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Covid-19 Alters Schedule Again: Bonnies to Host George Mason Saturday

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies (8-1, 6-1 Conf.) will host the George Mason Patriots (8-6, 4-4 Conf.) on Saturday at 2 pm on CBS Sports Network.

St. Bonaventure’s original schedule pitted the Bonnies against Davidson this weekend in Charlotte, NC. Unfortunately, a member of the Davidson program tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday, which forced the Wildcats to pause team activities and quarantine.

As a result of this, the Atlantic 10 Conference had no choice but to postpone the Saturday matinee between the Bonnies and the Wildcats until further notice.

Thankfully, the conference scrambled and successfully found Bona a game. George Mason became available this weekend because their game against UMASS was postponed due to a positive test within the Minutemen program.

When asked about these schedule changes, St. Bonaventure Head Coach Mark Schmidt said, “it is what it is. It’s not perfect. No one likes it. But you just have to adjust to it. Our guys have done a good job going from one scout to another scout.”

 

Impacts of the Bona-Davidson Postponement

Before we scout the Patriots, let’s take a deeper dive into how the Davidson postponement impacts the Bonnies and the overall big picture.

Dancing Into Revenue

Since 2011, Turner Sports and CBS Sports have broadcasted every game of the NCAA Tournament. With the opportunity to showcase all 67 games, viewership increases. Furthermore, advancements in social and mobile media have allowed even more fans to watch the tournament. With a larger viewing audience, the cost of advertisements and commercials increases, which then generates even more revenue for the NCAA and its participants. Thus, making the big dance equates to big money.

Consider this piece from the Washington Post, which claims that “the NCAA keeps about 40 percent [of the revenue] and distributes the remaining 60 percent to schools.” Since this piece was written in 2014, the figures do not accurately represent the capital gains made in recent years, but the premise and percentages roughly remain the same. Thus, in 2013, according to this Washington Post article, the Atlantic 10 generated almost $20 million in revenue. 42% of that revenue, or a shade over $8 million, came directly from “the basketball fund,” which is the profit generated from the NCAA Tournament.

If you happen to subscribe to The Athletic, Dana O’Neil wrote Friday morning that “in 2019, each unit (awarded to conferences for each team that qualifies and then for each win) was worth $280,300. Virginia, [the National Champion], brought $1.96 million to the ACC.” To put it bluntly, Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few was quoted in this article in saying, “Look, the biggest revenue driver for conferences is the NCAA Tournament.”

Few’s remarks are spot on. Teams and conferences need the NCAA Tournament, especially since the 2020 edition was canceled due to Covid-19.

How This Impacted Bona in the 2012-13 Season

Back in 2012, the Bonnies made a miraculous run in Atlantic City and won the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Led by All-American Andrew Nicholson, the Bonnies secured their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2000. With the new television contracts in place, this appearance gave St. Bonaventure additional revenue for the upcoming season and beyond.

In the ensuing offseason, Coach Schmidt discussed how these resources would positively impact the program.

He used St. Bonaventure’s non-conference game at Ohio University in the fall of 2012 as an example:

The trip from Olean to Ohio University in Athens takes almost seven hours by bus, without stops. Of course, another seven hours are spent on the return trip home. On the other hand, the duration of a chartered flight from Bradford, PA (the closest airport to St. Bonaventure) to Athens, OH takes approximately 52 minutes. Teams that have larger budgets can afford to take chartered flights. Extra revenue from the NCAA Tournament expands budgets. Thus, Coach Schmidt was ecstatic that his team could afford to fly to non-conference games, such as this one, in the fall of 2012. He discussed how this would have a positive impact on the Bonaventure players so that they can spend more time studying, attending class, watching game film, and practicing instead of sitting on a Greyhound bus cramped for 14 hours there and back.

As one can see, NCAA Tournament appearances are extremely important for both the conference and each school as it provides both pride and much-needed revenue.

Why Bring This Up Now?

The scheduled game at Davidson presents St. Bonaventure with a Quad 1 opportunity. Davidson is currently ranked 66th in the NCAA NET rankings, which the Selection Committee uses to determine who qualifies for the NCAA Tournament. A Quad 1 opportunity is when a team (1) hosts a team ranked in the Top 30 of the NET, (2) faces a team on a neutral floor in the Top 50 of the NET, or (3) visits a team in the Top 75 of the NET. Since St. Bonaventure was supposed to travel to Charlotte, this game, if the Bonnies were to prevail, would count as a Quad 1 victory. The Committee prioritizes Quad 1 victories when comparing different tournament resumes.

This game at Davidson is of utmost importance considering Bonaventure’s non-conference slate was drastically reduced by Covid-19. The Bonnies played only two non-conference games instead of the usual 12 or 13. Bonaventure played Akron in Cleveland and hosted Hofstra at the Reilly Center in mid-December. For what it’s worth, Akron ranks 112th in the NET while Hofstra sits at 166th. Those two victories alone will not help Bona’s tournament chances come Selection Sunday.

