By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio and Jeff Fasoldt @Jeff_Fasoldt
Finals week might be over and done with at St. Bonaventure, but the 6-1 Bonnies still have one major test: a road matchup vs the 5-3 Pitt Panthers on Saturday at 2 at the Petersen Events Center.
This will be the toughest game of Bona’s young season by far. This Panthers team isn’t the dominant version we are used to, but as an ACC team playing in one of the toughest arenas in college basketball, they are nothing to take lightly. They also lead the series against SBU 5-2.
Will Pitt defend home court, or can the Bonnies steal a signature one on the road? Here’s the full breakdown:
St. Bonaventure- Mark Schmidt. 113-110 as Bonnies coach.
Pittsburgh- Jamie Dixon 293-99 as Panthers coach.
Key players for Pitt:
Michael Young- 6-9 sophomore forward. The New Jersey product (St. Benedict’s) is Pitt’s leading scorer at 12.8 points per game, and is shooting 54 percent from the field. He’s also been rebounding well at 7.8 per game—leading the Panthers in that category as well. He’s a dominant threat inside, but hasn’t seen a true center that can patrol the paint and swat it like Youssou Ndoye so far this season. Look for the Panthers to get the ball to Young and for him to make some moves in the post, which in turn will open up the three-point line.
James Robinson- 6-3 junior guard. Robinson comes into the game averaging 12.6 points per game, 5.6 assists per game, and 3.9 rebounds per game. Pitt’s point guard is no joke and has intrigued a few NBA scouts so far this season with his play. His numbers may not jump out at you but the assist and point numbers tell you he’s capable of scoring on his own or dishing it out to his teammates. Considered to be the top-point guard in the nation of the 2012 recruiting class by some, Robinson has struggled from beyond the arc, but has multiple moves he uses combined with pure strength to slash and score or kick the ball out to an open teammate.
Key players for Bonaventure:
Jaylen Adams- 6-1 freshman guard. The back-to-back A-10 Rookie of the Week is quickly becoming a household name in Bona Country. After the Buffalo game, Adams was 10th in effective field goal percentage in the nation with season totals of 16-for-32 shooting from three-point range and seven-for-ten shooting from inside the arc. The efficient shooting of Adams was enough for him to be honored by the conference once again, and he will hope to continue that mark against the Panthers while holding onto the ball, an area he has definitely shown improvement in.
Marcus Posley- 6-1 junior guard. The other half of the Bonnies’ backcourt remains the team’s leading scorer at 15.7 points a game, and he had his third game with 20-plus points this season a week ago at Ohio. The quick trigger and lack of hesitation from three makes Posley the special go-to offensive player Bonaventure needs, and he has already shaken off a rough outing in the Niagara game by getting his shot back on track. All indications point to another solid game from number three.
Keys to victory for Pitt: Chris Jones, Josh Newkirk and Jamel Artis are all quietly shooting over 37 percent from beyond the arc for the Panthers and could cause the Bonnies, who have struggled defending outside shooting so far this year, some major problems. The students will be gone so the crowd may not give this team the energy it normally does. If they win, it will be because they hit more three’s and more free-throws than Bonaventure.
Keys to victory for Bonaventure: To pull off a signature win away from home you need to shoot well from the floor, and the Bona backcourt will be counted on to lead the way in that department. The Panthers have some good shooters, so the Bonnies have to match that production from the floor considering they are going to have the edge in the post. If the guards hit some big shots and play some strong defense, they can let Youssou Ndoye and Dion Wright take care of the rest and have a decent shot at victory.
Chuckie- I’m cautiously picking the Bonnies in this one on the strength of their frontcourt. Youssou Ndoye will be the difference, and I’m looking for him to come up big in this one as Adams and Posley hit some big shots and Schmidt’s team wakes up some of the people who are still sleeping on them in the A-10. 75-72 Bonnies.
Jeff- The Bonnies get to go on the road for a nationally televised game against Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers out of the ACC. While Bonaventure is no doubt a talented, deep team—they don’t have the recruits Pitt has and they can’t guard shooters well enough to stop what will be a barrage of three-point attempts tomorrow. Also, they are going into uncharted waters (Peterson Events Center) with young players that will be rattled by the environment. The Bonnies will be fine this year and could very well be the best college basketball team in New York right now, but Pennsylvania’s Pitt Panthers get the win tomorrow 68-55.