Photo by Dan Nelligan
The Bonnies travel to Springfield, Massachusetts to take on the 15th ranked Florida Atlantic University Owls. The teams have a combined 11-1 record in their last 12 games with the average total margin of victory being more than 20 points. It is safe to say both these teams are firing on all cylinders entering this afternoon’s tilt. Here is all you need to know for arguably the biggest game of St. Bonaventure’s season.
The Bonnies enter the Hall of Fame Classic winners of five straight games and with an overall record of 7-2. This afternoon’s competition will be a major step up for this St. Bonaventure team. The Bonnies have beaten up on bad teams the last five games including their most recent win over a Siena team ranked dead last in the NET Rankings.
Mika Adams-Woods has quickly become a superstar for head coach Mark Schmidt. The graduate transfer has started all nine games this season and averages a team-high 16.0 points per game. Adams-Woods also has the most made three pointers (19) and best three-point percentage (51.4%) on the team along with playing solid defense on the other end of the floor.
Adams-Woods’ defense fits right into the rest of Schmidt’s team and philosophy. The 17th year head man has prided himself on his team’s defensive abilities from the beginning and this season’s squad is no exception. Every player that enters the game for the Bonnies will put in a solid 30 defensive seconds each time down the floor.
Chad Venning has been the number two producer as Charles Pride has missed the past three games. Venning averages 13.9 points (2nd on the team) and 4.0 rebounds per game as he has started each of Bonaventure’s nine contests. Pride has been fantastic when he has been healthy. The Bryant transfer averaged 12.8 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game prior to his ankle injury. Pride dropped 28 points against FAU last season while at Bryant.
Daryl Banks III and Assa Essamvous have also started all nine games this season. Banks has begun to heat up offensively as his scoring average has risen to 9.9 points per game. Assa has been an unsung hero on the defensive end of the floor and the glass as he is tied for the second most rebounds per game with Barry Evans at 5.8 boards per contest.
Moses Flowers and Noel Brown continue to be important bench pieces for Schmidt. Flowers has played in every game he has been healthy this season and has brought his average up to 9.0 points per game. Brown continues to transform into the backup big man the Bonnies have missed since before Osun Osunniyi’s Bonaventure tenure. Kyrell Luc has also provided some valuable minutes while freshman Miles Rose saw his first game action last time out.
The Bonnies have continued to rise in the NET and Kenpom Rankings. St. Bonaventure now sits 66th in the NET and 79th in the Kenpom ranks. Charles Pride is a game-time decision as the program was “hopeful” he could play in today’s game. If Pride cannot go, expect Evans to start with a heavy dose of Flowers.
Projected Starting Five: Assa, Adams-Woods, Banks III, Pride, Venning
The Owls are winners of six of their last seven games with the only loss coming to now #16 Illinois in a true road game. Overall, FAU boasts an 8-2 record along with a 14th ranking in the NET and 19th ranking in Kenpom. A few notable results for the Owls are a 75-62 win over Loyola Chicago, 96-89 win over #12 Texas A&M and 84-50 win over Virginia Tech. This is a team that went to the Final Four last season and returned nearly everyone from that run.
Standing at 7-foot-1, 240 pounds, Vladislav Goldin has become one of the most feared centers in the country. The Russian native averages 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Both those totals lead the team.
The Owls have three other players averaging double figures so far this season. Johnell Davis has also started all 10 games as he scores 14.4 points while also grabbing 6.8 rebounds per contest as a 6-foot-4 guard. Alijah Martin scores at a 13.5 point per game clip and stands solid at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds. Nick Boyd is the other Owl averaging double figures but is out indefinitely with a significant leg injury.
Head coach Dusty May’s squad is deep as the next cut of Owls average between seven and nine points per game. Bryan Greenlee (8.7 PPG) and Giancarlo Rosado (8.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG) lead that pack with Greenlee as a 6-foot-8 forward and Rosado as a six-foot-flat guard. The other two players in this grouping are both guards Brandon Weatherspoon (7.5 PPG) and Jalen Gaffney (7.3 PPG, 4.0 RPG) will see significant playing time. Other players that should see the court are forwards Tre Carroll and Brenen Lorient.
Projected Starting Five: Davis, Gaffney, Martin, Weatherspoon, Goldin
Players to Watch
Charles Pride – While Pride’s status is still up in the air, the Bonnies would love to have him healthy this afternoon. The fifth year guard has played in big games against top teams before and has shown up in the big moments. That was evident with his 28-point performance against FAU last season. Pride’s elite rebounding has gone somewhat unnoticed and will be key to limiting FAU’s chances on the offensive end of the floor. If Pride cannot go, Bonaventure’s player to watch pivots to the red-hot Mika Adams-Woods.
Vladislav Goldin – Vlad is having the best offensive season of his collegiate career. The junior has improved in nearly every statistical category compared to a year ago including averages in minutes, free throws, rebounds, assists and points. Goldin has also blocked 19 shots through 10 games (1.9 BPG) which is ahead of his 1.2 blocks per game average in 2022-23. The Russian is going to be a handful for the Venning and the Bonnies on both ends of the floor.
Predictions and Keys to the Game
This game is going to be much closer than a lot of people think. These two teams match up well with each other. The defensive assignments are somewhat obvious but will be dependent on the health of Pride. If Pride plays, I expect him to guard Davis with Banks taking Martin, Adams-Woods following Gaffney, Assa on Weatherspoon and Venning battling in the paint with Goldin. If Pride is unable to go, Schmidt has a decision to make whether he starts Flowers to combat the four-guard look of FAU or take a distinct size advantage by starting Barry Evans.
I see this afternoon’s game being a back-and-forth, high-stress affair. A one possession game is certainly not out of the question. I am going to take the more battle-tested and higher-ranked Florida Atlantic Owls to win today’s game. However, I would not be shocked if the Bonnies pulled the upset and grab one of the best non-league wins in school history. Owls win it by 3-5 points.