By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
There are no ifs, ands, or buts as the St. Bonaventure men’s basketball team heads to George Washington for a Saturday afternoon bout with the Colonials.
If the Bonnies want a double bye in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the most probable path to the conference championship game in a couple weeks, they need to end a string of losing in our nation’s capital. And they need to dominate another matchup in the process.
SBU has won just three of its last 20 games at GW’s Charles E. Smith Center and one of its last 10. Before a 62-49 victory at Foggy Bottom in 2011, the program’s last away win in the series came in February 1989.
The teams’ records haven’t mattered, either. Take 10 years ago for example, when GW won just one of its first 10 A-10 games, three games behind Bonaventure. That didn’t stop the Colonials from routing the Bonnies by 28, the second-largest margin of victory in series history.
Bona cannot afford another DC letdown on Saturday. George Washington is 4-11 in-conference, 8-20 overall, and has lost six of its last seven games. The Colonials lost their last two games, road contests at VCU and Rhode Island, by a combined 55 points. They have yet to win a league game against a team with a winning A-10 record. Three of their four wins came against the other teams in the bottom four of the standings: Fordham, Massachusetts and St. Joseph’s.
Bonaventure has won four of the last five games by 20 points or more, with two straight 21-point victories. There is nothing stopping them from making GW another blowout victim and recording another statement before they travel to Davidson on Wednesday.
The Bonnies can benefit from the fact that the Colonials have the league’s worst scoring offense at just 64.4 points a contest. Only 16 teams in Division I basketball have scored less. Fordham, who Bona held to 53, averages about three more points. Duquesne produces 73 points per game, the conference’s second-best ranking, and averaged just 48 points against SBU.
Bonaventure’s defense is looking elite, tied for 26th in the country in fewest points allowed. Holding the Colonials under 60 points is not only a worthy goal, it should be an expectation. Mark Schmidt and the coaching staff are well aware of the team’s 11-0 record when holding the opposition under that 60-point threshold. Though the Bona offense is looking more capable recently, and GW allows over 70 points a game, defense is always going to be the Bonnies’ constant.
The Colonials have nice individual pieces. D.J. Williams, an Illinois transfer, leads the team with 14.8 points per game. Terry Nolan Jr. is a three-point shooting threat who posts 11 points per contest and also grabs five rebounds an outing. Maceo Jack, the son of University at Buffalo women’s basketball coach Felicia Legette-Jack, has become a double-digit scorer at 10.9 points per, eight more points than he averaged his freshman year after he has seen 19 more minutes a night on average.
George Washington took a major injury hit when junior forward Arnaldo Toro underwent December hip surgery and saw his season end after just seven games. A double-double threat, Toro was averaging 10 points and 9.3 rebounds a game before he went down.
If the Bonnies were to lose on Saturday and George Mason were to win at Saint Louis, Bonaventure’s hopes of a double bye would likely rely on defeating both Davidson and Saint Louis in the last two regular season games and receiving help elsewhere.
As long as SBU wins on Saturday, the pressure is on Mason to beat VCU on Tuesday to keep pace. Since Bona only faced VCU once this season, its 0-1 record against the Rams would be considered better than GMU’s 0-2 record according to the league’s tiebreakers.
The best way for Bonaventure to simplify the math that comes with all of the oft-complicated A-10 Tourney seeding scenarios is to achieve the expected result in Foggy Bottom: controlling the matchup with GW from start to finish.