COLUMN: Bona, VCU’s spots in NCAA field secured before A-10 title game

photo by Megan Lee/The Commonwealth Times

By Jeff Uveino

DAYTON, OH — Win, and you’re in.

That’s the premise of the Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament each year.

Regardless of its regular-season performance beforehand, a conference tournament championship secures a team’s spot in the NCAA tournament field. While that remains true for this year’s A-10 championship game, the stakes of the game are different than in recent years.

Both finalists have done enough to deserve a spot in the 68-team NCAA bracket. For No. 1 St. Bonaventure and No. 2 VCU, Sunday’s title game at University of Dayton Arena likely won’t determine whether each side gets to play in the NCAA tournament.

Instead, this year’s final will be for bragging rights, for NCAA seeding, and, for SBU, the chance to make history as the second team in program history to be crowned A-10 champions.

When the Bonnies arrived in Richmond last week for their first two A-10 tournament games, their postseason prospectus looked different than it did after SBU posted back-to-back convincing wins over No. 9 Duquesne and No. 4 Saint Louis in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

Now, as the A-10 regular-season champion that has advanced to the conference’s championship game, it would take an 1800s-style Wild West robbery by the NCAA selection committee to leave the Bonnies out of the tournament.

As of Monday, the NCAA’s “NET” ranking, the largely mysterious, overarching ranking that the committee prioritizes, ranks Bona 27th in the country, and VCU 35th. Ken Pomeroy, famous for his “KenPom” rankings, also has the Bonnies at 27th, while VCU checks in at 43rd.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, one of the nation’s most popular “bracketologists,” predicts the Bonnies to be a ninth-seed in the tournament, while listing the Rams as a No. 11 seed. Lunardi said on Sunday that he anticipates Bona will be in the NCAA field whether it wins the A-10 title game or not.

So, looking at the situation realistically, both A-10 finalists will be playing in the NCAA tournament whether they’re crowned league champions or not. This differs from SBU’s last trip to the A-10 final, when it needed to win the 2019 game to be included in the NCAA bracket.

The Bonnies lost that game, ending their season at the Barclays Center as abruptly as they had gotten there. The year before, Davidson upset SBU in the A-10 semifinals before upsetting top-seeded Rhode Island a day later to win the tournament. If the Wildcats had not done so, they would have been left out.

This is the first time since 2013 that the tournament’s top two seeds will play in its final. Bona’s only A-10 championship came the year before that, when the Andrew Nicholson-led Bonnies beat Xavier in the final to clinch an NCAA tournament spot that they wouldn’t have received without winning the tournament.

This year, that’s not the case. SBU has built a sufficient tournament resume over the last three months, compiling a 15-4 record while finishing 11-4 in the A-10 during the regular season. VCU’s situation is similar, as the Rams are 19-6 overall with a 10-4 A-10 record.

This year, it’s about pride and the chance to become a champion. For three Bona starters, it’s the chance to avenge 2019’s A-10 final loss.

The 2021 A-10 champion will receive the immediate satisfaction of knowing that it has reserved the league’s coveted automatic NCAA bid. The runner-up, barring an inexplicable snub, will hear its name called just hours later during the NCAA selection show.

Nicholson returns to the RC; talks pro career and life overseas

photo courtesy of

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — The last time Andrew Nicholson was in the Reilly Center, a banner with his last name and former jersey number was unveiled from the rafters of the building.

On Wednesday night, Nicholson returned to a greeting that was similar to the one he received when his number 44 was retired by the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball program in 2016.

The RC gave a standing ovation to welcome back Nicholson, SBU’s second all-time leading scorer and former first-round NBA draft pick.

Before the Bonnies took on George Washington, Nicholson received his SBU all-time team plaque.

During the game, he talked about what it was like to be back at his alma mater, and the journey that his professional basketball career has taken him on.

“I had dinner with (Bonnies head coach) Mark Schmidt yesterday and saw a bunch of my old professors and friends,” Nicholson said. “Just being able to be on the floor and work out, and to remember when I was here, was amazing.”

