Pregame: #7 Bonnies v. #10 St. Joe’s, THR @ 6:30
The Opponent: The 13-7, 7-11 St. Joe’s Hawks are the 10th seed in the tournament. The Bonnies have beaten the Hawks twice this season by nine and ten points respectively. SJU went 2-2 over their final four games beating UMass and La Salle while dropping games to Richmond and Rhode Island. SJU knocked the Bonnies out of the tournament last season in the semifinal as the Bonnies went ice cold in the final twenty minutes. The Hawks are the reigning league champions after downing VCU last season.
The Rundown on St. Joe’s: Let me start this section off buy saying I am not one of those people who says “it’s really tough to beat someone a third time.” I don’t know how that started, but I don’t believe in it. To me, that statement applies much more in the NFL than anything else but as it pertains to this game tomorrow I’m not buying it. Why? Because the Bonnies are a better team and if they play to their abilities they will win. Yes, St. Joe’s will have the best player on the floor in Bembry, but after him the Bonnies will have the next best four players; that’s a fact (to me). SBU will need to do a great job defending the first team all league wing and last time out Cumberbatch did a fantastic job on him. The Hawks are playing to defend their title, but this team has little resemblance to last year’s squad. SBU will need more hot shooting from their guards and for Ndoye to play a man possessed. If they do that and defend and rebound like they generally do they’ll be fine. Sure, the Bonnies could lose this game. No doubt about it. But I’m more comfortable playing the Hawks than I would be compared to other clubs.
Foes’ Starting Five:
Javon Baumann (C), DeAndre’ Bembry (W/F), Chris Wilson (PG), Isaiah Miles (F), James Demery (W/F).
Their Strength: SJU’s biggest strength is not one area but rather one player in Bembry. The sophomore wing can take over games at a given moment, is tough to guard, can really pass the ball, plays great defense and is just an all-around terrific player. Bembry went nuts vs. the Bonnies in the first meeting at the RC knocking down 6-9 three pointers while scoring 27 points. In our last meeting he was largely held in check: 15 points, 6 turnovers and a few huge missed FT’s. Keeping Bembry under control will be THE key in this game for the Bonnies on the defensive side of the ball. When he is held to/under his average the Hawks are a different team. Forcing the supporting cast to become leading men to so speak is something you really want to do vs. the Hawks.
Their glaring weaknesses: Like the Bonnies SJU really struggles to shoot the ball from 3PT land (316th nationally) and are just about the worst FT shooting team you’ll ever see (348th nationally). If this game is nip and tuck late the advantage goes right to the Bonnies given their FT woes. Aside from their shooting woes the Hawks are really just a blah team. Chris Wilson is a league average point guard (maybe), Aaron Brown is a bench piece (solid though), Demery a promising freshman, Bauman is a scrub and Miles is a solid player. This just isn’t a really good team, there’s no other way to say it. Without Bembry this Hawks team is playing last night in the play in games and it’s not even close.
Their best player(s): Bembry by a mile. We’ve written enough about him here this season. You know all about him and his fro.
Reason to be Pessimistic:
Because it’s hard to beat a team three times in one season. Because the Hawks will have the best player on the floor and that does matter. Because winning four games in a row seems really tough to do for this club (and any club in the A10 for that matter). Because the Hawk will Never Die.
Reason to be Optimistic: Because the Bonnies are the better team and you should expect them to win. Schmidt has proven he can win games in this tournament. Posley/Cumberbatch have been playing/shooting well of late and that could prove vital. Ndoye played great in this building a year ago and won’t want to go out with an opening round loss. The Bonnies should have a very good crowd there at the Barclay’s and they’d like nothing more than to beat the Hawks three times in one year and give them a bit of payback for sending us packing last March.
Ian: SBU 67, SJU 59
Shane: SBU 71, SJU 65
Vinny: SBU 67, SJU 63
What’s up Next: The winner of this game takes on #2 Seed Dayton on Friday night at 6:30. SBU is 0-2 vs. the Flyers this year so they’re due. The loser goes home for the year and the coach breaks out their golf clubs. I doubt the Bonnies take a CBI bid but I guess you never know.