+0 - 0  by

Behind Enemy Lines: Canisius Golden Griffins

The Griffins look to move to 3-0 Saturday night in the RC.

The Opponent: Canisius (2-0) of the MAAC. Canisius is widely considered one of the two or three worst teams in the MAAC after losing Billy Baron and others last season. That hasn’t stopped them from winning their first two games.

The Brief Rundown:  After winning 21 games last season and going to the CIT the Golden Griffins are in full on rebuild mode after losing four of five starters. The only key player back from last year’s team is sophomore guard Zach Lewis who averaged 9.5 points and 2.2 rebounds last season. Lewis aside, Canisius suits up a cast of unknowns and newcomers much like our Bonnies. They will be inexperienced and have to learn how to win themselves after watching older players get it done over the past few seasons. Canisius’ strength would likely be their back court while their front court is a likely weakness early in the season. They’ve won both of their games this season over Vermont and Lehigh, two decent teams. Thus far, Lewis is leading the game with 15.5 points per game while Phil Valenti a 6-7 forward who red shirted two seasons (didn’t even know that was possible) is scoring 13.5 per contest. Canisius beat Vermont by four and Lehigh by 12. In their small sample size Canisius is shooting just 36% from the field and 31% from three point land…they haven’t shot it well…but neither had Siena before showing up at the RC. From a defensive standpoint, their 55.5 points allowed is obviously stout and they’ve taken the ball away 9.5 times a game via steals which is a very solid number in the early going.

Last Time We Met: 86- 64 win for the Bonnies. Matt Wright went off that night for 27 points without hitting a single three pointer. Ndoye had a double-double with 13 and 10 and despite the Bonnies going a wild 1-4 from three point range they knocked down 17-21 foul shots and and shot 55% from the floor overall. SBU had 56 points in the paint that night paving the way to a victory. Canisius shot just 38% from the field and was out rebounded 25 to 44. What a beat down last year was…ugly. And remember, that was against a good Canisius team.

Starters Returning from Last Year: 1- Lewis a 6-3 sophomore guard

Their Best Player, AKA “The Known”: Zach Lewis. As noted above he is the only returning starter and honestly, is the only real key player back from last year’s team. As a sophomore he shot 39% from the field and a dangerous 38% from three. Lewis scored five points in the meeting against SBU last season but really came on during conference play. He’s a shooter by trade, and so the Bonnies will need to guard him outside of their packline defense…or extend it at least. Lewis scored at least 15 points four times last season. This season, he scored just seven points in their opener on 2-10 shooting but went off vs. Lehigh for 24 points on 4-11 shooting from three. As the Griffins’ only real “known” he has to be clamped down…that or he goes off but no one else does anything…either one would work for Schmidt and his staff.

Their Glaring Weakness: Experience or lack off. In many ways, but to a greater extent, Canisius is going to be learning how to play together just as SBU is. When you graduate someone like a Billy Baron as well as three other quality players around him the growing pains come early and often the next season. Just as SBU doesn’t have an experienced guard to go to down the stretch right now, neither does Jim Baron aside from Lewis. Down low, it’s all fresh faces for CC. We can expect their guys to make many of the same mistakes we do in this game.  I read that CC “learned how to win last year”, this is only half true. Yes, the program notched 21 wins which does help to change the culture of the team. But Lewis aside, almost none of these Griffins were a big part of that winning. There’s a huge difference between closing out tight games on the floor and doing the same thing from the bench with a towel on your head. That’s the transition their team has to make this season.

Their Bad Stat (s): This season, they aren’t shooting the ball well at all at just 36% which is good for 307th best, or basically one of the worst in the county. Listen, 80 minutes of basketball is hardly sample size enough to say a team cannot shoot the ball but it does mean they aren’t shooting it well yet. Neither are we to be honest. Given their lack of experience in guard play it’s not shocking that they are not shooting it at a great clip out of the gates. The Bonnies need to put out the defensive effort they showed in the second half of both of their games for 40 minutes tomorrow. If they come out flat again and let Lewis and others to hit set jump shoots early this is going to be a much closer game that it should.

Their Good Stat (s): They’ve played solid defense is allowing just 55.5 points a game which is good for 52nd best nationally. Their 9.5 steals per game are also something to worry about giving our early inability to value the basketball in big spots and our young guards who clearly haven’t settled in yet. If Canisius can hold us to under 60 points and turn us over in the double digits I have no doubt this will be a close finish inside of the under four minute media timeout.

How Canisius Can Win: I would assume they can start by playing a 2-3 zone and forcing SBU to make long jump shots or get the ball inside…both of which we showed an inability to do vs. Siena. I mean honestly, if Baron comes out and plays man to man defense I’d have to question his basketball knowledge (I wouldn’t be the first). Anyone whose been around the sport for a few hours could see the Bonnies could not handle that 2-3 zone of Siena…so whether it’s a 2-3 or a 1-3-1 or a 3-2, you’ve got to expect to see a zone tomorrow. If they can take Ndoye out of the game like Siena did we are fighting an uphill battle early. They need to make us shoot them out of a zone and if we don’t, I think this will be a close game.

Andell has been a bright spot early for SBU. We'll need him to make good decisions against a zone tomorrow.

Andell has been a bright spot early for SBU. We’ll need him to make good decisions against a zone tomorrow.

How the Bonnies Can Win: Figure out a potential zone and this means a few things: Having crisper passing, getting the ball into the seems (generally the elbow or free throw line) and making shots from the perimeter. If we do these things we should win this game. Our guards need to reverse the ball much quicker than we did against Siena because one of the best ways to beat a zone is to get it moving….we didn’t do that well Wednesday night. Taking good, quality three pointers is key. Guys like Posley, Cumberbatch and Jay and Jalen Adams need to come ready to shoot and ready to pass the ball. We must, must make a better effort to get the ball inside vs. the zone as well. The issue with that is neither Dion nor Youssou is a great passer, and so, we lost a lot of possessions inside vs. the zone on Wednesday. Getting Youssou the ball at the elbow is essentially worthless. He needs the ball on the block, which is not an easy thing to deliver vs. a good zone. From a defensive standpoint they just need to guard their yard as players as coach says. This not a team of explosive athletes so keeping guys in front is key. I’m far more concerned about our ability to score, than to defend tomorrow.  Getting out and running as much as possible in transition is another great way to beat a zone…We did this well vs. Siena, but the hole we dug was too deep to climb out of.

Three Keys to Victory: 

1. Beat the Zone (Assume they play it) Make three pointers, get the ball into the seams and make the zone move with good passes.

2. Make Free Throws (74% or better)

3. Play Sound 1/2 court defense limiting CC to under 43% shooting.

The Almighty KenPom Predicts: 70-64 Bonnies win with a 74% chance of winning…we’ve seen this go wrong already this week.

Staff Predictions: All three guys picked the Bonnies in this one.


+ 0 - 0

A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.