Nicholson graduated from Bona’s in 2012 after scoring 2103 career points. The 6-9 power forward averaged 20.8 points and 7.3 rebounds his junior year, then 18.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game his senior season.

He led the Bonnies to the 2012 Atlantic 10 championship and an NCAA tournament berth, and was named 2012 A-10 player of the year.

Nicholson was selected 19th overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2012 NBA draft. After playing five seasons in the association, he averaged six points per game in just over 14 minutes per game.

“The politics of the NBA are nothing that I could really escape from,” Nicholson said. “It happens to the best of us. But I got what I wanted out of it.”

After the NBA, Nicholson’s career took him to China, where he has quickly become a star in the Chinese Basketball Association.

“It’s definitely different than being (in North America),” Nicholson said. “It was hard to adjust my first year, but now that I’ve picked up on the language and the culture a little bit, it has made it easier for me.”

Playing for the Guangzhou Long-Lions, Nicholson averaged 27.6 points and 10.9 rebounds in 26 games this season before the league postponed the remainder of its season due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

He averaged the same number of points per game over the 2018-19 season playing for the Fujian Sturgeons, and 24.3 points per game for the Guangdong Southern Tigers the year before.

Nicholson said that being back around SBU has been a nice change of pace, compared to life in professional basketball.

“With my lifestyle, I’m always staying in hotels and bouncing around,” he said. “Coming back to somewhere where I was for so long, it’s like coming back home.”

Now at age 30, Nicholson is appreciative that he can continue to play professionally. He said that he has learned to play the CBA style of basketball, and wants to play for as long as he can.

“Wherever the ball takes me, I’m always going to go and try to be the best version of myself.”


NBA: Nicholson deal has many positives; “unlikely” Posley plays summer league

By Chuckie Maggio @chuckiemaggio

A few noteworthy items regarding Bonnies and the NBA…

Bona Nation rejoiced when Andrew Nicholson agreed to a four-year, $26 million deal with the Washington Wizards, and for good reason.

Nicholson’s time in Orlando was marked by frustration. After playing in 151 of 164 possible games his rookie and sophomore campaigns, and starting 33 of them, the man who led Bonaventure to the 2012 Atlantic 10 championship played in just 96 of 164 in his final two years with the Magic.

After Jacque Vaughn was fired on Feb. 5, 2015, the hiring of Scott Skiles had some optimistic Nicholson would play more consistently, but he still got a “Did Not Play (Coach’s Decision)” in many contests.

The fresh start in our nation’s capital is promising for many reasons. The most obvious plus is that Nicholson is much more likely to play on a nightly basis with the Wiz. He will back up Markieff Morris, who was traded from Phoenix at February’s trade deadline. You don’t make a guy your sixth-highest paid player (only John Wall, Ian Mahinmi, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Morris will make more) to have him sit the bench for 48 minutes.

In addition, the Bonnies fans who have rooted for no. 44 the past eight years will be rewarded with many more opportunities to watch him on television.

The Magic made two national TV appearances over the past four years, the most recent one an April 13 ESPN game at Charlotte that Nicholson played the last 3:44 of. The Wizards played 16 regular-season national TV games over the past four years, in addition to 21 playoff games in 2014 and ’15. Better team means more TV time.

I also expect playing with superstar point guard John Wall to have a positive impact on Nicholson’s growth as a player. The 25-year-old Wall is a three-time All-Star who finished third in the league in assists this past season with 10.2 a game. He also averaged 19.9 points a game, making him one of four point guards to average a double-double (Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are the other three).

With a guard like Wall running the show and a team that has made the postseason two out of the last three seasons, the 6-foot-9 Nicholson is in a great situation with Washington. You might see him facing off with LeBron’s Cavaliers in the playoffs next May.


The Wizards were also interested in another SBU alum, Marcus Posley, a couple weeks ago. Unlike Nicholson, however, this one didn’t end with a deal.

Sources say Washington, impressed by Posley’s pre-draft workout, offered him a spot on their roster for the Las Vegas Summer League. Posley’s agent, Gilad Berkowitz of Berkowitz Career Ventures, decided to wait for other teams to offer. The other offers never came, and Washington moved on, finding other players to fill their remaining slots.

