Well Bona faithful, not the start we were hoping for. After being considered a future NCAA at-large team and recieving votes in the AP and Coaches polls a little over a week ago, the Bonnies find themselves in the bottom half of the conference at 2-3. Their at-large hopes are gone, and many fans are scratching their heads wondering how such a promising start turned terrible so quickly. I’ll try to give a few reasons why I think this tough stretch has happened.
Topics that I will not discuss (even though I agree with them) in this column because they’ve already been exhausted by me or others and were relevant before the Bonnies started playing poorly:
1.) Jaylen Adams Disappearing
2.) Matt Mobley’s inconsistency
4.) Josh Ayeni adds nothing
5.) Did you know Courtney Stockard had his jersey stolen? (Seriously, this was well over a month ago)
The Bonnies Defensive Effort is Nonexistent
In their past 5 games, the Bonnies have given up 78, 82, 85, 61, and 87. The 61 came against Fordham, who according to Kenpom, has the 325th best offense in the country. At one point this season, the Bonnies’ defense was ranked in the top 30. Now, teams are scoring at will against them. What happened? It’s really hard to point to one thing as the exact cause, but it starts with effort. The Bonnies didn’t want to win as badly as Dayton and St. Joseph’s did. Lazy defense is bad defense. And the Bonnies have been flat since at least the UMass game. The defense that gritted out one of the ugliest and simultaneously most beautiful wins I’ve ever seen against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, without making a basket for over 12 minutes, needs to find its heart to return the Bonnies to their winning ways.
Schmidt is Getting Out-Coached
Schmidt has always reiterated the importance of the first five minutes of the second half. How you start after half can make or break you. And great coaches usually have their teams firing out of the gate in the second half, with a revised gameplan if something was awry in the first half. I think Schmidt is a great coach. I have always defended him, even when he’s made decisions I disagree with. But he hasn’t been great these last four games. He’s been out coached in all three of their losses. I really don’t care what the final scores have been, but all three were blowouts. Trying to save face with five decent minutes at the end of the game after playing 35 horrible minutes means nothing. The losses to Dayton and Saint Joseph’s were closer than the final score indicated. Schmidt can’t make shots or play defense for the Bonnies, but he has to take at least part of the blame for the Bonnies’ lackluster efforts at the start of conference play.
Does it Make Sense to Shoot the Mid-Range Jumper?
One thing that Bonnies do a ton of is shoot mid-range J’s. The problem, is that most players aren’t mid-range shooters. I really like Stockard and Griffin, but neither of them should be looking for those shots. Stockard is a drive first scorer, and LaDarrien should almost never take a shot that isn’t a dunk. It’s never a good possession when Taquee takes a mid-ranger early in the shot clock, and Ayeni has lost a little of his touch from the elbow that kept him on the floor during his freshman season. It’s nice to space the floor and all, but in today’s game, it makes sense to take most of your shots from under the hoop or behind the arc unless the jumper is wide open.
Carelessness on Offense
Good teams can pick apart defenses with sharp passing, sound dribbling, and body control around the hoop. The Bonnies have done none of that lately. Yes, they only turned the ball over eight times against a very good Rhode Island defense, but five charging fouls is not acceptable. Rhody abused the tendency that some players have to drive with their head down and to lower their shoulder. This definitely wasn’t the reason they lost to Rhode Island, but it makes it really hard to get momentum when you’re committing charges, or turning the ball over 18 times like we did against Dayton.
It’s Hard to Win in the A10
This was something all Bonnies fans feared entering A-10 play. The A-10 is having a down year, as almost every team failed to pick up a quality non-conference win, but there are no guaranteed wins in this league. Dayton, St. Joseph’s, and Rhody are tough programs to beat, especially on the road. In most seasons, I would look at these first five games and rationalize that the worst is out of the way. While this is true, after the Davidson game next week the Bonnies schedule softens, the Bonnies couldn’t afford to lose all three of those games. At this point, I would be thrilled if the Bonnies could scrounge up 12-6 considering they still have to play Davidson twice, VCU on the road, and Rhode Island at the end of the season. The rest of this season is about one thing to me. Getting ready to play in Washington.