3. St. Bonaventure
Last Season: For the first time since 2012-13, Mark Schmidt coached a team that accumulated a record below .500 record on the season. In the sixteen years that Mark Schmidt has held his post in Olean, last season’s team, by win percentage, was the second-worst Bonaventure team he’s ever coached. That hasn’t happened since 2007-08, his first season in northwestern New York. Schmidt lost what may have been the greatest five-man class in the history of the program to power five programs or the NBA draft, and the rest of the roster, forcing a complete reprogramming from scratch. Not one of the transfers/freshmen had ever played with each other before their arrival thus leading to some serious growing pains.
The Bonnies lost six of their final seven setting off the alarm bells for the postseason, but where the panic began was in some of their non-conference games: losses to Canisius, Siena, Buffalo, Northern Iowa, and a blowout at the hands of Iona was what had — at least myself — questioning the legitimacy of this team’s ability to contend in the A-10. Road games and neutral sites don’t play well in favor of young teams, nor teams that are all completely new personnel. Bonaventure went 1-4 in neutral site games and 2-11 in road environments which was jarring. From afar, Schmidt had issues building chemistry with his new chess pieces even with his magical powers of X’s and O’s. Most of his transfers came from inferior conferences to the A-10 — Patriot League, MAAC, AEC, MEAC, and NEC made most of the transfers — which isn’t exactly helpful for adjusting to the A-10.
It wasn’t all horrible for Bonaventure last season. For starters, Yann Farell and Daryl Banks proved themselves to be legitimate A-10 players. Banks made the all-conference third team and Farell was an all-freshman pick. Chad Venning became one of the better centers in the conference on both ends and grew from his second season at Morgan State. Kyrell Luc was a stable presence at the point guard spot. There is some silver lining in the messiness of last season, and it began with this same group spending a summer together.
All the transfers got a snapshot of the A-10. Most chemistry problems are likely to disappear from last season as there won’t be as many “let’s get to know each other” situations in this second season of the Bonaventure rebuild. Schmidt is as good of a tactician as any of the high-major coaches: he can navigate any game with any personnel and run any play he pleases. He has come a long way in his chapter at Bonaventure bringing the program back from the Jan Van Breda Kolff scandal in 2003. This is just the next renaissance of Schmidt’s career with a group poised to improve.
Returnees: Kyrell Luc, Daryl Banks, Yann Farell, Chad Venning, Moses Flowers, Barry Evans, Melanin Martinez
Out: Anouar Mellouk, Anquan Hill, Max Amadasun
In: Mika Adams-Woods, Charles Pride, Noel Brown, Miles Rose, Duane Thompson
Potential Strengths: Continuity is back on Bonaventure’s strong side after it took a year off. The returning quintet of Luc, Banks, Farrell, Venning, and Flowers is an experienced group that can score at all three levels. Banks is the unquestioned first option this season after posting 15.4 points playing just over 38 minutes a game. Luc’s speed was welcomed for a team that finished 274th in adjusted tempo (Kenpom), and while his numbers didn’t jump off the page, 11.3 points and 4.3 helpers are about as much as one could ask for given he was replacing Kyle Lofton. Flowers got off to a very rough start but proved a stable presence off the bench, averaging 12.3 points on 35% from range in the final 10 regular season games.
If you’re looking for a dominant frontcourt duo, Venning and Farell may be the best-returning duo entering this season. Venning had a career season with 12.7 points, 5.6 boards, and 1.4 rejections on 66% shooting at the rim. With less offensive expectations, Venning can put more energy into the defensive side and deter shots inside which will be crucial for Bonaventure this season. Farell turned his three-star recruiting pedigree into a productive freshman season, playing mostly small forward and hitting threes at a 42% clip. Projecting his college career is fascinating because he has so many elements of Andrew Nicholson: tall, athletic, and can do everything you ask. He doesn’t have the height Nicholson does, but a 6’6” small-ball 4 can be a real weapon if Schmidt plays more small ball.
The inside play was kind of horrendous given the only true big that Schmidt had was Venning, but he’s supplanted some of those with both the portal and in-house talent. Barry Evans will add another body off the bench and should improve his three-point shooting. Schmidt went within the conference and added former GW center Noel Brown to add more size to a team that was the third-worst rebounding team in the A-10 last year (32.8 boards per game). Melanin Martinez coming off the redshirt season should be a boost in the post, and freshman Duane Thompson will see a limited role but at minimum will be a body.
Schmidt’s portal scoops are very strong as well: Charles Pride, the fourth all-time leading scorer ever at Bryant, adds a dynamic element with his experience and scoring ability. Mika Adams-Woods could be a real impact player, possibly a starter, coming from Cincinnati who won 23 games last season. He’s a phenomenal inside scorer, as he shot 57% at the rim last year and over 36% from three while maintaining free throw percentages above 80% in his three seasons at Cincinnati (Hoop-Math). He’s also a plus defender with a career DBPM of +1.9 in four seasons in the American Athletic Conference.
Potential Weaknesses: Bonaventure’s big bodies will be fine, some of them are even proven as commodities in this conference which could be a very underrated strength with how deep the bigs are in the A-10 this season. The perimeter, however, is a bit of a different story on defense. The group is relatively small if you look at their height — Luc (5’11”), Banks (6’3”), Pride (6’4”), Adams-Woods (6’3”), Flowers (6’3”) is a relatively small backcourt. It also doesn’t help when, outside of Adams-Woods, advanced metrics aren’t exactly kind to either of these guys for their on-off defensive numbers. Luc was barely above neutral at 0.8, Flowers was at 0.6, Banks was -0.4, and Pride was -0.7 last season. They’ll be able to hold others with their speed but when teams put them in mismatch situations, it could become borderline abusive.
Per the Almanac, Schmidt admitted offense was a serious problem last season. It wasn’t fluid in any sense: team percentages were all over the place which is abnormal for the Bonnies. 70% as a team from the free-throw line, fourth in three-point percentage at 35%, but only 43% from the field overall. He also admitted to running a thinner playbook this season. Given how new all of the personnel were, it made sense as to why he wouldn’t want to confuse everyone right away. That also steered him away from one of his greatest strengths that I mentioned earlier: the ability to run any play regardless of the personnel.
Again, it is chalky to say “offense was a problem”, but that was the sole reason Bonaventure struggled last season to field a competitive core. Every facet of the offense was not up to Bonaventure’s standards: shooting, tempo, none of it. Hopefully, less turnover this season will be beneficial for their offensive improvement.
Freshmen normally don’t play under Schmidt unless they are outstanding talents. The exceptions are Nicholson, Jaylen Adams, Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, and what happened last season with Farell. Thompson is a long athlete who could grow into a solid two-way player but right now is more of a project. He reclassified to be a freshman this season so this experience at a young age can only help him. The other neophyte is Miles Rose — yes, Quinton’s little brother — who is going to have a much steeper hill to climb with the diverse guard rotation this season. While he may not be the all-timer his big brother was at Temple, he could project to be a solid piece down the road.
Outlook: Schmidt and company took a vacation year out of necessity — in all honesty, it was for the better. I do think between his capabilities as a coach and the roster he has, Bonaventure could be one of the top four teams. As I have stated in my prologue to these previews, the top four (in my forecast) each have an equal chance to cut down the nets in Brooklyn. The Bonnies will be right there; they’ve got a talented guard rotation who are elite offensively, improving bigs, and some graduate transfers that will provide leadership and more offense to a team that struggled on that side. Last season was an anomaly, but Schmidt is never to be doubted in the A-10.