A10 Home Opener: St. Bonaventure Preview and Q&A

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Monday, January 4th, 2016 With 0 Comments

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Wednesday night at 7pm, George Mason (6-8, 0-1 A10) finally returns to the EagleBank Arena floor for the first time in 15 days. Tomorrow night’s matchup against St. Bonaventure (9-3, 1-0 A10) will also be the home opener of the Patriots 2016 Atlantic 10 conference schedule. Coming off a tough loss at VCU on Saturday, the Green and Gold will look to regroup in a more friendly environment.

The Bonnies have three of the conference’s top twelve scorers in point guard Jaylen Adams, wing Marcus Posley, and forward Dion Wright, but much like Mason, their depth is questionable at best, and one area the Patriots may be able to exploit is their poor defensive rebounding rate (250th in the country). On the flip side, Bona is seventh in the nation in free throw percentage, shooting 70.7% from the line, while Mason ranks 321st at 62.8%. The Patriots can’t afford to give away free points by putting their opponents on the line Wednesday.

Mason has faced the Bonnies twice since joining the Atlantic 10, losing both times — an 85-73 home loss on Homecoming 2014, and a semi-neutral site 75-55 defeat in Rochester, NY, a season ago.

Looking ahead to tomorrow’s showdown with the Bonnies, I asked Ian Nolan of The Bona Blog to answer some questions about the opposition.

masonhoops.com: When looking at Bona’s season statistics, the first thing that stands out is the “big three” of Jaylen Adams, Marcus Posley, and Dion Wright, all of whom average around 17 points per game. What has made those three such a dynamic combination this season, and can they continue it in A10 play?

IN: Really what has allowed those three to do so much damage is the lack of depth and offensive talent surrounding them. After those three the rest of the team is either too young, too inconsistent, or just not that talented on that end of the floor. SBU starts a guard in Idris Taqqee who seldom wants to even put up a shot, a true freshman forward in Derrick Woods who takes only a few shots a game, and then has a 6th man in Denzel Gregg who is either very good or…not so good. That combined with the fact that SBU really only plays eight guys a night and it’s up to them to carry the load. They score about 82% of the teams’ points and no other team in the league has three players in the top 12 in scoring.

masonhoops.com: Aside from those three, who is the Bonnies’ most important player?

IN: This would have to be Denzel Gregg. When he’s “on” he can come off the bench and change a game for the better. He has the ability to score inside, rebound, block shots and be a pure energy guy off the bench. He’s without a doubt the team’s best athlete. He had 12-5-4 off the bench vs. Davidson in what we call a “Good Gregg” game. But, he’s prone to foul trouble (more fouls than shots made) and often turns it over trying to do too much. He’s a huge unknown and x-factor each game. If he’s playing well, SBU looks a lot better.

masonhoops.com: Dion Wright leads the Bonnies with 8.3 boards, but he’ll be giving up 4 inches to the 6-11 Shevon Thompson. Will Mark Schmidt have to alter his rebounding strategy?

IN: No, this team is pretty short and thin inside and have been all year. Before getting sophomore Jordan Tyson back right before Christmas the Bonnies’ two tallest players were Wright at 6-8 and Woods also at 6-8. That’s it. So, it’s been a gang rebounding approach for them all season. Taqqee is a good rebounder for a guard and Posley and Adams are also capable of pulling down a board. SBU has given up size most games this season and found ways to stay close on the glass and I’d expect the same Wednesday. I’d expect Tyson to get more minutes than he has all year long simply as a way to combat Thompson’s size but aside from that it’s business as usual. He’s a big body with little experience but he can offer his frame and some fouls to spare Wright.

masonhoops.com: By winning 97-85 at Davidson on Saturday, the Bonnies showed that they can be a factor in the A10 this season. What are some expectations for the team, based on the results thus far?

IN: For me, I expect the team to be very close to .500 in league play. The team is really too thin and too inconsistent (so far) to hope for anything more than, say, a 6th place finish? Even that may be being optimistic. Mark Schmidt’s teams always play hard, and almost always out perform their preseason expectations, so I’d be shocked if they finished under 10th but anything is possible. Aside from GW and Dayton, this league is wide open in spots 3-14 to me. Ultimately, I’d like to see the team win 17-18 games and play on Saturday in Brooklyn…just like last year.

masonhoops.com: What’s it going to take for St. Bonaventure to walk out of Fairfax with a win on Wednesday? Give us a prediction.

IN: A big game from the Big 3 if you will is certainly a good start but ultimately I think it will be the other players who need to step up. We know Adams, Posley and Wright will score; they always do. How much SBU can get out of everyone else is the key offensively. I worry about Thompson’s ability inside on both ends and that he could be a handful. If SBU can play a game in the low 70s, I like their chances a lot. I think SBU defends it well enough to keep Mason in the low to mid 60s and wins a close game. Road games are always tough in league play but SBUs top three players are much better than Mason’s right now and that’s a big factor. That and the fact that SBU is far better at the line make me feel confident in them pulling out a close win.

masonhoops.com: Finally, a less-serious question. How lucky is Mason that this is Year 3 in the A10 and they still do not have a trip to Olean on the schedule?

IN: That is a bit weird and I honestly hadn’t even thought of that. Though last year Mason came to Rochester and lost by 20 so maybe coming to the Reilly Center wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. SBU is 7-1 at home this year, and were 10-6 there last year, so they, like most teams, are much better in the friendly confines. The RC is a really tough place to play for teams because of the small size and incredibly active student body. Consider the students usually fill over 1K seats in the stands and the school has just over 2K kids in it…pretty wild. If you ever get a chance to make the trip you should, it’s a very cool “friendly small town” feel to it. Something you have to experience to understand.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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