By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure men’s basketball coach Mark Schmidt said his team was treating Sunday night’s Selection Show like it treats other losses.
The team had its normal period of being upset and thinking about the omission, but was back at it in practice at 4:15 the next afternoon.
Tonight’s first round NIT Tournament game against Wagner at 7 p.m. at the Reilly Center is the commencement of an opportunity to show people what kind of team the Bonnies have and how resilient they can be. There will have no shortage of crowd support, as the arena is expected to sell out for the second time this season.
“Obviously there was a lot of negative emotions about Sunday or whatever,” sophomore point guard Jaylen Adams said. “But I think it’s in the past. Nothing we say or do can change anything at all. I think we’re excited.”
Bona is the top overall seed for the tournament and a favorite to win its first NIT title since 1977. A championship run would mean three more games at home in the Reilly Center and two games (a semifinal and final) in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which is known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
The Garden is the goal, but as Schmidt said, “We can’t get to MSG without winning the first.” Wagner will be the underdog, but the 22-game winner was the Northeast Conference (NEC) regular season champion. Notable non-conference results were a nine-point loss to St. John’s and a ten-point loss at Seton Hall.
The guard-heavy Seahawks boast a big backcourt. Sophomore Corey Henson stands at 6-foot-3 and leads the team in scoring, averaging 13.7 points a game. 6-foot-5 junior Michael Carey is the other player in double figures with 12.6 points per contest, while 6-foot-4 redshirt senior Dwaun Anderson and 6-foot-3 sophomore Romone Saunders average 9.8 and 9.5, respectively.
Wagner uses its size to its advantage, and SBU has taken note of that while gameplanning.
“They’re extremely aggressive and they play very in-your-face defense, so I think in practice we’re beating up on each other a little,” Adams said. “It’s been a fun couple of days preparing for them.”
Four Seahawks transferred in from other D-I college programs. Anderson came in from Michigan State, redshirt senior Mike Aaman came from Rhode Island, graduate student forward Henry Brooks came from Penn and redshirt sophomore forward A.J. Sumbry transferred in from Quinnipiac.
“I lived in that league for six years, and I know how good it is,” said Schmidt, who coached at NEC member Robert Morris before he was hired at Bonaventure. “You live in that league with transfers. They’ve got two to three high-major transfers.”
The last time the Bonnies were in the NIT was 2002, and tonight will be their first NIT home game since 1995.
In a high-energy atmosphere with a trip to NYC in the possible near-future, the RC will be rocking, and Bona’s All-A10 first team selection is looking forward to it.
“It’s a great opportunity in the NIT and I think it’s definitely gonna be a lot of good vibes, good emotions going into the game,” Adams said. “And I think we’re excited.”