NEC Team Primer: #5 Bryant Bulldogs

Head Coach: Tim O’Shea, 6th year (39-111)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost First Round of the CIT to Richmond, 76-71
RPI/KenPom: 242/182
NEC Preseason Poll: 2nd out of 10 teams (tied with Robert Morris)
State of Programs: NEC Contender
Starters Returning: 3

Key Loss(es): Frankie Dobbs (13.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 A/TO), Vlad Kondratyev (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 58.5% FG%)
Incoming Players: Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Daniel Garvin (F), Ellis Williams (PF/C), Justin Brickman (PG)

Bulldog_headProjected Starting Lineup:
PG: Corey Maynard (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.0 A/TO)
G: Dyami Starks (17.7 ppg, 40.8% 3PT%, 84.8% FT%)
F: Joe O’Shea (8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
PF: Alex Francis (17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 56.9% FG%)
PF: Claybrin McMath (0.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg)

Key Reserves: Shane McLaughlin (PG), Bosko Kostur (F), Declan Soukup (G), Andrew Scocca (PF/C), Ellis Williams (PF), Daniel Garvin (F), Curtis Oakley (F)

Major Storylines:

  • A New Floor General – With the underrated Frankie Dobbs no longer in Smithfield, Tim O’Shea will rely on a familar face to handle the point: Corey Maynard. The senior guard is more than capable – last season he posted an assist to turnover ratio of 2.0 while stuffing the stat sheet elsewhere. Now with the ball in his hands all the time, however, the question remains if he can lead a high octane Bryant attack. Health will also be a moderate concern; last season Maynard struggled throughout the year with a bum ankle.
  • Shoring Up The Depth – After racing out to a 6-0 start in the NEC, the Bulldogs began to breakdown, and with good reason. O’Shea was forced to rotate six to seven players every game night and over time the team’s performance predictability began to wane. Now in his sixth season at the helm, O’Shea has a roster full of Division I talent for the first time ever. The second team may go through some growing pains early, but O’Shea fully expects to have a very capable eight to nine man rotation by January. Those legs will feel a little better come February, which could go a long way toward making a run at the title.
  • Surviving the Non-Conference Slate – I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bryant possesses a fantastic, yet very difficult non-conference schedule. O’Shea isn’t shy about challenging his team in November and December, but with games versus Gonzaga, Ohio State, Notre Dame, North Dakota State, Vermont, and Harvard, his Bulldogs could get overexposed with a rough stretch of games.

The Skinny:
The Bryant Bulldogs greatly exceeded expectations in their first season of full Division I eligibility. Paired with veterans Alex Francis, Dobbs, and Maynard, transfers Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped transformed the Bulldogs from a laughing-stock into a contender, essentially overnight. After shocking the nation with road upsets over Boston College and Lehigh, Bryant carried the momentum into the conference season, eventually earning a home game in the first round of the NEC tournament.

The offense, in particular, was outstanding with the Bulldogs scoring 117 points per 100 possessions, easily the best mark in the league. They had a dynamic playmaker (Dobbs), a three-point assassin (Starks), two glue guys (O’Shea and Maynard), and a double double waiting to happen every night (Francis). Quite simply, everything was clicking on that side of the ball.

In order to make that next jump, however, Bryant will need to bolster their depth and defense. Yes, their offensive firepower is impressive, but giving up 109.4 points per 100 possessions and allowing opponents to shoot 51.1% from inside the arc is problematic. Luckily for O’Shea, he’s collected an intriguing group of young interior big men who could possibly protect around the rim. Fifth year senior Claybrin McMath will start, but it’s the young guys behind him that may have the bigger impact. It remains to be seen who will contribute down low out of the Andrew Scocca (he was a medical red-shirt last season after only playing eight games), Daniel Garvin, and Ellis Williams combo. All three are long and in Garvin’s case, incredibly athletic.

The backcourt, on the other hand will be productive and somewhat deep. Shane McLaughlin will back up Maynard ant the point and looks to rebound after a somewhat disappointing freshman campaign. Dyami Starks is primed to have a monster season. And perhaps the biggest wildcard of this team is the coach’s nephew, Joe O’Shea. All preseason reports indicate that the versatile 6’5″ stretch forward will have a breakout type of year. Then again, O’Shea was the most efficient player on Bryant’s roster last season, despite being surrounded by three all-conference players.

Finally there’s Alex Francis, who may have the best opportunity of anyone in the NEC to average a double double. He’s a star offensively; a player who’s crafty around the rim yet can blow by opponents off the dribble. If he can somehow improve his free throw percentage – he does a great job of getting to the line – then the sky’s the limit for the Bronx native. Backing him up will be Bosko Kostur, who O’Shea gushed about during NEC Media Day. He has a chance, playing the “3” and “4”, to have an impact season as a red-shirt freshman.

Coach’s Quotes:

“If I started Shane McLaughlin (at the point), that makes us really small. And my nephew, Joe O’Shea has been playing so well that it was imperative to get him into the starting lineup to give us some real size. So I talked to Corey (Maynard) about playing the point… so he was really comfortable making that move.”
– O’Shea, on why he decided to start Corey Maynard at the point guard position

“Bosko Kostur is a kid that has a chance to really have an impact as a freshman. He’s a real talent.”
– O’Shea, when asked who out of his freshmen class with contribute in their first season

“We needed to get bigger in the interior… Alex Francis used to score at will in practice, now he has a hard time scoring because of the added size and length that we brought in.”
– O’Shea, talking about why he believes his interior defense will be much improved compared to last season

Predictions:

Ryan – I was really concerned about their point guard position, until O’Shea unleashed his plan to insert Maynard there. With a core four of Maynard, Starks, O’Shea, and Francis, this team will absolutely be in contention. How much so? I think they’ll land in the top four and find themselves in the NEC title game. (17 wins, 10-6 NEC)

John – Sure, Maynard is going to play the point. He’ll probably do well there. I’m just worried that Bryant’s lack of depth will catch up again with them this season. Teams that take a big leap forward one season often take a little step back the next. The Bulldogs are talented, but could definitely end up in that category. (16 wins, 9-7 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers

#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers
#6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds