a bit, but hardly plays.
There’s no forward or center who impacts the game on either end (To an even lesser extent than last year) and that is on the coaching staff and is a failure in recruiting.
It is fair to criticize the recruiting efforts that only improved the front court by added a now-departed Ndene Gueye who played a total of 17 minutes. If there is one thing that could drastically help this team out on the offensive end it is a post scorer who can help space the floor for Adams and Mobley. On the defensive end (where Bona is actually doing quite well), imagine adding a shock blocker like an Ndoye to this roster?
No one is asking for another Andrew Nicholson, but even two average to above average forwards who could control the ball in the post, score with some back to the basket moves and keep defenses honest would be a huge lift for the guards. A true pivot player would force defenses to collapse a bit and help off the guards. As it is now, Bona doesn’t have a post player worthy of even the thought of a double team, let alone help defense. As evidence, SBU ranks 46th nationally in 3PT shooting but only 257th in 2PT shooting.
Put guys like Marquis Simmons, Ndoye, Mike Lee or hell…Derrick Woods on this team and things are much different on both sides of the ball. (Speaking of Woods he’s been kicked off the Delaware Basketball Team…hindsight being 20/20 he made a really bad decision leaving Bonas)
The fear? Phil Martelli’s game plan last weekend could become a possible blueprint on how to beat Bona.
Face guard Matt Mobley with your most relentless on ball defend. Run him all over the floor. Wear him out. Make him earn every catch and make him pass the basketball. Schmidt has expressed the need for Mobley to work harder to get the ball and make plays, but that’s easier said than done when you’re essentially being boxed-and-oned.
Then, put a longer, quicker guard on Adams and make him shoot over him. In the SJU game, this was oftentimes 6-6 James Demry who helped hold Adams to 5-11 shooting and and five turnovers. Force Adams to shoot deep threes with a hand in his face (he’s still deadly from there, shooting a stupid 53%) or try and drive on a larger defender into the lane where he is now just shooting a very poor 43% on shots at the rim.
Yes, Adams is now 10% more likely to make a 25 footer than a runner or lay-up.
Allow Adams to be the primary focus of your defense. Let defenders help off anyone else on the team, sans Mobley, to defend him.
Give Taqqee, Griffin, Stockard and Ayeni all the mid range jumpers they want. If they happen to burn you, so be it.
Mid range jump shots are the worst shots in basketball. Play the percentages and take the Bonnies offensive whiz out of the game after you lock up Mobley.
Without a reliable offensive post option and consistent third scorer, Adams and Mobley are fighting a serious uphill battle night after night.
This is not to say the duo can’t lead the team to the A10 Finals or an NCAA berth, but the point is the task is probably harder on them that it should have been. I mean really, how much of a sales pitch would it have taken to get a solid grad transfer or two to come spend his last season chasing an NCAA bid for with one of the best back courts in America?
I guess it was tougher than you and I think. No one questions the staff’s effort, scouting, or decision making at this point when it comes to recruits. They’ve earned some rope given their ability to develop talent and in part because those who leave the program never seem to come back to bite them.
Mark Schmidt has always been able to find those diamonds in the rough but this year he needed to add a pair of experienced, solid, forwards to pair with his super star guards and as of now, it seems he missed out.
Maybe these two, and this team, have enough fire power and toughness to make this season as successful as the fans hoped it would become. We’ll find out in the next few months.
But right now I think it’s fair to consider whether or not we’re asking for Adams and Mobley to patch a flawed team each time out and to mask the shortcomings on this roster.