Sunday Synopsis (S17, V13): Back On The Bubble
Opening Statement: Well Bonnies fans, here we are. After eight straight victories following SBU’s loss to Davidson on January 19th that capped off a 2-4 start to conference play, the Bonnies find themselves tied for 2nd in the conference (with Davidson) and squarly back on the NCAA at-large bubble. Their RPI now at 27, Bonas took full advantage of a favorable schedule and looks primed to finish top three in the conference after a slow start marked by road losses.
We said the following the day after SBU’s loss at Davidson:
“The toughest part of the schedule is now past us. SBU is favored, via KenPom, in each of their next seven games, and of their final 12 games, is favored in EVERY one but the home game vs.URI. Bona has seven home games left including four of their next six. Given the jumbled mess that is the middle (hell, the entire conference save URI) SBU will have every chance to rebound from here and earn a top four spot…they just have to start winning right now. Wednesday night represents a clean slate for the Bonnies. Forget this six game stretch and start clean. Beat the Hawks and move onto GW and go from there; one game at a time. If Bona plays to their potential they will finish this season a lot closer to the top of the standings than the bottom.”
Yup…the Bonnies did just that.
Since our last Sunday Synopsis, SBU downed Richmond on alumni weekend scoring nearly 100 points, won on the road at La Salle (a house of horrors for SBU where they had not won since 2010) and then Friday got the all important win over #16th ranked Rhode Island on ESPN2 in front of a sold out RC for the second straight game (when’s the last time that happened?).
Needing to truly win every single game in this eight game stretch, you have to give enormous credit to Mark Schmidt and his team for doing just that.
There was no room for error after their 2-4 start and they knew it. Still, they ran off win after win with the pressue mounting. Jay Adams needed to go for 40 in back to back games, they won close ones (Joes, Duquense and URI) and a few not so close (GW, Mason, Saint Louis, La Salle, Richmond) and got big games from guys up and down the roster in each win.
Where all that puts the team today is firmly back on the NCAA at large bubble. Check out Bracket Matrix here. A website that combines over 100 mock brackets on the internet has the Bonnies as an 11 seed today. One bracket has SBU as high as a nine seed. Some of the most accurate projections have the Bonnies as a 10 seed…in others they are listed as a last team out despite their recent surge.
Certainly there is still a ton of basketball to be played, and Bonas isn’t surely in, or surely out at this point. Bona is right on that bubble, just like in 2016, which as good a place as you could have asked for after a 2-4 start to conference play.
Any Bonnies fan who feels comfortable about the team’s current standing most have forgotten that in 2016 over 90% of brackets had SBU “in” include one of the most accurate projections out there giving SBU a 99% chance of getting in based on historial committee decisions.
SBU still has four games to play in the regular season plus the conference Tournament in D.C. A lot could go right, or wrong here in the final few weeks of the season…and it starts with Wednesday’s game vs. Duquesne. A loss to the 191st rated Dukes at home would be a resume killer following what was the program’s biggest win in years. The team needs to take it one game at a time, look past no one and take care of business…just like they’ve done for the past eight games.
These next few weeks will be filled with more “must” win games and a ton of nerves. Would you want it any other way?
Where they Stand:
|RPI||KenPom||SOS||Vs. Top 100||Winning Streak|
|20-6 (6-4)||#15 (51 two weeks ago)||#63 (73 two weeks ago)||
107 (85 Last week)
Griffin Makes His Mark Against URI- While Matt Mobley led the team in scoring, LaDarrien Griffin was likely the MVP in the Bonnies upset win over the Rams. Undersized all night against the likes of massive Andre Berry, Griffin finished the game with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks including 4-4 at the line and scoring the games’ final four points. Combine that line with LD’s relentless energry and hustle all night long and Friday’s game was truly the high point of the junior’s carrer. Griffin has been a pleasant surprise all season long and it was awesome to see him thrive in the team’s biggest game off the year coming off his ankle injury.
Don’t Forget about Mobley- Despite missing a few big free throws at games’ end, Bona was carried most of the contest by their “other” scoring guard in Mobley, who finished the game with 26 points and was 5-11 from deep. On a night when Jay Adams was locked up and forced to largely be a passer only, Mobley’s hot shooting and exceptional board work (a team high nine) allowed Bona to keep pace with the Rams. Mobley was just 1-6 from deep vs. URI the first time around (and often looked sluggish), so this game was a big improvement vs. their top defense. He’s averaging 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds on 38% shooting from deep.
