Last Wednesday, the Bonnies played host to St. Joseph’s, in which they defeated the Hawks by 26. St. Bonaventure has yet to play since. Due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the George Washington program, the game scheduled for this past Saturday between the Bonnies and the Colonials was postponed.
Instead of playing a game Saturday, St. Bonaventure Head Coach Mark Schmidt gave his team the day off. The Bonnies then practiced Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in order to prepare for the game against the Fordham Rams tomorrow at 2pm on ESPN+.
When asked what the team has been focused on over the past few days, Schmidt said the following: “We’re just trying to get better in all our areas. Trying to get better chemistry. Getting guys more reps. We had an extra day of practice and we are just trying to improve. We’re not near where we need to be. We had a couple of good practices, and I think [the extra practices] were beneficial for us.”
Especially in the Covid-19 world, and given the fact that Bonaventure had to quarantine earlier in the year, these extra practices should help the Bonnies immensely this week. After Bona plays in the Bronx against Fordham tomorrow afternoon, they have to quickly turnaround and host Duquense on Friday Night at the Reilly Center.
Scouting the Fordham Rams
The Fordham Rams have struggled so far this season for a few different reasons. First and foremost, Fordham’s entire non-conference schedule was scratched because the team had to quarantine for 46 days. This long layoff clearly disrupts a team’s chemistry and stamina.
In Fordham’s first game of the season, on December 30, against George Washington, the Colonials throttled the Rams 71-47. The Rams have yet to score more than 55 points in a game thus far, and have only scored more than 50 in two of their four games played.
Furthermore, the Rams have only two players who average more than ten points per game: Sophomore Guard Chris Austin scores 11.5 PPG and Junior Forward Joel Soriano contributes 10.5 PPG. As a team, the Rams have shot only 32.9% from the field and 21.0% from beyond the arc.
According to KenPom, Fordham ranks 341st in the country in offensive efficiency, but that should not mean the Bonnies should chalk this one up as a pre-mature victory.
Look no further than last Tuesday night in the Bronx, when the Rams upset the Dayton Flyers 55-54. Chris Austin scored 20 points for Fordham, while forcing Dayton to commit 17 turnovers and shoot an abysmal 4 of 23 from three.
ICYMI: Last night Chris Austin called GAME!#BelieveInUs pic.twitter.com/G2drXt3lP4
— Fordham Basketball (@FordhamMBB) January 6, 2021
Despite their 1-3 record, Fordham ranks in the Top 50 in an important advanced defensive metric: on 22.5% of their defensive possessions, the Rams force a turnover. The Rams also force a steal on 11.4% of their defensive possessions.
Coach Schmidt called the Rams “pesky.” He discussed more on what this means:
“I think, one thing, if you look at a team [and how hard they play], its a reflection of their coach. [The Rams] may struggle offensively, and a lot of teams would put their heads down, and go ‘man I am not scoring, I am not gonna play’ but these kids really play. They play for [Coach Jeff Neubauer]. They play hard as heck. They’re very good defensively. [Joel] Severino causes problems inside. They take a zillion charges. They are just hard-nosed, blue-collar kids. Beating Dayton [last week] and having a great chance of beating Duquense [this past weekend], we know this is going to be a very difficult game. They understand who they are. They play awfully hard.”
Last time these two teams played, the Rams took the Bonnies to overtime. It certainly can happen again tomorrow afternoon. Schmidt reiterated over and over that the Bonnies will not overlook this Fordham team:
“We struggle at Fordham. It went into Overtime last year. I have said it over and over again, any given day, anybody can win. We understand that this is a really difficult game, and we need to play well enough to win by 1. This is not an overlook game.” “We are not gonna lose this game because we underestimated Fordham. We may lose, but it will not be because of that. Fordham has our attention.”
Keys for the Bonnies
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Bonnies have an 86.5% chance of winning tomorrow at Rose Hill. In order to secure the victory, the Bonnies have to do two things to avoid the upset: (1) shoot 40% from the field, and (2) shy away from turnovers.
Shoot 40% from the Field
Throughout the last few years, Coach Schmidt has emphasized the need for his team to push the pace and get a good look within the first 12 seconds of the shot clock. Given that Fordham’s strength is its defense, the Bonnies need to get down the floor before Fordham can set up defensively. If they can do this, then St. Bonaventure should get good looks, which would pave the way for the Bonnies to shoot 40% or more from the field.
As soon as St. Bonaventure gets into their offense, they should look for a pick-and-pop three with either Junior Guard Dom Welch or Junior Guard Jaren Holmes. Both of these guys have the ability to make it rain. Holmes had 38 last week against St. Joe’s and Welch had 22 in the over time victory against Fordham last year.
Another option on offense resides down low with Junior Forward Osun Osunniyi. The 6’10, 220 lbs forward has averaged 12.2 PPG in shooting 47.2% from the field to this point. He also has great vision as he has the potential to emerge as the conference’s best passing big-man. Bona should look to get the ball down low to Osun early in the shot clock, if he has a good look, he should take it. If he does not have an immediate look at the basket, he should fire it back out to Lofton, Welch, or Holmes.
In Bona’s last two games, against St. Joe’s and Richmond, the Bonnies have shot over 40% from the field. They won both games. If they can keep this trend rolling, the Brown and White should beat the Rams tomorrow.
Considering Fordham forces turnovers almost a fourth of the time, the Bonnies must take good care of the basketball tomorrow. Obviously, turning the ball over limits opportunities from scoring. Against Rhode Island, Bona’s only loss thus far, the Bonnies committed 20 turnovers. Other factors attributed to that loss, such as shooting four of ten from the charity stripe, but gifting Rhody the ball on 20 occassions must have made Schmidt’s head spin.
In fact, St. Bonaventure turns the ball over 17% of the time, good for 65th in the country, according to KenPom. For the sake of perspective, the Division I average is 19.4%.
Nonetheless, if the Bonnies can continue to limit their turnovers tomorrow, they will have no issues.
With a week of solid practice and no games played, the Bonnies will be well-rested against Fordham tomorrow. The Rams have played two highly contested and emotional games against Dayton and Duquense over the course of the last week. These types of games tend to wear a team down. Due to the fact that Fordham had to start its season so late, the Rams likely do not have their legs under them like they would under normal circumstances. Thus, I am picking the Bonnies to win 66 to 52 in the Bronx tomorrow afternoon.