Posley’s 1321 points in three D-I seasons, along with his 47-point showcase against St. Joe’s, figured to be enough to garner more NBA attention. Unfortunately for him, any summer league action looks unlikely now, barring a last-minute offer.

Men’s basketball: Bona’s run ends against Saint Joe’s

By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (March 15) — If someone would have told Mark Schmidt back in October that his St. Bonaventure Bonnies would win 18 games and make it to the Atlantic 10 semifinals, he wouldn’t have been sure how to respond.

“I would have looked at them a little bit sideways,” the coach said.

Turns out it wasn’t such a far-fetched thought.

The Bonnies’ unexpected run to the A-10 semifinals came to an abrupt end today as their lack of depth was exposed against a deeper, more rested St. Joe’s team. The Bonnies fell 67-48.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Bona’s run ends against Saint Joe’s”

Andrew Nicholson tries to find niche in Orlando #Bonnies

By Aime Mukendi, @Sir_Aimezing

Just over a year into the NBA, Andrew Nicholson still hasn’t found his niche.

The highlight of his rookie season was playing in the Rising Stars Challenge to kickoff NBA All-Star weekend. And even though the Orlando Magic have struggled since his arrival, Nicholson is optimistic about what’s to come.

“It’s great to be here,” Nicholson said. “I’m looking forward to the future. I just want to be better the next year and keep on building.”

Since graduating from St. Bonaventure University in May 2012, the Mississauga, Ont. native has had a busy calendar; which is a reason why he enjoyed playing close to home in Toronto. Nicholson’s schedule included 75 games for the Magic, playing five Summer League games and representing Canada in the FIBA America’s Championship.

Continue reading “Andrew Nicholson tries to find niche in Orlando #Bonnies”

Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation

By Joe Pinter, @JPinter93

Watching the raising of the Atlantic 10 and NCAA Second Round banners on opening night last year had to be tough for the freshman on the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team.

Fighting for playing time on a senior-laden roster was even harder than missing out on a historic run in March.

Dion Wright played in 13 games last season but only averaged about five minutes per game. His best performance came on March 2 vs. Dayton. Wright played only 11 minutes but had 15 points on 6 for 7 shooting.

He took the learning experience in stride and worked hard in the off season.

“I feel like I spent a lot of hours in the gym, and I got better with my jump shot and my strength,” Wright said. “I think last year I weighed about 210 lbs. I’m at about 218 lbs. right now.”

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Wright looks to find place in #Bonnies rotation”

Men’s basketball: Gathers will have a new role this season

By Matthew Strauss 

Change is necessary and unavoidable, especially in the landscape of collegiate athletics.

As the St. Bonaventure Bonnies men’s basketball team forges ahead with one season in the books since the departure of 2012 NBA first-round draft pick Andrew Nicholson, change may be the toughest test.  However, they are determined to suppress it.  Forced to adapt – as they welcome the challenge.

A member of the team who is arguably dealing with the greatest change is junior guard Jordan Gathers.  Typically used by head coach Mark Schmidt as a two-guard (shooting guard) in the past two seasons, Gathers will now be charged with the task of running the offense when regular starter Charlon Kloof is not at the helm.

A big difference with the Bonnies squad last season without Nicholson was an improvement in perimeter shooting, something that came as a pleasant surprise.  In 2011-12, the Bonnies made 174 three-pointers, while last year’s squad drained 212.  They do not want to stop there either.  There is a focus to continue to improve shooting on a squad that shot 37.5 percent from beyond the arc, up 34.5 percent from Nicholson’s senior season.

“I worked on every aspect, every skill I could, but shooting I really worked on my form and technique and just being consistent in making shots,” said Gathers.  Gathers had already seen improvements in his shooting from his freshman year to last year’s sophomore season.  He shot 42.4 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from long range last year.  Those numbers were 33.9 percent and percent respectively in 2011-12.

Continue reading “Men’s basketball: Gathers will have a new role this season”

Exclusive: #Bonnies recruit Jordan Tyson resembles Andrew Nicholson

By Ryan Lazo, @RMLazo13, Contributing Writer

PETERSBURG, VA — Try to have a discussion with St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt about Andrew Nicholson and he’ll tell you about how lucky he was to have him commit.

