(Photo Credit: GoBonnies.com)
By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio
St. Bonaventure men’s basketball coach Mark Schmidt would scoff at the suggestion that his team’s three-game, round robin tournament in Texas the next three days is a “must-win.”
“It’s a must-win because it’s the next one,” Schmidt has said on numerous occasions.
While it’s only November, it’s hard to look at the Lone Star Showcase against Arkansas-Little Rock, Central Michigan and Pepperdine in Austin as anything other than games the Bonnies need to win. The Florida matchup, while hard-fought and impressive at times in the second half, made Bona’s resume more susceptible to criticism if the team is in the hunt come March.
Another season without a victory against a “power conference” school means SBU must rip through the 10 remaining games on its non-conference schedule virtually unscathed. It should be favored in each contest (though Hofstra might be a toss-up), and entering league play 11-1 or 10-2 would look very favorably on Schmidt’s team.
This tournament also offers a modified look at what the Bonnies will be faced with less than four months from now in the Atlantic 10 Tournament: a very short layoff between games. Finish a game, play another one less than 24 hours later. Then repeat.
“It gives our guys the understanding that once the game’s over you go back, you rest and prepare for the next game. It’s a really quick turnaround,” Schmidt said in a video posted on the program’s Twitter account.
Against three teams that made postseason tournaments last year, Schmidt knows the Showcase is a good challenge.
“We’re playing in a really good tournament, a mid-major tournament with three really good teams,” Schmidt said. “Our guys know if we don’t play well we’re not gonna win.”
Here’s a look at Bonaventure’s opponents the next three days:
Monday: v.s. Arkansas-Little Rock. 6 p.m. Eastern, bd Global Youtube channel
Little Rock made some noise last year, winning the Sun Belt and upsetting Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Iowa State. The Trojans finished 30-5 overall last season, the most wins in school history.
Little Rock lost leading scorer and assist-getter Josh Hagins to graduation as well as another double-figure scorer in Roger Woods. They also lost head coach Chris Beard, last year’s Sun Belt Coach of the Year, who left after one season to take the Texas Tech job, which was vacated by Tubby Smith.
These changes have led to a 2-1 start, with wins against NAIA Central Baptist College and Division III University of the Ozarks and an eight-point loss to Big Sky member Idaho.
With only one game against a Division I opponent so far, the Trojans are still a mystery this season. 5-foot-11 senior guard Marcus Johnson Jr. is their leading scorer thus far, averaging 16.7 points on 40.6 percent shooting. 6-foot-1 senior guard Kemy Osse and 6-foot-5 senior forward Maurius Hill are also averaging double digits, with 14 and 11 a contest, respectively. 6-foot-11 senior Lis Shoshi is their leading rebounder, with 8.7 boards a game on the young season.
Little Rock has a plus-10 rebounding margin in its first three matchups and is shooting about 50 percent from the field. The Trojans have turned the ball over about 12 times a game, while their opponents have averaged 16 turnovers. They start five seniors, which gives them an experience edge over the brown and white.
“They’re strong, they’re physical, they play multiple defenses,” Schmidt said. “They can score the basketball, especially with their guards. They run a motion offense… they’re well-coached, they run some good stuff, they have good players. But most importantly, they’ve got guys that know how to win. They’ve been in that program, and you learn how to win by winning, and they’ve done that. Having five senior starters, that’s a huge concern.”
Tuesday: v.s. Central Michigan. 6 p.m. Eastern, bd Global Youtube channel
Central Michigan compiled a 17-16 record last season, including a 10-8 record in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The team accepted an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (CIT), where it lost to Tennessee-Martin in the first round.
Leading scorer Braylon Rayson returned, but CMU lost its second, third and fourth-leading point-getters (Chris Fowler, Rayshawn Simmons and John Simons) to graduation. Rayson is the only senior who plays more than 10 minutes a game.
The Chippewas, in a similar situation to Little Rock, have played just one Division I team in their first three games. They have started the season 3-0, with wins over NAIA Indiana-Kokomo, Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee Tech and NAIA Marygrove College.
Junior Marcus Keene has led the scoring thus far, with 28.3 points a game, including 62 points over the first two games. The 5-foot-9 Keene, a Youngstown St. transfer, also grabs about seven boards a contest.
6-foot-4 freshman guard Kevin McKay is the leading rebounder through three games, collecting 8.7 a matchup despite averaging just under 14 minutes played.
Coach Keno Davis is in his fifth season with CMU. He has a record of 64-66, with an NIT and CIT appearance.
Wednesday: v.s. Pepperdine. 6 p.m. Eastern, bd Global Youtube channel
The 3-0 Waves, who played in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) last postseason, have wins over Big West member Cal Poly, Big Sky member Weber State and National Christian Collegiate Athletics (NCCA) member Life Pacific. They have won those games by a margin of just over five points.
Leading scorer Lamond Murray has started his senior year off right, averaging 28 points on 55 percent shooting. Murray has made six of his eight three-point attempts after shooting 39 percent from three a season ago.
Murray is the only returnee who averaged double-digit points last year, but Pepperdine has received a boost from 6-foot-7 graduate transfer Chris Reyes. Reyes, who comes to the Waves after two years at Utah, has 16.7 points and a team-leading 8.3 rebounds per game, including a 13-point, 10-board double double against Life Pacific.
6-foot-1 point guard Amadi Udenyi is also a player to watch. In his first full season last year, Udenyi ranked seventh in the West Coast Conference (WCC) in assists last year with 4.5 per game. He also ranked 20th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, with three assists to every giveaway.
Pepperdine coach Marty Wilson, who played for the Waves from 1984-1989, is in his sixth full year as head coach after spending 21 years as a college assistant. He has led his alma mater to two consecutive 18-win seasons and two straight CBI appearances.
It won’t necessarily be easy, but the Bonnies need to find a way to go 3-0 in Texas. It may be November, but these are must-win games.