St. Bonaventure in the 2018 NCAA Tournament – One Fan’s Emotional 24 Hours

I wanted to really let everything sink in for 24 hours before writing a single word down. I didn’t want initial emotions to take over and live forever on the Internet as my gospel. I needed to wait, think, and truly absorb my feelings before writing a column covering my St. Bonaventure Bonnies and their trip to the NCAA Tournament. After all, my range of emotions varied greatly these last 24 hours…

“Yes! Yes! Yes!”

Watching the Selection Show, I was beyond elated to see the SBU logo flash across the screen, cementing their status as an at-large selection! I literally leapt off my couch screaming with joy, forgetting to silence it as Adam Sandler had in “Big Daddy” when the Rangers had a penalty shot about to take place; something that, according to him, “only happened like once every ten years”. But, sadly for Sandler, his kid awoke and demanded to watch the “Kangaroo Song”. Luckily for me, my daughter continued napping…and continued to nap through my curse-ridden outburst roughly five minutes later when Bonnies fans learned that they’d been clumped in the “First Four” group alongside three other teams in UCLA, Arizona State, and most egregious of all, the Syracuse Orange.

“What the f***?! How the hell did Texas, Alabama, and Oklahoma avoid Dayton over Bonaventure?!”

“Saturday morning, every f****** bracket I studied had Bonnies safely in as a 9 or 10 seed!”

“I f****** hate Davidson!”

“Seriously, how the hell did Syracuse make it in?! If they get to the Final Four again, I’m going to snap!”

It was clear to me that because of Davidson’s upset of Rhode Island and stealing a bid, the Selection Committee punished St. Bonaventure and relegated them to the First Four in Dayton. Maybe I’m being too much of a conspiracy theorist (who can blame me when you consider SBU’s lack of respect in years past?) but the committee definitely put the Bonnies in Dayton because they didn’t want to have three Atlantic 10 teams in the tournament but knew they couldn’t possibly snub the Bonnies this time because their resume left no holes in 2018. My initial reaction was anger and disbelief. But then, something funny happened. My anger transformed into gratefulness.

“At least St. Bonaventure didn’t end up like Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s.”

Man, this St. Bonaventure team is too good and has come too far to care about being disrespected by the committee, seeding and situation-wise. So, they’ve got to play an extra game. Maybe this could be a blessing in disguise and we get to watch Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, and Idris Taqqee in Bonaventure brown (or gray) an extra time, provided they beat UCLA on Tuesday night. Despite having to start their journey to San Antonio two days earlier than most, at least Mark Schmidt isn’t the coach who found himself answering questions about being snubbed from the tournament altogether like MTSU’s Kermit Davis and St. Mary’s Randy Bennett. It was then, my next stage of emotions crept in…confidence…

“Maybe starting in Dayton is a good thing.”

Dayton, Ohio is a mere stone’s throw from Olean, New York. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but it’s certainly a hell of a lot closer than Los Angeles, California. The Bonnies play in the Dayton Arena every single year (or at worst, every other) and have a familiarity with it. Jaylen Adams had one of the highlights of his great SBU career in 2016 when he hit what would turn into the game winner against a nationally-ranked Dayton Flyers squad. Local Dayton fans will surely turn out to support their fellow A-10 cohorts. St. Bonnies fans, who travel well as it is, shouldn’t have any problems turning the Dayton Arena into their very own “Reilly Center” of Ohio. I’m hoping that I hear loud, invigorating, “Let’s go, Bonas!” chants all night long. If they weren’t aware before, I hope Steve Alford and company know tomorrow that St. Bonaventure fans care about their team and want them to win more than anything else. As one of said fans, this brings me to the final stage of emotion that I found myself experiencing heading into tomorrow night’s clash…

“The most important thing is that they win.”

I don’t want St. Bonaventure to be the plucky underdog team that’s just happy to be in the dance. The 2017-2018 incarnation of the team is too talented to go into the tournament with that mindset. This team has the capability to make a run and I hope they seize it. As I went through today finding myself thinking about nothing but the Bonnies, I realized that a scene from an underrated mid-90’s sports comedy, “Celtic Pride”, sums up exactly how I’m feeling. In the scene, Daniel Stern, who plays a Boston Celtics-obsessed phys-ed teacher, finds himself extremely worried heading into the Celtics’ big NBA Finals matchup against the Damon Wayans-led Utah Jazz that night at the Boston Garden (which, in 1995 when this movie takes place, was set to be torn down). When a young student approaches him to offer comfort, he innocently reminds Stern that he had once told the kids, “As long as you try your best and have fun, that’s the most important thing.” Stern’s response couldn’t have summed up my mood better. Allow me to paraphrase, inserting SBU:

The most important thing is that they win. We’re not talking about kickball here, where there’s absolutely nothing at stake. We’re talking about the NCAA Tournament. They have to win. Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley, perhaps SBU’s greatest guard duo in history, are graduating at the end of this season. So, this could be their last chance at glory. They will not lose because I won’t let them lose!

In the movie, the little boy begins to cry and Daniel Stern relents, suggesting that he was just being silly. And perhaps so am I. But then again, what do the Bonnies have to lose? Go out there tomorrow night and play your hearts out. Your fan base couldn’t be more proud of what you’ve accomplished this season so far. Key words: “So far.” Good luck, St. Bonaventure!

Kevin Gray is a 2009 graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communications. Currently working at WWE in Stamford, CT a...