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Atlantic 10 Tournament Time: Previewing the Bonnies

Before I get deep into the nitty-gritty of this tournament preview, I would like to express my condolences for St. Bonaventure President Dr. Dennis DePerro, who passed away Monday morning as a result of complications from Covid-19. Although I did not have the pleasure of personally meeting him, I have heard nothing but great things from my friends, family, and colleagues about the wonderful things he did as a person, and for St. Bonaventure University. He embodied true Franciscan values and brought the entire St. Bonaventure community to greater heights. He will truly be missed.

For the rest of the year, the Bonnies will wear a patch on their jerseys with Dr. DePerro’s initials to honor the late President. So let us hope the Bonnies can lift the community’s hearts, and put forth a valiant effort at the Atlantic 10 Tournament this week.

Let’s win this for Dr. DePerro, his family, and for everyone who unfurls the Brown and White.

Richmond Bound

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies (13-4, 11-4 Conf.) won the Atlantic 10 Regular Season Title. As a result, the Bonnies will head to Richmond, Virginia as the number one overall seed in the 2021 Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time in school history.

“Everyone has the same mentality. You’re gonna win or you’re gonna go home,” said St. Bonaventure Head Coach Mark Schmidt. “We talk to our guys all the time on how we have three or four seasons. The first is the non-conference season. Then we have the Atlantic 10 season. Then the third season is the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Everybody is zero and zero. Everybody is trying to win and move on. And that’s our mentality,” Coach added.

Bona will play either the Richmond Spiders or the Duquesne Dukes on Friday at 11 am on NBC Sports Network. Richmond and Duquesne square off on Thursday at 11 am, and the winner will advance to play the Bonnies.

“It doesn’t matter who we are going to play, they are all going to be difficult,” Coach said.

Stay tuned for my in-depth preview that will scout whatever team that wins tomorrow.

Below, you will find @SBUnfurled‘s Atlantic 10 Tournament Bracket:

Thank you @SBUnfurled for all of the great graphics this season.

Now that Wednesday’s First Round is over, we have an established field of 12 teams. Let’s hope we can finish this year’s tournament as opposed to last year’s edition.

Monday’s Loss

In the season finale on Monday, the Bonnies lost to the Dayton Flyers 55-52. When previewing this game, I wrote that the Bonnies would need to outshoot the Flyers to win. They failed to do so. Dayton shot 45.5% from the floor while St. Bonaventure went 18 of 60 from the field, which equates to 30%. The Bonnies actually made more threes than the Flyers did, but Bona shot just 29% from beyond the arc compared to Dayton’s 50%.

St. Bonaventure’s defense forced 21 Flyer turnovers, but the Flyers managed to outrebound the Bonnies 36-32.

Coach Schmidt put it simply, saying “our shots didn’t fall… [And] we had some breakdowns both offensively and defensively.”

I also think the Bonnies were a bit fatigued and sluggish in Monday night’s game. Coach Schmidt even alluded to this in his session with the media. It was St. Bonaventure’s fourth game in nine days, which included a trip to North Carolina to play at Davidson.

Thinking Big Picture

Currently, the Bonnies rank 32nd in the NET and 34th on KenPom. Dayton, meanwhile, ranks 86th in the NET and 83rd on KenPom. Since Dayton ranks below the top 75 in the NET, their win on Monday gave Bona its first Quad 3 loss of the season. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does not look too fondly at those, so the Bonnies will need to root for the Flyers to make some noise this week.  If Dayton can beat Rhode Island and then get past VCU, then the Flyers will vault up the NET rankings, which would turn that Quad 3 loss into a Quad 2 defeat.

Furthermore, if the Bonnies lose on Friday, it will be a long nine days until Selection Sunday. Especially with Duke, North Carolina, and now Michigan State all lurking around the Bubble, the Selection Committee will likely give credence to the Power Five Blue Bloods instead of the Bonnies.

On Tuesday, March 2, Joe Lunardi provided the following update on his NCAA Tournament field:

As one can see, “BONAVENTURE” is highlighted in green and slated in as a ten-seed. The green signifies that Bona has a 90% chance or higher to make the tournament.

I love those odds.

However, an early-round exit will greatly impact Bona’s chances of securing an At-Large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Winning takes care of everything and a win on Friday would likely solidify Bona’s position in the Big Dance.

Concluding Thoughts

As I wrote this week, I like the Bonnies to go all the way.

I know Jaren Holmes had a rough game against Dayton on Monday, but the Junior guard is one of the best players in the conference. He will not have another dud this weekend. He’s a resilient guy and I am confident in his ability to bounce back. After all, he shoots 43.8% from beyond the arc. He will get his fair share of buckets this week.

Osun Osunniyi is playing terrific as well. He had a huge game against the Flyers as he scored ten and snagged 15 boards. KenPom awarded Osunniyi as the game’s MVP, even though he was on the losing side. I truly believe Osunniyi is the most important player on this team. He not only needs to get more touches in the post, but he also needs to stay out of foul trouble for the Bonnies to have success this week.

Atlantic 10 Player of the Year candidate Kyle Lofton has also had a terrific season. His defense is so underrated. Over the past two weeks, he shut down three of the league’s best scorers. He currently averages 14.5 points per game (PPG) and dishes out 5.5 assists per game. He has recorded 27 assists over the past four games.

Ultimately, Coach Schmidt said, “We gotta defend, we gotta rebound, and we gotta take care of the basketball. If we do those three things, then we will be in good shape.”

Right on, Coach.

Let’s go win the whole thing for Dr. DePerro.