Adams Burns Rams without Jump Shot- In a game where he was largely eliminated as a shooter/scorer (finished 2-12 from the field, 0-4 from three) give the Bonnies’ star guard credit for making winning plays late to help earn the much needed win. Adams’ assist to a screen-slipping Griffin on the games’ final drawn up set was a thing of beauty, and he converted a huge running lay up late (where it almost seemed like he hung in the air forever before flipping the ball up just before he hit the floor). Adams handled URI’s intense pressure well and finished the game with eight assists against two turnovers in 40 minutes. In their first meeting, Adams had just one assist vs. URI. Adams ranks 12th nationally in 3PT% and now has 553 assists in his career as a Bonnie ranking third all time behind Marques Green and Shandue McNeill.
Defense There When it Counts: Giving up 74 points at home isn’t going to turn heads, but Bona held URI to 41% shooting in the second half (50% first half), forced URI into 17 turnovers, out scored the Rams 18-7 in points off turnovers, was equal on the glass and held Jared Terrell to just six second half points after he scored 17 in the opening frame. Add these up and SBU made the needed changes to win by a bucket at home. URI’s offense ranked 2nd to Bonas entering the contest.
Bona Continues to Win the 3PT Line: Now ranked 18th in shooting the 3PT shot and 19th in the country in defending it, SBU continues to win games from distance. After not making a single three pointer in the second half vs. URI in round one, SBU canned 4-10 three’s on Friday and held the Rams to 4-11. SBU is shooting 40.2% from three and holding foes to a 31.3% on the other end.
Layups (Still) an Issue: While it didn’t cost them a win on Friday, SBU continued to struggling on lay ups or “must make” shots. Bonas shot a poor 39% on two point shots (URI was 50%) and Idris Taqqee missed three absolute bunnies, two in the second half during a critcal stretch. We noted a few weeks ago that Bona is one of the worst teams in the country in finishing at the tin, and you feel like sooner or later it could burn them. Let’s hope the team finishes these chances better in the season’s last four games. On the season, Bona ranks 26th worst nationally in these shots (54.4%) vs. ranking in the top 20 nationally in shooting from deep.
Ayeni Suspended (Again)- The night before the Richmond game Josh Ayeni was suspended, again, for violation of team rules. The sophomore has not returned since and Mark Schmidt said that the big man will remain out “indefinitely”. While Ayeni was helpful to have off the bench, the team has honestly not missed a beat without him as Ikpeze and Chef have filled the void just fine. Let’s hope Josh turns things around off the floor, because one would have to think the staff is just about done with Ayeni at this point. If he comes back great, if not, the team has learned to win without him.
Tweets Worth Reading:
Taking a Look at the Bonnies NCAA Tournament Team Sheet:
Analysis: SBU’s RPI of 27 is fantastic. Niaraga earned a huge win over Iona this weekend and with that win, moved from a Q4 team to a Q3 team which means that SBU is now 9-0 against Q4 teams…very important. Cuse earned a nice win over Miami this weekend and is 18-9 with eight top 100 wins, but Maryland continues to struggle (2-3 in last five) and that win looks only good, not great. Bona is 11-1 at home and their 53rd ranked non conference SOS shows they played damn good teams and earned road wins away from home against many of team (VT, MD, Cuse, BUF). Bona’s best chance to wins going forward at vs. Davidson (59th) and on the road at 129th ranked SLU. Let’s hope URI doesn’t lose again in the regular season and can earn themselves a top 4 seed in the NCAA field…would make our win look that much better. Looking for teams to root against going forward? Texas, Baylor, UCLA, NC State, USC, Cuse, Washington, Nebraska are all fighting with Bona for one of those final at large bids (among others).
What’s Ahead: Just like Bona needed to win them all these last four weeks or so…the same goes for these next two (if you want to feel really good about their chances for a bid anyway). Bona hosts pesky Duquesne at home on Wednesday night in a game they cannot, cannot lose. Of all the remaining four games this one is the most dangerous. A home loss to the Dukes would cripple Bonas’ resume…there’s no plus in winning, only a massive downside in losing. This is one of those games where all fans will be worried leading up to tip and for a good reason; it has “trap game” written all over it and the Dukes always give the Bonnies a game in Olean when you least expect it.
Following Wednesday’s game, SBU takes to the road to VCU where they’ve never won. The 15-12 Rams have lost four of five and are struggling to cross the finish line having just gotten pasted by GW. It’s never easy to win at VCU (at Wade Arena, not named for Will Wade) but if there is ever a season and a time to do it, next weekend is it. VCU has already lost an impossible (for them) five games at home this season and play on the road at UMass on Wednesday night.
We should have Q and A’s for both of these games later in the week to prep you, so check back for those.
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)