When I read what St Bonaventure basketball fans have to say about their 2013-14 squad, it makes me think of the clip from Billy Madison where Billy has trouble fitting in his first day of high school. At the moment, the Dukes are the more veteran losers who had a bad case of loser denial last year until George Washington stuck a parking cone up our…
Let me qualify my opinion on St Bonaventure quickly. While they’re considered our rival, I don’t see it as a hot rivalry. I don’t hate St Bonaventure. In fact, I kind of root for them when they’re not playing the Dukes or when their winning doesn’t negatively impact us in the standings. Aside from Duquesne basketball,
I follow Robert Morris and Pitt most closely, but the Bonnies aren’t far behind. I have a pretty strong pulse on their current team and program to the point where I think I can have an informed and objective opinion about them.
That said, I do think the Dukes will be better than them and I think they could be in store for a season where they struggle though not likely as badly as last year’s Duquesne team. Here’s why:
Counting Too Much on Experienced Players Who Haven’t Broken Out
This is where I feel like Duquesne’s loser denial last year is similar to the Bonnies this year. Heading into Jim Ferry’s first season, the Dukes were counting on top returning starter Sean Johnson and role players Jerry Jones, Mamadou Datt, and Kadeem Panthophlet to take their games to the next level to just be a decent team. None of that happened and we know the results. This year, the Bonnies are looking to Charlon Kloof, Matthew Wright, Marquise Simmons and Youssou Ndoye to step up. Klo0f, a defensive specialist, actually saw his minutes per game decrease as a sophomore. While he has good size and some ability to shoot, he has not established himself as an offensive presence. The Dukes will remember Wright from our trip to Olean following an 8-0 start to conference play three seasons ago when it felt like he couldn’t miss. Wright has been wildly inconsistent scoring 18 or more points in three A-10 games and only scoring double figures one other time in the league last year. He can be dangerous, but when he isn’t dangerous, he’s often invisible. Simmons could be a load but he has never played more than 600 minutes in a season. For me, he is the most likely of the four to improve. Ndoye still has a lot of development to do before I see him as more than a guy who takes up space. Maybe one or two of these guys does step up their game, but to count on 3 out of 4 which they will likely need to finish higher than the Dukes is asking a lot.
Our Jucos Are Better Than Yours
Dukes have two solid looking junior college transfers coming in, Tra’Vaughn White and Dominique McKoy while the Bonnies are adding juniors Andell Cumberbatch and Chris Dees. The former St Bonaventure commitment White is likely the best of the bunch having led all of junior college in scoring while being named among the top 50 JUCO prospects in the country by Juco Recruiting. Cumberbatch appears further down the list, but his performance in the Jayhawk league is almost identical to McKoy’s. Both averaged the same amount of points. Cumberbach rebounded well for someone who is listed as 6’5” but McKoy beat him by 3 rebounds a game. McKoy also had more assists per game and a better assist to TO ratio. Another advantage for McKoy is that he played in the A-10 with Rhode Island as a freshman. Dees had a very quiet year on the same team that produced Marvin Binney for the Dukes last year.
While I like the Dukes’ crop of freshman, it should be noted that St Bonaventure has a couple first years who could have an immediate impact particularly the high flying Jalen Adams.
The Three Best Players on The Floor Will Probably be Dukes
For me, I would take Ovie Soko, Derrick Colter and White over anyone on the Bonnies. This is no disrespect to the Bonaventure players as it’s more a show of respect for the Dukes. All three have all league upside. I’m just not sure I see anyone on St Bonaventure who immediately presents with that kind of talent.
Of course, the Bonnies have some advantages starting with an extreme home court advantage they enjoy at the Reilly Center. Even when they’re struggling, Olean is a tough place to play. While the Dukes appear stronger on offense, I have my concerns about how they’ll defend. Conversely, I have faith in the Bonnies defense but no clue how they will score.
Let’s be clear though, the Dukes are likely marginally better and probably slot into the lowest tier in the A-10 with the Bonnies and Fordham. I just think the Dukes will perform well enough that they’ll finish higher in the standings than St Bonaventure. I also don’t think the last place team in the A-10 will be the anchor it so often has been. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bonnies finish last and still end up with an RPI in the 175-225 range. It’s not their year this year, but they’re good enough that no one can sleep on them.