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Fear the tortoise: Bonnies playing slow, yet winning the race

By Vinny Pezzimenti

With no big man to throw the ball to in the post, yet possessing a deep stable of athletic wings and guards, St. Bonaventure figured to take advantage of its quickness by playing fast this season.

The Bonnies numbers, via KenPom.com

That hasn’t been the case. In fact, it has been the exact opposite.

The Bonnies are playing slow. Very slow. Through Sunday’s game, they ranked 265th nationally in adjusted offensive tempo, per Ken Pomeroy.

According to the numbers, the Bonnies would accumulate 68.2 offensive possessions over 40 minutes against an average NCAA opponent. The national average is 70.2.

The Bonnies average 17 seconds per possession, which is the national average through Monday’s games.

The Bonnies are playing faster – like most other teams in country – this year than in seasons past because of the shot clock reducution from 35 to 30 seconds.

Relatively speaking, however, the Bonnies haven’t played at such a slow pace offensively since Andrew Nicholson’s last two seasons, when the team also ranked among the nation’s lowest in adjusted offensive tempo.

So why aren’t the Bonnies playing with greater tempo? Several factors should be considered:

1. They have longer average defensive possessions – 17.5 seconds – than 247 NCAA counterparts. The Bonnies have played well defensively and have faced many opponents set on slowing the pace of the game.

2. The Bonnies bench is short. Longer offensive possessions allow players who log plenty of minutes (Marcus Posley, Dion Wright and Jay Adams) to catch their breath.

3. The Bonnies don’t need to play fast to score the ball effectively – especially at the Reilly Center, where they have registered 80 or more points in four of five games. Mark Schmidt’s club ranks 88th in adjusted offensive efficiency, as they would be expected to score 106.2 points per 100 possessions against the average opponent. They also shoot fee throws very well.

4. Generally speaking, this competition hasn’t been as good – or big – as what the Bonnies will face in the Atlantic 10. As the schedule gets more challenging, they may be forced to change their course of action.

5. Schmidt continues to live and die by his three tenants of winning basketball – defense, rebounding and taking care of the ball. Playing fast can negatively impact ball security and defense.

With Jordan Tyson returning Saturday – and Courtney Stockard hopefully soon behind – combined with A-10 games around the corner, it will be interesting to see what becomes of the team’s offensive pace. Somewhat surprisingly, slow has worked thus far.

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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.