St. Bonaventure (0-3) vs. Rutgers (3-0)
How To Watch, Listen, News & Notes
Where: Scotiabank Arena (19,800) in Toronto, Canada
Tip-off: Saturday, November 16th at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET
Info: This game is the last of a tripleheader at the James Naismith Classic.
Stream: ESPN+ - Doug Sherman, play-by-play; Sean Farnham, analyst
Radio: Live Listen - Rutgers Sports Properties Radio Network (WCTC 1450 AM/WOR 710 AM/SiriusXM 988; Jerry Recco & Joe Boylan); WRSU 88.7 FM (Justin Sontupe & Corey Jason)
KenPom Rankings: Rutgers 69th; St. Bonaventure 165th ; Rutgers moved back 2 spots since Wednesday’s win over Drexel.
Efficiency Rankings: Rutgers - Offense 100.9 (113th) Defense 90.3 (43rd); St. Bonaventure - 95.8 (237th) Defense 96.0 (110th)
KenPom Prediction: Rutgers 68 St. Bonaventure 60; Rutgers has a 75% chance to win
Vegas Line: TBD
Series History: Rutgers leads 21-18 all-time with the last meeting in 2008 resulting in a St. Bonaventure victory in overtime by the score of 64-63.
SB Nation St. Bonaventure site: Mid Major Madness
St. Bonaventure Scouting Report
Head coach Mark Schmidt is in his 13th season at the helm and the Bonnies were a missed three away from winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship last March. I think he is one of the best mid-major coaches out there. They are currently without their best player, Osun Osunniyi, who went down with an injury in the first game of the season and has hurt this team considerably.
To find out more about Saturday’s opponent, I spoke with longtime college basketball writer Ray Floriani, who is also a St. Bonaventure alum and former basketball team manager for the Bonnies. He has written a book on the NIT and contributes to sites such as Hoopeville, A Daly Dose of Hoops, Swish Appeal and Mid Major Madness. Here is his take on St. Bonaventure:
On the early 0-3 start
“From the half full perspective, they lost to Vermont and Ohio, who are currently undefeated and Siena is much improved. The disappointing thing is losing two games at home. The loss Osun Osunniyi has hurt, which has happened to this program the previous two seasons as well. They were able to weather through those injuries and OO should hopefully be back in a week or so. They are still trying to find their way.”
Shooting issues early on
“The first two games they shot a combined 7 for 46 from three-point range. They were 10 of 28 in the loss to Siena, so a little better, but the defense was subpar. They’ve rebounded well and played good defense at times, but they have had trouble putting the ball in the basket, so far that’s been the story.”
“In the absence of Osunniyi, they are missing that inside threat and are more of a perimeter team without him. Even with him in the lineup though, Schmidt feels they have perimeter shooting. Dominick Welch is a good three-point shooter. Kyle Lofton can hit the outside shot as well. A kid who transferred from Mount Saint Mary’s, Bobby Planutis is a good outside shooter also.”
“With OO out and no one really attacking the rim, they are living and dying on perimeter shooting. I think they’ve been missing and as a result, have been pressing. You start second guessing yourself as a shooter and I think they have a confidence issue right now. If they can get a breakout game, that could really right the ship.”
(editor’s note: I told Ray before he said this that I am terrified of this happening on Saturday and he didn’t help my nerves on bit.”)
On the play of big man Omadi Ikpeze and importance of leadership
“He worked hard over the summer to become more of an inside presence. He is strong, can rebound, and is providing some senior leadership. That’s one thing St. Bonaventure needs. Last year they started three freshman and got better as the season progressed, barely missing out on the NCAA Tournament. The fan base thought that would lead to an even better team this season, but Schmidt told everyone senior leadership was so important. The loss of Courtney Stockard and LaDarien Griffin has been felt. Amadi is providing some in their absence and so is Lofton, who has proven to be a leader since day one. He is only a sophomore, but has the mindset of a senior.”
What to expect from the Bonnies defensively
“Schmidt plays a lot of man to man but will throw some zone in. The man to man hasn’t been as good with Osunniyi out, as the guards aren’t able to cheat on people because when they did and got beat, he was a rim protector. Without that, the weakside help is coming over but is leaving cross court passes to the perimeter wide open. That’s a big issue. Schmidt does like to mix in zone almost like a blitz in football. When they beat UCLA in the NCAA Tournament two seasons ago, he totally threw them off with a 1-3-1 zone.”
“I expect him to use some zone in this game, especially when Mulcahy is out there as a freshman point guard to try and disrupt him. I also like the potential matchup of Lofton, who played high school ball at Union Catholic before taking a prep year vs. Mulcahy, two Jersey kids. It should be an interesting matchup to watch for.”
