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Thankful more winning opportunities to come

By: Vinny Pezzimenti 

We St. Bonaventure basketball fans have quite a bit to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Jaylen Adams will hopefully be back on the court tomorrow (more on that later), and the Bonnies have plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks to erase the damage of their opening season loss to lowly Niagara.

No, a trip to the NCAA tournament is not out of reach just yet, although Twitter was littered with hot takes like these after the Purple Eagles walked out of the Reilly Center with victory:

Sure, it’s possible such a defeat could come back to haunt the Bonnies on Selection Sunday. Niagara, by the way, has lost three in row since – including a trouncing at UMass. Ugh.

Yet, the reality is that SBU’s NCAA tournament resume will be written – or torn in shreds – in the next 28 days.

A non-conference schedule that was challenging to begin with has only grown more difficult over these first weeks of the regular season. That’s a good thing for the Bonnies, who were left out of the big tourney two years ago because quality wins out of conference were lacking.

We all knew that Maryland, TCU (yes, we’re assuming the Bonnies and Horned Frogs square off Saturday), and Syracuse would be tough games. Vermont, which nearly won at Kentucky, and Buffalo, which almost took down Cincinnati, also now loom as high hurdles – and resume builders.

Of course, potential hiccups exist at rivals Siena and Canisius. Lose one of those, and the Bonnies will surely be sitting out the Big Dance come March.

So, what’s up with Swaggy?

The Bonnies need Adams back – and fast – to have any chance of success in the next four weeks. The decorated senior guard has been out since suffering an ankle injury against Alfred in an exhibition nearly three weeks ago.

SBU has been evasive at best regarding details of the injury and a timetable for Adams’ return. Coach Mark Schmidt told reporters before Monday’s game against Maryland-Eastern Shore that Adams would be a game-time decision, but there was no chance Adams would play after coming out for pre-game warmups in a t-shirt and sweat pants. The walking boot was gone, but Adams shot 12-footers while seated on a stool.

That scene doesn’t suggest Adams will be ready and at 100% for Maryland. How are we to expect a player who couldn’t stand to shoot on Monday will lead his team on Friday against one of the better teams in the Big 10, or on Saturday against one of the better teams in the Big 12?

If Swaggy-J doesn’t suit up against Maryland, it will be the 18th game he’s missed to injury while with the Bonnies – at least one each season.

The competition this weekend

Maryland (5-0) and TCU (4-0) are both unbeaten. Like the Bonnies, both teams are expected to be in position for the NCAA tournament come March.

The Terps and Bonnies share two common opponents – Jackson State and UMES. Maryland won both those games in blowouts.

Led by former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, TCU has won eight consecutive games dating back to last season’s NIT championship run.

New Mexico, meanwhile, is 2-2 with back-to-back losses to New Mexico State and Tennessee Tech. If the Bonnies happen to meet the Lobos, a loss there would be damaging to postseason aspirations.

Going deep

It was a good sign – albeit against a poor opponent burdened by injury – freshmen Izaiah Brockington and Tshiefu Ngalakulondi performed well against UMES. With Adams still on the mend and no guarantee Courtney Stockard will remain healthy, Schmidt needs all the help he can get off the bench.

Coming off foot injuries that cause Stockard to miss each of the last two seasons, the junior college transfer cannot be trusted to provide consistent contributions. He’s missed the last two games with hip/groin trouble after playing 26 minutes in an uneven performance in the opener.

Stockard is beginning to remind us of Patrick Lottin circa 2006 – aging, frail, and not reliable. We hope we’re wrong, but the best case for Stockard and the Bonnies might be using the player in short bursts for a scoring punch 8-12 minutes a game.

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1 comment

  1. Anonymous

    Is my man Jay dressed to go tonight ?
    when do we find out?