Entering the A-10 Tournament one year ago in Brooklyn, expectations for Bonnie’s fans were much different. The Bonnies had 23 wins, a share of the conference title, a double bye, and a good chance at an at-large bid to the NCAA’s. Oh, and they also had won 10 out of their last 11 games. The Bonnies are nowhere near an at-large this year, but still have the potential to catch fire for four days. To end up hoisting the trophy when it’s all over, here’s what the Bonnies will have to do.
Come out of the gate firing- This applies both at the team and individual levels. It has become somewhat of a trend for the Bonnies to get behind early and spend the rest of the game clawing back. Sometimes against weaker opponents like St Joseph’s, St. Louis, and Duquesne, they’ve managed to come back. Other times, they’ve come close, but have run out of gas just as they push it to a one possession game. In addition, it also seems common for the Bonnies biggest star, first teamer Jay Adams, to wait up to 20 minutes to really “care” about the game. While some broadcasters have insisted it is a plus that he doesn’t force up shots, he is still the most important player on this team, and his lackadaisical starts have put the Bonnies in some deep holes early on.
Make it rain- For a team that has relied on the three all season, the Bonnies have struggled as of late. In the past three games, they are just 7-39. It’s no secret that the Bonnies do not rely on their bigs (aside from inconsistent production from Denzel Gregg) for any offensive output, so this really means that Adams and Mobley will have to find their stroke. Adam’s three point percentage is down almost 8% from last year, but the two time first team all-conference point guard has had streaks that give fans like myself hope that he can stay hot for the duration of the tournament. To have any hope of pulling off a few upsets, the Bonnies will need to have the three pointers start to fall again.
Strong D in the post- All season, the Bonnies have had trouble defending the low post. Freshmen Josh Ayeni and Amadi Ikpeze have been plagued by foul trouble regardless of the opponent. It’s not uncommon for either to pick up four or five fouls in less than 20 minutes of game time; Ikpeze once picked up 4 in 7 minutes. While both Ayeni and Ikpeze have undeniable talent, and an incredibly high ceiling, they are still very raw defensively. Denzel Gregg, too, has been in foul trouble in many conference games. Given the potential matchups in the tournament of Holloway, Martin, and Pollard, if the Bonnies bigs don’t step up, at least defensively, their stay in Pittsburgh will be very brief.
There’s no time of the year more exciting than the A-10 tournament, and maybe, this year the Bonnies can recapture the magic that propelled them to a championship in 2012.