photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Anthony Goss
ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – After a week that showcased its poise and experience, the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team has proven itself as a top-level team in the Atlantic 10.
The Bonnies took care of business against Fordham last Wednesday and handled Duquesne on Friday. Now, tied atop the A-10 with UMass, there are murmurings of a possible tournament bid or a regular season championship for the Bonnies given their position in the standings.
Bona head coach Mark Schmidt knows the idea of any future achievements starts with his team winning its lone home game this week.
“Home games are most important,” Schmidt said. “If you want to compete for a title, you gotta protect your home court.”
The Bonnies will look to do just that against VCU on Wednesday. The Bonnies were originally slated for a rematch against Richmond in the Reilly Center on that day, but that game was postponed due to COVID-19 fears within the Spiders’ program, leaving SBU to face the Rams instead.
VCU, coming in at 10-3, flexes one of the stingier defenses in college basketball. VCU is second in the nation in steals per game, averaging 11.5 on the season. Freshman guard Adrian Baldwin Jr and sophomore guard Na’Shon “Bones” Hyland sit at a tie for second in the conference with 2.2 steals per game, and sophomore guard Jimmy Clark III averages 1.9 steals per game.
“If they steal the ball, live ball turnovers kill you against VCU,” Schmidt said. “So, we got to protect the ball.”
The Rams rely on their defense to create offense on the other end of the court by speeding the game up and using live ball turnovers to generate fast break opportunities.
“They do a good job of running and trapping and trying to speed you up,” Schmidt said. “That’s how they play, that gets them going on offense.”
Offensively, the scoring load is carried by Hyland, who averages 18.1 points per game. Hyland, who has doubled his scoring average from last season, can finish in the paint and poses a lethal stroke from behind the three-point line.
“You can see that the team has confidence in him,” Schmidt said. “He’s gonna be a handful for the next three years. He’s an exceptional player that seems like he enjoys playing and is getting better.”
Other players have found their moments to contribute on offense, but junior forward Vince Williams Jr is the only other double-figure scorer for VCU, averaging 10.8 points per game.
“Williams, I think, is an X-factor. When he plays well, they usually win,” Schmidt said. “He has it all.”
In their lone matchup last season, the Rams trounced the Bonnies on their home floor 91-63. St. Bonaventure will look to turn around what has been a dominant stretch for the Rams when they face the Bonnies. VCU has only lost to St. Bonaventure twice since joining the A-10 in 2012.
“They got good players,” Schmidt said. “They are one of the powerhouses in our conference.”
After their matchup against VCU, the Bonnies were set for another big game against No. 25 Saint Louis on Saturday, but the status of that game is in question, as the Billikens announced another positive COVID-19 was found in the program, and they will now need to pause basketball activities once again.
“No matter who you play in the Atlantic 10, it’s an important game,” Schmidt said.
Wednesday’s game against the Rams should go as planned, however. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tip-off from the Reilly Center, and will be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network.