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NIT Preview: 1st Round vs. Wagner, Wed. 7PM

Game Info: 3/16/16 vs. The Wagner College Seahawks (Series tied 2-2)

Reilly Center, St. Bonaventure, NY

Tip @ 7p.m.


Who They Are: The Seahawks come into the Reilly Center Wednesday night in a matchup of two regular season champions in their respective conferences. Wagner, out of the NEC finished with a 22-10 overall record and notched 13 conference wins  including two more in the NEC tournament. Wagner is led by one of the youngest coaches in NCAA Basketball and that man is Bashir Mason. Mason(pictured left) has enjoyed success in almost all four of his years of his tenure with the 2014-15 season being a down year with only 10 wins. The quick turnaround, his energy and his age make him a candidate to look out for in making a jump to higher conference in the not so distant future. Before losing to FDU in the conference tournament they had won seven games in a row. Their best win came against Rider (205 KenPom) and their worst loss came against LIU Brooklyn (281). 

Their Best Player: Wagner is led by Sophomore Guard Corey Henson (pictured right) who leads the team in nearly every offensive scoring category.Henson averages 13 points per game, shoots 43% from the floor, 41% behind the arc and 81% from the line. Henson is a good player, on a conference leading team so the Bonnies cannot afford to discount what he has accomplished even playing in a weaker conference. To get a better look at the Seahawks, included below is the roster with the basic statistical categories included. 

Their Identity: Wagner is a defensive oriented team that struggles to shoot the ball and will likely want to play at a much slower pace than the Bonnies. Their effective FG% defense is top 30 in the nation, which is no joke and they do a great job of taking away the three point shot from teams. They are also top 60 in steal and block percentages, so they have multiple ways of forcing empty possessions. Their shooting and turnover percentage are their two biggest weaknesses, so the Bonnies will obviously hope for those struggles to continue. As you can see via the player stat page below Wagner has a balance scoring attack and sports a pretty deep team. 


Stats via CollegeBasketballReference.com

Keys for the Bonnies: 

  1. Let’s be honest, if Wagner was on the schedule back in November or December, the fan base wouldn’t think twice about this game. Wagner coming into the RC with little to no fan fare is a far cry from hitting the road and getting a chance to make some noise in the big dance. With that said, if the Bonnies “really” want to win, they’ll need to get over the let down that what was, “one of the worst days of my life as a sports fan,” according to one of my blog colleagues. If it drags down the fan base this much, just multiply that by a 100 to gauge how it’s going to affect the locker room. You hope the team is strong willed and motivated to prove the committee wrong but these are still emotional young people who likely are feeling pretty burned right now. Who knows if their head is in it?
  2. Schmidt needs to rally the troops and if he doesn’t, I can’t blame them for not getting up. There will be the typical, “let’s show the committee they made a mistake,” cliche but we all know, the committee doesn’t care about the NIT or the Bonnies. The Bonnies are small potatoes to the committee and no matter what the result, the NIT will never make an impression on those in the mighty NCAA, you know the same NCAA that cares about student athletes. Don’t get me started. 
  3. I know there are some people out there that are excited for the home NIT game and if you are those people, bring a friend to the game. This is one of those games where the crowd and students WILL NEED TO BE loud and involved. The players and coaches care about winning but to make it really sink it, the RC needs to be packed with people to show them we’re still behind them. Our problem is with the committee and we as supporters of our great university need to make it clear that we’ve taken greater punches than this and have gotten right back up. Pack the RC and show the pride we have in our school and team. This team and especially our seniors deserve to win this game and lots more. Show them the love they’ve earned.

Outlook: If the Bonnies don’t show up for this game, who can blame them? In my heart I want them to win but my brain says, “does it really matter?” This reminds me of a meaningless late season football game where star players and coaches alike will say one thing to the media like, “the team is going to play for pride,” or “this a great opportunity to carry momentum into next season,” but the in reality, it’s all window dressing. I hate to admit it, but even the university can try and skew it one way but an NIT after this season feels like punishment, not an accomplishment. It downright unfortunate because if you told us in the fall that we’d be in the NIT most of us would have signed up. But after the way things went down Sunday this tournament really has almost no juice to it; at the least not right now. 

This a second tier tournament that looks good on the resume and in the history books. It feels good when your team has bounced back from the previous year and you get a chance to extend your season. The NIT is a horrendous prize though when you are clearly deserving to be in the NCAA Tournament. The Seahawks are coming in knowing their fate for over a week; they are thrilled to be here. That could be a factor in how this game starts off. The Bonnies come in reeling from the emotional let down and I’m sure it will have some affect  mentally and physically. If the Bonnies really care, we’ll know it in the first ten minutes of the game, if not, who cares, look back on this season with a positive reminder that we were champions of the A10, exceeded everyone’s expectations and celebrate the careers of Marcus and Dion. That said, we’d love to see this team go in a run on and the NIT capping their season in MSG with some kind of title. 

Prediction: On paper, the Bonnies are clearly better. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the team will react. Let the best team win. 

Next Up: Winner moves on to face the winner of Alabama/Creighton. Game date is TBD. 

Thanks to @BonniesMBB for the use of the header, and Wagner Athletics for their photos

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  1. Any update on Posely and Adams? I know teams don’t talk about injuries, but surely people on campus must have some intel, especially with the ankle.

  2. Josh

    Get through this first game and I think their spirits and intensity will pick up vs. Alabama/Creighton. It will help them to see the fan support, but my concern is with how well they could have prepared for Wagner. They might be ok by game time, but it may be require a great effort to win the game. Survive and advance.

    Some games are more meaningful than others. Nevertheless, Herm Edwards was right. You play to win the game.

  3. BigT

    Wow, what a negative post.

    Here are five reasons why it really matters:
    1. The team continues to play basketball. Do you think the seniors wanted to end their career with that loss to Davidson?
    2. They get a chance potentially to play some good teams. When’s the last time a Big East team came to Olean?
    3. They can show they are a good team that deserved to be in the NCAA tournament by at least making the semi-finals. Lose to Wagner at home and people say “how good can they be.”
    4. Win the tournament and add five wins for a 27-win season. That’s pretty impressive and maybe a school record but not sure.
    5. Get to play at Madison Square Garden. Even the pros get excited about coming to NY and playing in “the world’s most famous arena.”

  4. Jonathan May Post author

    Excellent points. I think the tone I took setting it up though was how tough this will be emotionally and for fans to see this for what it is. Yes, potentially three weeks more of practice can also help the younger players too.

    As for the Big East comment, it’s tough to get games here but Creighton isn’t the Big East we all remember. Good team for sure but they’re still a mid major in my mind. Hopefully we beat up on them as such.

  5. We have to make every effort to win this game - and tournament, no matter how meaningless we all think it is. I can guarantee if we lose tonight, we will be hearing from our haters that it shows we never deserved to be in the NCAA after all. History is written by the winners.