ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – Although we are still four months away from the beginning of the season, the non-conference schedule for the St. Bonaventure Bonnies is shaping up nicely.
Even though an official schedule has yet to be released, numerous games have been announced.
The Bonnies will kick the 2022-23 season off by hosting St. Francis (PA) on Monday, Nov. 7.
“We really wanted to get a home opener,” said Matt Pappano, who is the Director of Operations for the men’s basketball team at St. Bonaventure. “We feel that those games are very important. I know those guys over at St. Francis pretty well. We have played them a couple of times in the past and we are excited to play them again.”
The Bonnies were supposed to open up the 2020-21 campaign against St. Francis, but a COVID-19 outbreak within the Red Flash program canceled that game just hours before tip-off.
The Gotham Classic
On Friday, Nov. 25, the Bonnies will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as a part of the Gotham Classic. These two Catholic schools will play at the new UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, which is now the home of the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Last season, St. Johns squared off against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden in the 2021 Gotham Classic.
The original plan was for St. Bonaventure and Notre Dame to play at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
But Madison Square Garden could not host this year’s game due to scheduling conflicts.
Thus, the Bonnies and the Fighting Irish will square off at “The Stable,” which is the new nickname given for UBS Arena since it is directly adjacent to Belmont Park.
“To be in New York City and play a team of Notre Dame’s caliber, at a brand-new arena, is huge for us,” Pappano added. “We are very grateful for Notre Dame for including us in their schedule. Schools like that have to [approve] us and Notre Dame understands the value that we bring [as a program] to their schedule, so we are very happy for that.”
The Irish finished last season with a 24-11 record and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.
As a part of the Gotham Classic, the Bonnies will host two games at the Reilly Center before the tilt against Notre Dame.
According to Rocco Miller, Bona will host Bowling Green and Southern Indiana for the Gotham Classic campus games.
Bowling Green last visited the Reilly Center on Nov. 15, 1997, and lost to the Bonnies 71-to-63.
Meanwhile, Southern Indiana makes the leap from Division II to Division I for the 2022-23 season. Even though they are the new kids on the block, the Eagles of Southern Indiana are no slouch. In an exhibition game at Auburn last season, Southern Indiana faced only a two-point halftime deficit—only to lose by 14 points. The Eagles finished the 2021-22 season with an 18-8 record.
Back in the New York Groove
The Bonnies return to the Big Apple on Dec. 11, when they take on the Iona Gaels at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
These two teams have faced off 16 times before, but have not played each other since Dec. 14, 2013. The Bonnies defeated the Gaels in New Rochelle that day, 102-to-89. Andell Cumberbatch and Dion Wright each eclipsed the 20-point mark in that game.
Over the last few seasons, Iona has become of the premier mid-major programs in the country thanks to their Hall of Fame head coach, Rick Pitino.
The last time Pitino faced a St. Bonaventure team was on Feb. 16, 1983, when he was coaching at Boston University. The Bonnies prevailed on that Wednesday evening in the Reilly Center, 67-to-61.
St. Bonaventure will play in Buffalo twice this year.
“We owe Buffalo a game,” Pappano said. “Buffalo has become a pretty big rival as of late with some pretty high-level games since Coach Oats and Coach Whitesell have been there. [The Bulls] have had some turnover like us, but they are bringing some transfers in, and I expect another tough game at Alumni Arena.”
The Bonnies last won at Alumni Arena in 2017, when Matt Mobley led Bona to a 73-to-62 victory.
Of course, last year, Jalen Adaway hit one of the biggest shots of the season against Buffalo:
— Bonnies Men's Basketball (@BonniesMBB) December 4, 2021
The Bonnies and the Bulls have played some terrific games over the last decade. Their next tilt on Saturday, Dec. 3 will not disappoint.
In addition to playing at Buffalo, the Bonnies will play at Canisius.
“They came to the Reilly Center last year,” Pappano said. “So this year we are going up to Buffalo to play them at the Koessler Center.”
Since 2000, the Bonnies have played at Canisius on nine occasions. The Brown and White have prevailed just twice.
“Everyone has their own opinions about playing against Canisius in their gym but personally, I think it’s great,” Pappano added. “The tradition and history are amazing. This is one of the longest-running games in college basketball. It’s not my say, but for however long I am here, I am going to keep pushing to play them. We respect their program and we have had good games against them.
“For me personally, I think it is really cool to go to [the Koessler Center]. It is a small and intimate atmosphere. And there is always a ton of Bona support–and probably more Bona fans sometimes.”
But for the third straight season, a traditional Little Three opponent will be left off the schedule.
“We, unfortunately, will not be playing Niagara again this year,” Pappano noted. “We do anticipate playing them again in ’23. Unfortunately, the COVID stuff screwed up some balance stuff with the schedule, so we have had to take a couple of years off from Niagara. But, these games will happen again in the future. They will come to our gym. We will go to [the Gallagher Center.] The home-and-homes will happen every year.”
Although the Bonnies will not face Niagara, they will square off against Siena in the Franciscan Cup.
Last season, Bona rallied from an early deficit to storm past the Saints in the season opener at the Reilly Center. This year, the Bonnies will look to retain the Franciscan Cup at the MVP Arena in Albany.
Going to the Great Plains… Twice
The Bonnies have never played in South Dakota before.
That will change on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
For the first time in program history, St. Bonaventure will square off against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits.
