Few St. Bonaventure fans could ever forget Sunday, March 13th, 2016, the fateful day in which the Bonnies would get snubbed of a tournament bid. This team had gone 22-9 and taken a share of the Atlantic 10 regular season championship; not to mention, it was the first time ever that a team with a top 30 RPI and a regular season championship didn’t make the field of 68. St. Bonaventure and the A-10 were less than pleased…
Even Joe Lunardi and fellow Bracketologists had something to say about Bona’s absence. But we can’t look back at what could have been. St. Bonaventure got left out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament, and many cited a weak out-of-conference schedule as the deciding factor when it came to Bona’s chances. To be fair, St. Bonaventure didn’t beat a non-conference opponent ranked higher than #141 in Kenpom by the end of the season. Sure, we can all speculate, but the Bonnies now know what the Selection Committee looks for.
Enter Friday’s game against Syracuse.
St. Bonaventure honestly sits in a similar boat as it did 2 seasons ago. In fact, it was on this same day, December 22nd, 2015, that the Bonnies stood at 7-2 without a bad blemish on their record, though a home loss to Hofstra certainly didn’t help matters. A 73-70 road loss to Siena would end up being a nail in the coffin to St. Bonaventure’s at-large chances. Despite finishing 14-4 in a relatively strong Atlantic 10 conference, St. Bonaventure would settle for the NIT and suffer an embarrassing first round loss to Wagner.
Today’s game against Syracuse is essentially a chance to rewrite history. This year’s St. Bonaventure team draws a lot of parallels to the one we say 2 years ago. The Bonnies have dominant seniors, cash in on three pointers, and are more than efficient from the free throw line. The only difference? This year’s Atlantic 10 isn’t too fruitful when it comes to resume-building wins. In fact, once league play rolls around, there’s no room for error.
In 2015-16, St. Bonaventure was able to put itself in the NCAAT picture because of 6 Kenpom top 100 wins throughout conference play. Again, this came after picking up 0 before league play began. This year, however, opportunities are limited. St. Bonaventure, as of right now, only has 5 A-10 games against top 100 Kenpom opponents. The Bonnies have to face Rhode Island, Davidson, and VCU on the road, and they also get the first two of the aforementioned at home. Needless to say, those aren’t 5 guaranteed wins, and there’s no telling whether or not Davidson and VCU are Kenpom top 100 teams by the end of the season.
So what am I trying to say? This St. Bonaventure team is going to need to rely on its non-conference achievements heavily if it wants a shot at making the NCAA Tournament this year. Unlike 2 seasons ago, there just aren’t enough resume-building opportunities come January, and this game against Syracuse is a great chance to get on some national radars.
St. Bonaventure has 2 Kenpom top 100 wins as of right now (Maryland and Vermont), both of which came on neutral courts. A win over Syracuse on the road would be the icing on the cake heading into conference play (though that loss to Niagara could still haunt), and if the committee takes St. Bonaventure into consideration come Selection Sunday, a win over the Orange is almost pivotal.
Considering how weak the Atlantic 10 is this season, I don’t see too many scenarios in which St. Bonaventure gets an at-large bid without this win over Syracuse. Because of this, Friday’s game becomes an enormous contest for both the Bonnies and the conference as a whole. I’m not saying the A-10 is definitely a one-bid league just yet, but St. Bonaventure has to make its mark before heading into A-10 play, and this is the opportunity its been waiting for. The Bonnies should be ready for this one; it’s time to get a big win.