We knew the Bonnies weren’t winning 26 games again this year. Well, at least the realistic fans did. Graduating Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, and Idris Taquee in the same year inevitably leads to a lesser team. Isaiah Brockington transferring didn’t help either.
But the Bonnies did well in the recruiting pool, securing four talented freshmen, three of whom are starters. They also returned LaDarrien Griffin, the A-10’s most improved player in 2018, and Courtney Stockard, the hero who vanquished UCLA last March. No one really knew where to place the Bonnies coming into the season. The A-10’s coaches settled on 9th. Now, after a 4-9 non-conference record, the Bonnies sit at 7-5, good for 7th in the A-10, and are favored in five of their remaining six contests according to Kenpom.
Not surprisingly, the metrics are supportive of the Bonnies defense. It ranks 76th nationally and is 3rd in the A10 in overall efficiency. The emergence of Osun Osunniyi and his 7’8″ wingspan has helped force opponents away from the basket and has led the freshman to 62 blocks (on pace for 80, which would place him 4th all-time for blocks in a season by a Bonnie). Courtney Stockard and LaDarrien Griffin are both underrated defenders, using their length to force turnovers and snag boards. Kyle Lofton has quick hands and feet (and has often guarded the opposing team’s best player) and Dom Welch has proven to be a better than expected rebounder.
The offense has been a different story. Before the games this week, they were connecting on only 31% of three-point attempts and went a staggering 3-35 (8.5%) from deep during the Duquesne and VCU games. Almost as staggering for this offensively challenged team, since the VCU debacle, they’re shooting 19-38 (50%) from three. Overall, the Bonnies offense still ranks 237th nationally, and it’s impossible for them to knock down half of their threes for the remainder of the season.
What’s not impossible though, is that Mark Schmidt, now the only coach in Bonaventure history to eclipse 202 wins, has this bunch playing their best basketball in February and March. In 2012, the Bonnies couldn’t even sniff the NCAA tournament before Andrew Nicholson led the team to a magical run in Atlantic City to capture the A10 Tournament crown. In 2014, they managed to knock off a top-25 Saint Louis team in Brooklyn to get to the semi-finals. in 2016 they won 10 out of their final 11, and in 2018 they won 13 in a row after a 2-4 start to get an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
They’re currently sitting in 7th place, but are only 1.5 games out of third. With their next four games being La Salle (Home), Fordham (Away), Duquesne (Home), and George Washington (Away), would it shock it you if they ran off four more in a row? Kenpom projects them to win 4 of their remaining six contests, which would put them at 11-7, good for fifth place. Given that George Mason, Saint Louis, and Duquesne all have more difficult remaining schedules, the Bonnies are very much in the conversation for a double-bye position. If the team we saw this past week is a new reality and not an aberration, this squad, composed primarily of three youngsters and two battle-tested veterans, is one no A-10 team would want to face.
Does this mean I think the Bonnies will win the A10 Tournament? No, but don’t be surprised if we’re sitting here on a Saturday in March wondering how the heck this team that started out 4-9 is still alive.