He’ll no doubt mention how an ankle injury and the building of a new science building on campus were key ingredients in the Bonnies nabbing a once in a generation player.

While it’s true players like Nicholson do not come around often for a program like St. Bonaventure, a recruit talented enough to play in a higher conference but rather try to make an impact at a smaller school, Schmidt may have struck lightning twice.

Take a look on the hardwood and it’s hard to ignore the similarities.

There he is. A tall and lanky string bean standing at 6-foot-10 with arms that hang well below his knees. See the way he gets position in the paint, backing defenders down with ease before skying over them with a baby hook.

Hear the way he throws down a thunderous slam while wearing No. 44, a number made special in Bonaventure lore by Nicholson. And finally take a look at the player wearing the jersey and you can be forgiven for having flashbacks because he too, resembles Nicholson.

His name is Jordan Tyson, a member of Fishburne Military Academy and a verbal commit to St. Bonaventure, a school Tyson admitted he had no idea where it is located. But what he did know was how highly the coaching staff thought of him when it was Schmidt who made the first contact with the Fishburne product.


Jordan Tyson Photo by Ryan Lazo

“It was great because it was such a unique experience, recruiting wise,” Tyson said. “I’ve never had a head coach come up to me that excited and offer me right on the spot … I guess he saw a lot of Nicholson in me and people even say I look like him.”

And while his looks may lead Bona fans to have a double-take, it’s his play on the court which will give them goosebumps.

Facing Richard Bland College, a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, in an exhibition, the Bona recruit starred in limited minutes. All it took was two minutes upon entering the game for Tyson to have an impact.

Backing down his man in the post, Tyson established position in the blocks as he received a bouncing entry pass. With one quick pivot, Tyson turned to his right and floated in a hook over his defender in the middle of the paint.

It’s an example of how polished his game is compared to Nicholson who famously did not play basketball until his junior year of high school. In fact, Tyson’s teammate, USC commit Jabari Craig is similar in that regard.

Yet, to Fishburne head coach Ed Huckaby Jr. there is no comparison as to who is the better player.

“He is polished offensively,” Huckaby said of Tyson. “He goes left hand, right hand, he’s got it. You add 30 pounds to that and it’s on. He’s better than Jabari Craig. I’m watching it everyday.”

And it’s hard not to agree with a coach with 25 years of experience at both the high school and collegiate level who also helped develop 47 all-conference athletes and 22 professional athletes.

Huckaby looks at Tyson and sees an athletic big who can play inside and outside by stretching the floor with his range. While strength will be the biggest aspect he needs to work on, Tyson had no problem with taking it to the hoop twice to finish thunderous dunks.

tyson 3

Jordan Tyson two-handed dunk Photo by Ryan Lazo

The only thing more impressive than his play on the court is his lofty goals which, you guessed it, echo the words Nicholson spoke of after Bona captured the 2012 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship. The senior spoke of committing to St. Bonaventure to bring the Bonnies back, something Tyson also expects to be able to accomplish.

“I love that basketball is the top sport because when I come in there, I’m going to change the culture to make it a winning culture,” Tyson said with a purpose. “I know everyone says it, but that’s my real goal.”

For those who know him like Huckaby, it’s just an example of Tyson’s competitive nature. The lanky forward never backs down and commits 100 percent to the task at hand which during the scrimmage was to focus on boxing out and rebounding, both of which he accomplished.

Yet, Tyson also showed off some of his athletic ability Huckaby speaks so highly of as he helped start a fast break with a rebound, ran the full length of the court and skied for an alley-oop attempt which just missed the connection.

It all adds up to a play his head coach said Bona will be ecstatic to have.

“He’ll play immediately at St. Bonaventure, no question in my mind, because he competes,” he said of Tyson. “They got a hell of a gift, I can’t lie. I don’t know how they pulled it off but congratulations to Jeff Massey because he got that done.”

While Tyson may never be another Nicholson, it’s clear Schmidt has once again nabbed a talent he had no business being in on, helping to continue the building of a successful program at St. Bonaventure.