By Chuckie Maggio, @ChuckieMaggio
The 10-4 St. Bonaventure Bonnies start Atlantic 10 conference play at home against the 10-5 Richmond Spiders tonight. Tip-off is set for 7 at the Reilly Center, where the Bonnies are a perfect 6-0 on the season.
Everyone knows this is a big game for both teams. The Bonnies need to start the A-10 schedule on the right foot, especially with a national-TV matchup against powerful UMass on Saturday. Richmond has played a tough non-conference schedule and will be looking to prove it’s better than its 10-5 record. Both teams also know the importance of winning your first conference game: four of the last five A-10 regular season champions have won its first conference matchup.
St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt. 98-99 as Bonaventure coach, 2-6 career against Richmond.
Richmond: Chris Mooney. 157-123 as Rhode Island coach, 7-3 career against St. Bonaventure.
Key Players for Richmond:
Cedrick Lindsay, 6-1 senior guard. 18.6 points per game, 4.5 assists per game.
Kendall Anthony, 5-8 junior guard. 13.1 points per game, 1.5 assists per game.
Keys to victory:
St. Bonaventure: Guards need to use their size advantage. I’ve preached size advantage so often this year that it may seem like a broken record, but the edge the Bonnies have in this one is staggering. Bonaventure guard Matthew Wright is 6-4, 200 pounds while Richmond’s Cedrick Lindsay is 6-1, 190. Bonaventure guard Charlon Kloof is 6-3, 190 pounds while Richmond’s Kendall Anthony is listed at 5-8, 140 pounds. It doesn’t take a basketball genius to see that the Bonnies should be licking their chops going into this one.
Charlon Kloof should look at Kendall Anthony and be determined right away to be as physical as possible. While Anthony is an extremely talented player and that shouldn’t be taken away from him, this is a mismatch. Charlon Kloof’s physicality and toughness makes him one of the best guards in the Atlantic 10, and he will use it to his advantage today.
Matt Wright doesn’t have as big of a size mismatch as Kloof, but he should still have his way with Lindsay nonetheless. Lindsay is the leading scorer and has had his way with weaker defenses in non-conference play. Shutting him down would be huge for the Bonnies, especially if Wright and Andell Cumberbatch could limit him to fifteen points or fewer. If Bonaventure uses the upper hand and shuts down Lindsay and Anthony, they’ll win the game.
Richmond: Get a big game out of Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. Marquise Simmons, Youssou Ndoye and Dion Wright have been playing solid ball as of late. Who’s going to need to shut them down in the paint? 6-9 sophomore Alonzo Nelson-Ododa. Nelson-Ododa has scored 7.3 ppg and added 5.7 boards per as well. Ododa will not be counted on to lead the Spiders in scoring; that’s the guards’ job. What he needs to do is slow down Ndoye in the paint and try to get him in foul trouble. If Ndoye goes off for twenty points, that’s not going to help the Spiders in their cause at all. But if he’s a non-factor and spends twenty minutes or so on the bench, the win probability is increased for sure. A lot of that responsibility is in Nelson-Ododa’s hands.
The game today will be a very intriguing one to watch. It will come down to which team executes the gameplan and comes out of the gates stronger. The Bonnies started the season showing a real inability to have a strong first half, but the Wake Forest game started a string of strong performances in the first 20 minutes. It now appears that coach Schmidt’s group is more focused coming out of the locker room, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be ready for its first A-10 game.
In a hard-fought battle, Bonaventure will win by single-digits.