Honestly, the Bonnies’ 2016-17 season was about as average as one could expect. The team pretty much won all the conference games it should have, didn’t really pull an upset in A-10 play, and with the exception of a few head-scratching losses, did very decent in non-conference play. St. Bonaventure would lose to Rhode Island int he 2nd round of the A-10 Tournament, and with a 20-12 record, that’d be it for Schmidt’s club. The Bonnies don’t want decency, though. This year, Adams, Mobley, and others are back, and they want to go dancing.
There’s not much to be said outside of what everyone already knows. I’d be surprised if Adams didn’t end up A-10 POY come March 2018. The Bonnies’ point guard has been getting progressively better every season, punctuated by 20.6 points and 6.5 assists per game in 2016-17. Peyton Aldridge is going to give him a run for his money, but Adams’ dominance should give the Bonnies a chance at an NCAA Tournament berth. Look for improved defense as well as star-powered offense, as Adams jumped 0.8 steals per game sophomore to junior year.
Robin to Adams’ Batman, or the other way around? Yes, all of the talk surround Jaylen Adams heading into the season, but could Matt Mobley be the best Bonnie on the court in 2017-18? He was the most utilized player in the nation in terms of % of minutes played, and he utilized those minutes well. Scoring 18.5 points and grabbing 5.8 rebounds per contest, Mobley was one of the biggest new faces in the A-10 last season. Now, he’ll be part of one of the best backcourts in the nation; seriously, this two-guard set it going to be absolutely lethal.
The senior has been and will continue to serve as an integral piece to the Bonnies’ program. Averaging 6.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2016-17, Taqqee was crucial in getting the Bonnies second chance points. He had 21 offensive boards in his last 7 games. Defensively, he’s been Bona’s best player with block and steal percentages that ranked top 25 in the Atlantic 10 last season. Taqqee will continue to serve as a role player in St. Bonaventure’s rotation, though his contributions won’t always show up in the PPG.
Injury has plagued Courtney Stockard the past few seasons at St. Bonaventure. Finally though, he’s ready to take the floor as a rotational player in Schmidt’s system. The JUCO transfer’s got the body to be a force on the wing: an area where the Bonnies seem to have a good amount of depth. Should he stay healthy, I could see Stockard averaging 8-10 PPG either off the bench or as a starter at the 3 or 4.
Obviously, Kaputo’s going to be playing back up to Adams and Mobley, but those 2 can’t play every single minute. Kaputo’s contributions will be vital when the stud backcourt duo needs to rest. The junior should see some more opportunities this year, but additions of guys like Brockington could keep him under 10 MPG. Kaputo shot 43.5% from deep last season, so could he become a role player as a three point shooter?
Griffin’s got strides to make if he wants to become more of a consistent option in Schmidt’s rotation. Averaging just 12.3 minutes per game last year, Griffin averaged less than 3 points and 3 rebounds per contest. With somewhat of a thin frontcourt, we could see Griffin fill a hole at the 4, especially with his capability on the boards. The junior shot 54.7% from 2 last season, so he’s beginning to prove that he can be at least be efficient.
Averaging 14.6 points and 8.4 boards at the JUCO level, it seems Gueye could add to St. Bonaventure’s rebounding ability. He was also a promising 63.4% from the floor at Kilgore College. At 6-10, he’ll add depth to a Bonnies frontcourt that’s going to need all the help it can get. Gueye’s still got to get healthy before the start of the season, but when he does, expect him to see a lot of playing time down in the post.
I’m very high on Ayeni heading into 2017-18; I think the sophomore’s got a chance to be the most improved Bonnie this season. We saw him score in double digits 6 times in conference play including his best performance: a 16 point, 7 rebound night against Fordham. This is essentially “Ayeni’s frontcourt” this year, so a lot of Bona’s success will rely on his contributions at the 4 or 5. Free throw shooting is also something to keep an eye on, as the freshman knocked down nearly 80% of his attempts last season.
As a freshman, Ikpeze played a very limited role in the Bonnies’ frontcourt; expect that to change without Gregg or Andoh in the mix. The freshman was solid on the defensive glass, but 10.5 fouls per 40 minutes is a serious concern. Bottom line: Ikpeze needs to stay out of foul trouble, or Bona will be struggling with depth at the 5.
A late add to the Bonnies’ roster, Brockington could be a freshman sleeper in the Atlantic 10. He appears to bring athleticism and scoring ability to this year’s roster, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a role player off the bench in his first season. Brockington could be a nice substitution when Mobley and Adams need rest.
The Bona Blog so kindly pointed out that he’ll be referred to as “Chef” this year, which makes typing his name much less of a burden. Here’s yet another guy on the wing that draws a lot of question marks before start of the season. Schmidt’s really just going to have to feel out the 3 and 4 positions early in non-conference play. How Taqqee, Griffin, Stockard, “Chef,” and Brockington all fit the system is a mystery for now.
Home– Niagara, Maryland Eastern Shore, Jackson St., Yale, Northeastern
Away– Maryland, New Mexico/TCU, Buffalo, Canisius, Syracuse
Neutral– Siena, Vermont
The Bonnies have had their fair share of criticism in the past for weak non-conference scheduling; this year will be different. St. Bonaventure will face 4 teams in Kenpom’s preseason Top 100 and potentially a 5th if they face off against TCU in the Emerald Coast Classic. Maryland and Syracuse are tough, but beatable, opponents. Meanwhile, Vermont and Yale will put up a heck of a fight against Schmidt’s squad. It’s crucial that St. Bonaventure beats teams like Buffalo, Siena, and Niagara. It can’t afford those losses come Selection Sunday.
Home –Fordham, George Washington, Massachusetts, Richmond, Davidson, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
Away– Dayton, George Mason, La Salle, VCU, Davidson, Duquesne, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis
The Bonnies’ schedule will be very difficult, but that’s the road to making the NCAA Tournament. Having to play Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, and Saint Louis twice will be tough, and Dayton and VCU on the road won’t make things any easier. St. Bonaventure’s home slate is very easy, which is tough for the Bonnies because they’re going to have to win on the road. This is definitely one of the most challenging schedules in the Atlantic 10.
Non-Conference Record: 9-3
Conference Finish: 2nd in the A-10
Starting Lineup: Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, Idris Taqqee, Josh Ayeni, Amadi Ikpeze
X-Factor: Matt Mobley
Biggest Sleeper: Izaiah Brockington
Most Improved: Josh Ayeni
MVP: Jaylen Adams
There’s no denying that St. Bonaventure’s one-two punch of Adams and Mobley is the best in the league, and if we’re being honest, probably top 5 in the nation. The question marks come after that. Losing David Andoh and Denzel Gregg leaves a gaping hole for the Bonnies down low; teams will be able to take advantage of a young frontcourt that doesn’t run that deep. St. Bonaventure’s success will hinge on Mobley and Adams, yes, but there are still a lot of question marks with the rest of the team. Luckily, I think Schmidt’s club will rise to the occasion and finish 2nd in the league thanks to the aforementioned guards that will have incredible seasons in Olean.