The Bonnies and the Jackrabbits will play at the Sanford Pentagon, which is a 3,200-seat arena located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
South Dakota State finished the 2021-22 campaign with a record of 30-5 and went undefeated in Summit League play. They were a popular Cinderella pick in the 2022 NCAA Tournament—they made more three-pointers than any other team a season ago—but they were upended by the Providence Friars in the First Round.
Baylor Scheierman, who averaged 16.2 points per game and was named 2021-22 Summit League Player of the Year, will not be returning to South Dakota State. He now plays for the Creighton Blue Jays.
But Scheierman’s departure should not diminish this South Dakota State team. The Jackrabbits run terrific sets in Coach Eric Henderson’s system and will be vying for a spot in the NCAA Tournament once again in 2023.
Right before Christmas, the Bonnies return to the Great Plains for one of their final non-conference games.
They will play in the Hawkeye State, where they will face off against Northern Iowa on Thursday, Dec. 22.
“We owe Northern Iowa a game,” Pappano mentioned. “We scheduled that game last season, and we were looking for a Quad 2-type series. We all know what happened last year as [the Panthers] are very well coached and have high-level players. We saw live what one of those guys can do in the Reilly Center. But it’s a good series for us.
“It was a great game and atmosphere, and we expect the same thing this year [in Iowa.] Both rosters will look a little differently than they did last November, but these are two very good mid-major-plus type programs and we are looking forward to that return.”
Bonnies fans will remember the name AJ Green for years to come. Last season, Green scored 35 points and led his Panthers to an upset victory at the Reilly Center.
Green’s father, Kevin, is the Associate Head Coach at Iowa State, which is where former Bonnies Jaren Holmes and Osun Osunniyi will lace up their sneakers this season.
Middle Tennessee State
Remember that game at Middle Tennessee State? The one that was impossible to watch due to the poor graphics?
That seems like a decade ago.
Despite a sluggish start, the Bonnies prevailed 66-to-65 in that December 2019 game against the Blue Raiders. Dom Welch hit a wild jumper with 10 seconds to go, which extended the Bona winning streak to seven games at the time.
Three years later, Middle Tennessee State will make the return trip to the Reilly Center.
A date for this game has yet to be announced.
“COVID paused our series [with MTSU] one year, and then last season, we mutually agreed to push the game back a season,” Pappano said. “So we are finally finishing up that series this year at the Reilly Center. The Blue Raiders had a really good season last year and with a lot of guys back, we are expecting another tough game. I think they will be a good opponent for us.”
After winning just 13 games combined in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Coach Nick Mavett has turned the Blue Raider program around.
His Middle Tennessee squad finished the 2021-22 season with a 26-11 record and lost to UAB in the Conference USA Semifinals.
The timing of this game makes sense.
It would occur four days after the season opener, and four days before the South Dakota State matchup in Sioux Falls.
But according to @SBUnfurled, this game in Philadelphia is not happening:
Update: a source tells me the game against UAB in Philly is *not* happening, despite earlier reports. I can confirm that Bowling Green and Southern Indiana will be coming to the Reilly Center.
— SBUnfurled (@SBUnfurled) July 13, 2022
The Bonnies are not scheduled to play at either La Salle or St. Joseph’s during Atlantic 10 play this season, which would mark the first time in three decades that the Bonnies skip out on Philadelphia.
So a neutral site matchup against a solid mid-major program like UAB would make sense. Especially considering that the Bonnies have always had tremendous support in the City of Brotherly Love.
But right now, despite conflicting reports, this game is a rumor. Perhaps it happens. Perhaps it does not. For what it is worth, however, the other game reportedly scheduled in Philadelphia for that day–Akron versus Mississippi State–is 100% confirmed.
The Bonnies 2022-23 non-conference schedule is almost complete.
“We are looking to finalize one more game,” Pappano said. “We finalized two games last week so we are down to just one.”
St. Bonaventure is in a rather precarious position when it comes to non-conference scheduling.
Their NET ranking over the past few years has improved to a point where big-time programs want to avoid the Bonnies, because they are afraid of losing. With that said, many teams still want to play the Bonnies as they improve a team’s overall stature.
Plus, the support from Bona fans is second to none. Just look at how St. Bonaventure took over the city of Charleston last November for the Charleston Classic.
Nonetheless, the Bonnies still face scheduling obstacles.
“It is hard for us to get home-and-homes with high-majors or Big East type programs because they do not want to come to the Reilly Center,” Pappano added. “The reputation of the atmosphere is known, it is a tough place to play, and it is a tough place to travel to. Teams also do not want to bring us to their home floor because there is always the potential to lose games at home.
“With losing pretty much our whole roster, we have had trouble filling up our schedule and getting teams to play us.”
All things considered, St. Bonaventure has an impressive non-conference schedule in place. No, it is not as formidable as the 2021-22 non-conference schedule that saw the Bonnies play in Charleston, Newark, and Charlotte against big-time programs. But there are some solid teams on this year’s docket, as noted above.
They still have one more game to fill, however, and once that is finalized, the program will likely announce the entire 2022-23 non-conference slate.
“We want that game to be at home,” Pappano said. “It will likely be a home-and-home, with us returning to that school in ’23. Having said that, we can get creative and do something else, but that is what we are aiming to do.”
Jack Milko received his B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. He is now working to get his M.A. in Sports Journalism from St. Bonaventure University and also covers the Bonnies for @A10Talk. Follow him on Twitter for more Bonnies coverage at @Jack_Milko.