By JOE CERAULO
OLEAN, N.Y. – The St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team left campus Wednesday for the Atlantic 10 conference tournament with hopes of bringing the school its first A10 title since 2012.
This team has much higher expectations than that 2012 team, led by eventual first-round draft pick, Andrew Nicholson. That squad entered the tournament as a four seed and won three straight, including the championship game over the NCAA tournament-bound Xavier Musketeers, to earn a 14 seed in that year’s bracket.
As a two seed in the A10, riding a 12-game winning streak to the conference tournament, these Bonnies are expected to make some noise in Washington D.C.
Friday night’s heavily anticipated game will come against the winner of Thursday’s 7-10 seed matchup, either Richmond or Duquense.
The Bonnies beat Richmond on alumni weekend in an offensive affair, winning 97-88. The Spiders fought throughout the entirety of that game, despite being without their third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, sophomore De’Monte Buckingham.
Duquense’s a team that gave St. Bonaventure two hard-fought games, despite coming up short on both occasions.
The Bonnies beat the Dukes by a combined nine points in their two matchups, and both games were incredibly entertaining.
The first came in Pittsburgh and featured senior star Jaylen Adams setting a career-high (which he broke in his next game) with 40 points. The icing on the cake was Adams’s buzzer-beating three that sealed the 84-81 victory for the Bonnies.
Their next matchup was more defensive minded, but a break out game for sophomore center Amadi Ikpeze.
Ikpeze recorded the first double-double of his career in that game with 13 points and 10 rebounds and emerged as a viable starter in the post for St. Bonaventure.
While Friday night’s game against one of those two teams can’t be overlooked, the Bonnies are likely going to face Davidson Saturday evening in a rematch of what many analysts dubbed the ‘game of the year’ on Tuesday, Feb. 27.
The teams won one game apiece against each other this season and are guaranteed to put on a show from beyond the arc when facing each other.
Despite all the uncertainties that a conference tournament brings one thing for the seniors on this team is certain…
Take nothing for granted.
Two years ago, it seemed as if this team would be a lock for the big dance in March, until they lost their opening game in the conference tournament Friday night and became the first team left out of the NCAAs.
With a likely visit to the tournament on the line, this year’s conference tournament means more to this team than in most years, especially the seniors.
“It means the world,” said Adams. “We have underachieved in past tournaments and to be so close to our NCAA tournament goal that we had at the beginning of the season makes this tournament extremely important.”
The Bonnies are currently projected to be a 10 seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket on ESPN, but as they know, anything can happen.
This weekend’s conference tournament in the nation’s capital will mean everything to them, and it all starts Friday night at six.