Thus, the Bonnies have a tough road to get an at-large bid this season, as their opportunities for Quad 1 opponents remain limited compared to Power Five schools. As I wrote on Monday, St. Bona needs to win at least three of the following five games to have a chance to dance: at Davidson, at St. Louis, vs. St. Louis, vs. Richmond, and vs. Dayton.

The problem right now with those five games is that only one of them is set in stone on the schedule: when the Dayton Flyers take on the Bonnies in Olean on February 28. Thus, for the sake of finances, the Atlantic 10 needs to schedule those five games for the Bonnies, even if that means scrapping a game against the likes of LaSalle or George Washington.

St. Bonaventure needs to play Davidson; rescheduling this game is very important for the conference.

If Bona goes to the tournament, the entire conference reaps the rewards. Hence why the Atlantic 10, and every coach, player, and fan, wants to have multiple NCAA Tournament bids annually.

 

Now Let’s Talk George Mason

Like the Bonnies, George Mason has not played since last Saturday. So both teams come into this contest well-rested. The Patriots have won two in a row, both of which came against St. Joseph’s. Mason also defeated LaSalle and UMASS thus far in conference play.

Both teams are very physical and do a good job cleaning up on the glass.

Coach Schmidt alluded to this during his Friday press conference: “[George Mason is] a very physical team, a very big team, and a very good rebounding team, they try to get the ball inside to the post. I think we’re third in the league in rebounding while [George Mason is] fourth. [George Mason Head] Coach [Dave] Paulsen does a really good job with them.”

Solid Starting Five

Even though Bona holds a 4-1 record over George Mason since 2019, the Bonnies should not overlook the five Patriots that will start for Coach Paulsen.

In the backcourt, guards Jordan Miller and Javon Greene average 15.7 and 11.3 points per game (PPG), respectively.

Miller, a native of Middleburg, VA, stands at 6’6″ and leads the team in scoring. He has the potential to heat up, and he could serve as what Coach Schmidt called a “tough matchup” for the Bonnies since his height is tall for a guard.

Coach Schmidt had high praise for Miller: “He plays a three-four [combo guard]. He can play with his back to the basket. [Mason does] a lot of stuff where they get their guys eight-to-ten feet off the block and they face up and play one-on-one, and he’s really a good one-on-one player. He can shoot the ball from the perimeter, he has good size and has a good nose for the ball. He’s a good rebounder. He’s leading their team because he is a really good player. He can score in a lot of different ways.”

In fact, over his last three games, Jordan Miller is averaging 19.0 PPG.

Javon Greene can also heat up like a microwave as he led Mason in scoring a season ago. Greene, the 6’2″ Senior from McDonough, GA, exploded for 25 points in the first of two straight victories against St. Joe’s last week.

Coach Schmidt discussed how Greene “had a couple of 30 point games” last season. He went on to say that “[Greene] can really score. He has a really quick first step. He’s got a really good stroke and he plays really hard. He’s explosive. He is shooting the ball better as the season goes along. He’s a good player and experienced.”

Javon Greene, who dons the number 23 for George Mason, recorded his 1,000th career point against LaSalle on January 13, 2021. Photo courtesy of GoMason.com

Although he has been solid throughout his tenure as a Patriot, Greene has struggled against the Bonnies. In his six games against Bona, Greene has scored only 7.2 PPG and has shot a paltry 16 of 47 from the field. Perhaps these struggles will provide him with some extra motivation come Saturday afternoon.

Forwards AJ Wilson and Josh Oduro have the potential to disrupt the Bonnies inside with their physical play.

AJ Wilson, the Redshirt Senior from Laurel, MD who averages 9.4 PPG and 5.3 rebounds per game, sustained a shoulder injury against St. Joe’s last Saturday. He will play, but likely in a limited role. Wilson is actually just one block away from recording 200 for his career.

Meanwhile, Oduro, the Sophomore who is the tallest Patriot at 6’9″, has scored in double figures in three of the past four games. He has also snagged 12 offensive rebounds over the last two games.

Rounding out the starting five is guard Tyler Kolek, a freshman who averages 10.6 PPG. He actually plays better on the road, as he averages 14.3 PPG and shoots 39.3% from three while playing away from home.

Poor Shooting Team

George Mason and St. Bonaventure share a commonality in that both teams shoot the ball poorly from beyond the arc. According to KenPom, Mason hits 31.4% of their shots from downtown, which is good for 253rd in the country.

Furthermore, Mason struggles from the charity stripe, as the Patriots shoot a brutal 62.5% from the free-throw line. Only one player shoots his free throws at a clip of 80% or higher, and that is Junior guard Jamal Hartwell who comes off the bench. Hartwell is 10 of 12 from the line so far this season.

