(Marcus Posley Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
At the beginning of the season, many St. Bonaventure men’s basketball fans would have been content with a top-seven finish in the Atlantic 10, with a chance at a National Invitational Tournament (NIT) invite.
Today, the Bonnies have a chance at a share of the league’s regular season title, a two-seed in the A-10 Tournament and a potential NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
A checklist of sorts stands in the way of those scenarios. For one, VCU has to lose to Dayton for Bona to get an opportunity for a piece of the regular-season title. Also, St. Joe’s has to beat Duquesne to give SBU its easiest path to the two-seed.
Most importantly, the Bonnies have to win at Saint Louis’s Chaifetz Arena at 8 p.m. tonight to make any of these scenarios possible in the first place.
The Billikens may be one of three teams standing at 5-12 in conference play, but they gave the Bonnies everything they could handle last time the teams met, on Super Bowl Sunday.
In that Feb. 7 matchup, SLU led for all but 5:13 and had as much as an eight-point advantage with 8:56 remaining in the contest. Behind three double-figure scorers (Jermaine Bishop 17, Davell Roby 12, Ash Yacoubou 11), the Billikens outplayed the Bonnies before falling by three on Jaylen Adams’s buzzer-beater.
One thing was made clear in that game: the brown and white cannot underestimate coach Jim Crews’s team at all if they hope to grab the road victory.
The Billikens have proven to be tough on their home court. After being annihilated 73-37 at Dayton on Jan. 27, they took the Flyers to overtime at Chaifetz on Feb. 23, losing 52-49. SLU’s A-10 home wins were George Washington on Jan. 6 (65-62), Davidson on Jan. 20 (96-87), and Fordham on Feb. 20 (76-68).
Saint Louis is near or at the bottom of many conference statistics, but is the third-best team at defending the three-point shot. In league games only, the Billikens have allowed the opposition to shoot just 32.4 percent from beyond the arc, a couple decimal points better than the Bonnies.
Saint Louis’s defensive strategy will be a key to watch in the matchup. On Wednesday, St. Joe’s focused heavily on stopping the “known” in Adams, who dropped 31 the first time the teams met, and got burned as Marcus Posley put up 47. Adams, Posley and Wright combined for 48 on Super Sunday, so the Billikens aren’t likely to be doubling one man as hard as the Hawks did.
The glass may be the difference on Saturday night. Neither team is the greatest at rebounding, as SBU is 11th in the conference in rebounding margin and SLU is second-worst. However, in the first meeting, Bonaventure outrebounded the Billikens 40-29, including 13 offensive rebounds. Four Bonnies had at least five rebounds: Dion Wright grabbed 10, Idris Taqqee had seven, Jaylen Adams registered six and Marcus Posley hauled in five.
The significance of Bona’s success wasn’t lost on ninth-year Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt, but the message he has given time and time again is akin to the mantra of late Raiders owner Al Davis: “Just Win Baby.”
When asked about bracket projections, Schmidt said, “Those things change every day; they change every minute.”
“We’ve just gotta continue to win, and if we continue to win then things will take care of itself,” he continued. “That’s been the challenge for the last six or seven games, is just win. Don’t put added pressure on yourself, and at the end of the year, you throw it on the table, ‘this is what we are, and hopefully it’s good enough.'”
Tonight’s contest will be broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest, which is available on DirecTV channel 671 and Dish Network channel 418.