Final Thoughts on how this game will play out
“Even though I’m a St. Bonaventure alum and bleed brown and white, the objective journalistic part of me say Rutgers will win 71-60. The Bonnies are still finding their way and I think Rutgers will have too many weapons for them to handle right now. It wouldn’t surprise me completely if St. Bonaventure won the game, but they would need a breakout shooting game like you mentioned. I think if Rutgers can attack and are able to get inside, that will be a big difference in the game.”
“I do think it will be close to a home game for St. Bonaventure, which is about 150 miles away from Toronto and their fans traditionally travel very well. They’ve been hyping this game for awhile and they have a recruiting presence in Canada so it’s an important game. However, the way these two teams are playing right now I have to go with Rutgers winning.”
Thanks to Ray for providing great insight on the Bonnies and you can follow him on Twitter here. We’ve also met at Big Ten events before and he is a gentleman.
All eleven scholarship players for Rutgers are healthy so far this season.
Notes: Rutgers leads the Big Ten in blocks (7.0) and defensive rebounds (31.3). Geo Baker is averaging 14.0 points on 47.1% shooting, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.0 blocks, and 1.7 steals in 31.7 minutes per contest. Montez Mathis, Ron Harper Jr. and Akwasi Yeboah are all averaging between 10-11 points per game. As a team, Rutgers is shooting 44.7% from the floor, 69.2% from the free throw line, and 28.1% from three-point range.
Keys To Victory
Wake up the bigs
Myles Johnson and Shaq Carter have been too quiet through the first three games, but need to assert themselves in this game. Amadi Ikpeze is a strong big man and the best they’ll have faced so far. However, the Bonnies are thin down low overall. They need to make Ikpeze work for everything and stay out of foul trouble. On the flip side, I’d like to see Rutgers feed Johnson and Carter more so in the low post to put pressure on the Bonnies and hopefully force Ikpeze into foul trouble. Rutgers needs both Johnson and Carter to be more involved, especially on the boards in this game.
Aggressive from the start
Rutgers needs to come out in its first game away from the RAC and assert control from the opening tip. They need to play with energy and urgency, pressuring on the defensive end and attacking the rim offensively. They’ve been able to dominate fast break points through three games 72-24 combined and need to push the pace early and often. They have more athletes and can wear down St. Bonaventure as the game goes on playing that way.
Contest every shot
The Bonnies have shot poorly so far this season (35.2% FG; 23.0% 3-point range), which worries me that they are due a good one as mentioned above. The best way to prevent that is to get a hand in the shooters face and not breakdown on defense. Rutgers has done a bad job guarding the three so far and although St. Bonaventure has struggled from deep, they take 25 attempts from behind the arc per game so they’ll be looking to exploit that. They are only averaging 59 points per game but if Rutgers doesn’t get back on defense in transition, the Bonnies can take advantage with open looks. Perimeter defense is key in this one.
Four players are averaging double figures in scoring and that needs to continue. Rutgers is sharing the basketball better so far this season, but need to stay patient and work for the best shot possible in the halfcourt. When they see zone, having Myles Johnson and Paul Mulcahy flash at the free throw line to attack off the bounce or with the pass could prove to be effective. Being on a neutral court that will have more fans from the opponent poses a challenge and makes it important that multiple players get involved offensively in the early going. Make St. Bonaventure work on defense in the halfcourt with multiple ball reversals and break them down for good looks. That brings me to my last point....
Don’t settle for jumpers
It was a great response from game one to game two, but Rutgers settled for too many shots from the perimeter once again against Drexel. They need to attack the rim and force the Bonnies to stop penetration. A guy like Jacob Young could have a huge game with his quickness and ability to beat people off the dribble. Take open three’s when they are there naturally within the offense, but after a season best 20 of 25 from the free throw line on Wednesday, they should look to get to the rim and take advantage at the charity stripe when there. I also think a new arena for this team will take a bit to adjust to and taking high percentage shots early will help get them into a rhythm.
Appropriate Music Selection
For the fourth game of the season, I’m featuring Wake Up by Canadian band Arcade Fire. This song seems appropriate for several reasons. The game is in Canada, Rutgers has had two close calls and needs to play better in this game, as well as this young team is learning to play with expectations. Pikiell was questioned why Rutgers isn’t winning these early games by more points, which elicited a classic reaction at the 5:45 mark from the head coach, who shook his hand and said “you have to enjoy the journey” before elaborating, which is something he has said many times. Saturday night in the home of the NBA champions, Rutgers has a chance to continue to move things forward with a victory and hopefully they will do it with eyes wide open.