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Pollock: Bonnies endure season’s worst four days; The current player situation isn’t better

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(St. Bonaventure’s Class of 2024. Photo by: Craig Melvin)

A column by CHUCK POLLOCK, Sun Senior Sports Columnist

It couldn’t have been a worse four days for Coach Mark Schmidt, his St. Bonaventure basketball team and its fan base.

The start came Wednesday when the Bonnies’ hopes of earning the No. 4 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and its coveted double bye, were still alive … but needed help.

Bona had the “easy” part, beating the conference’s two last-place teams in the standings; that night at George Washington and Saturday afternoon at the Reilly Center on Senior Day against Saint Louis.

The tough “ask” was for Virginia Commonwealth, which occupied the fourth spot, to conjure three straight losses to close the regular season.

But the quest ended as quickly as it started as the Bonnies  endured one of the worst of their nine A-10 losses, an 86-75 defeat at GW. And their season ended in the most ignominious way, a 73-65 embarrassment by the Billikens at the RC followed by a decidedly uncomfortable senior appreciation ceremony.

And here’s the rub.

VCU managed to lose its last three games while UMass, a team Bona had beaten twice, swept its final trio to grab the No. 4 seed.  The Rams tumbed to fifth and Duquesne, which had beaten the Bonnies in both meetings, thus earned sixth in the comparison of the two 9-9 teams.

St. Bonaventure, which could have claimed sixth by beating Saint Louis, fell to seventh and on Wednesday afternoon (5 o’clock) will meet the winner of Tuesday’s game between 10th seed LaSalle and 15th-seeded George Washington.

To be sure, Atlantic 10 tournament history is littered with teams that earned the double bye, only to lose their first game. Still, there’s a decided advantage to playing one fewer tournament contest.

The problem is the Billikens, formerly in last place,  head into the A-10s with the momentum of road victories at Rhode Island and SBU while the Bonnies are stinging from consecutive losses to the conference’s two worst teams.

SATURDAY’S loss was hardly a treat for the near-sellout crowd of 4,702 at the RC. At one point, Saint Louis’ veteran radio play-by-play man Bob Ramsey, sitting next to me, mused, “No matter who wins, this game has been absolutely awful.” I didn’t disagree and pointed out the 23 turnovers, random air balls, wild passes and scrambles on the floor were being viewed by a national TV audience.

The senior appreciation ceremony was hollow. It wasn’t St. Bonaventure’s fault, though there’s always a risk scheduling such an event AFTER the season’s final home game where there’s the possibility of a bad loss such as Saturday’s.

The real fault is with the NCAA’s portal which permits willy-nilly transfers of college athletes. Coaches, including Schmidt, hate it, though they’ve learned to live with it and combined with the loose Name, Image and Likeness rules some have even thrived under the freedom.

But as I watched Daryl Banks, Moses Flowers, Charles Pride, Mika Adams-Woods and Chad Venning honored, it was more like the school were saying good-bye to junior college recruits.

Banks, Flowers and Venning have all played two years for and the latter would be eligible to come back next year. Pride and Adams-Woods were one-season players. 

It occurred to me that it was 2022 when Bona last feted four-year players as Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi and Dominick Welch finished their SBU careers.

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

I started writing about the Bonnies in the second half of the 1972-73 season, Larry Weise’s last as coach and the second year of freshman eligibility.

But even at that, there were stories going back to the ’50s when the team was so embraced by the community that players were invited to dinners, picnics, various events and even fans’ homes.

People were invested in the team because they got to know its players over four years. That’s not true any more, they’re not here long enough, and a valuable bond familiarity and consistency has been lost.

I don’t blame players for transferring, once the rules were drastically loosened, it meant getting out of a bad situation or more playing time. But there was a time when four-year players were valued and provided continuity, especially for mid-major teams like St. Bonaventure which counted on that experience to counter some of the talent at larger, wealthier schools.

You can’t convince me the current situation is better.

(Chuck Pollock, a Wellsville Sun senior sports columnist, can be reached at cpollock@wnynet.net.)

More from Chuck Pollock:

The Buffalo Bills have had darker days with cuts during off-season

• Caitlin Clark brings up memories of St. Bonaventure women and men’s basketball players

• St. Bonaventure primed for strong finish in Atlantic 10

• Feature on the Bonnies as the season winds down

• What to make from the Super Bowl

• A look at free agency with the Buffalo Bills

• Don’t blame Bass for the playoff loss

• St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt was right about the Atlantic 10 and the Bonnies

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