Since Mason struggles from deep, the Patriots look to create offense inside the 3-point line. In fact, George Mason now ranks third in the conference in having 57% of their points come from inside the arc during Atlantic 10 play.

Perhaps we see some zone defense from St. Bonaventure tomorrow since Mason struggles from three. Coach Schmidt has implored both 2-3 and 1-3-1 zones in the past to lock down the paint.

 

How Can The Bonnies Win?

The St. Bonaventure Bonnies have not lost yet in 2021. A win over George Mason on Saturday will extend Bona’s winning streak to seven in a row.

To beat the Patriots, the Bonnies will have to (1) continue to play great defense and (2) find a groove offensively.

Keep Playing Great Defense

Through nine games, St. Bonaventure has only given up 60.7 PPG, the lowest in the conference and good for 12th in the nation. The Bonnies have been a defensive juggernaut and no Atlantic 10 team has scored more than 66 points against them during conference play. Bona has allowed its opponent to score more than 70 points only once, and that was in the season opener against Akron on December 15.

Of course, to keep Mason from scoring in bunches, Bona needs to stay out of foul trouble. Even though Mason struggles from the line, Coach Schmidt cannot afford his players, notably forward Osun Osunniyi, to rack up fouls.

As I have said before, Osunniyi is the most important player for Bona. His vision is remarkable for a big man and he anchors the Bona defense. He leads the team in rebounds, averaging nine per game. He also averages 2.2 blocks per game. In fact, Osunniyi has 33 career games in which he has recorded three or more blocks. If you watch Osunniyi, he comes close to blocking almost every shot in the paint. His defensive positioning so far has been superb, albeit in the first half against VCU. He’ll need to hold his ground against Mason as the Patriots will surely look to attack him inside.

Furthermore, St. Bonaventure’s perimeter defense ranks among the best in the country. Bonaventure allows its opponents to shoot only 27.8% from beyond the arc, which is good for 12th in the country. Despite Mason shooting the ball poorly from deep, Bona still needs to bear down on the perimeter, disrupt the passing lanes, and keep Mason’s shooters from getting open looks. After all, four of Mason’s five starters shoot at least 30% from three.

Score 70 Points and Find a Groove on Offense

The Bonnies have exceeded the 70-point mark only four times this season, and they are 4-0 in those games. The hallmark of this team is its defense, not its offense.

This is ironic given that Coach Schmidt is an offensive guru. Some college basketball pundits label him as one of the best X’s and O’s coaches in America. He also wants his teams to push the pace and try and get a shot up within the first 12 seconds of the shot clock.

Even though the Bonnies have not scored a lot of points, all five starters average close to ten points or more per game. The only starter that does not is forward Osun Osunniyi, who averages 9.7 PPG. The Bonnies have done a tremendous job so far sharing the wealth, looking for the open man, and taking turns as the lead scorer.

For instance, Junior guard Jaren Holmes exploded for 38 against St. Joe’s on January 6. Then Lofton dropped 28 in a Friday night game against Duquesne on January 15. And, Junior guard Dominick Welch, after failing to score a single point in that game against the Dukes, has averaged 16.5 PPG in the two victories over VCU and at Duquesne last week.

Even Guard Jalen Adaway, who has started every game this season but one, shot 11 of 12 from the field in the game against St. Joe’s and finished with a career-high 24 points. The redshirt Junior has been terrific through nine games for Coach Schmidt.

If multiple Bonnies can get good, clean looks, then scoring 70 points should not be an issue. The offensive issues so far have been due to each player scoring inconsistently.

As Chuckie Maggio wrote on Thursday, St. Bonaventure’s offense is far from its peak. He discusses how Lofton, who shot 33% from deep in his first two seasons, has made only three longballs so far this season. He’s due to erupt from downtown.

Since George Mason is not a great defensive team, this game serves as an opportunity for multiple Bonnies to find their touch. If they can reach the 70 point mark for the fifth time this season, they should win their seventh game in a row.

 

Prediction

Both teams have had a week off and both teams have had their schedules altered due to Covid-19. Nonetheless, the Bonnies are due to explode offensively as they did against St. Joe’s a few weeks ago. In that game, Bona eclipsed the 80 point mark for the first time this season and dished out 27 assists on 32 made field goals.

Mark Schmidt is 9-1 against Mason and the Patriots are an average defensive team at best.

Furthermore, if the Bonnies lose this game, then their chances at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament are all but gone as Mason ranks 146th on KenPom and 163rd in the NET.

I envision multiple Bonnies getting hot on Saturday afternoon and keeping their at-large bid alive. I predict the Bonnies to shut down George Mason by a score of 79 to 64.

Unfurl.

 

 

 

Lead image photo courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics.