Outlook: Two important transfers leave the Bulldogs with holes, but the potential is still there for Bryant to develop into a feisty team in the NEC. Continue reading
Time for John and I to recap tonight’s action in the NEC with 3 of the 5 games coming right down to the wire! Continue reading
BOSTON – Sportswriters (and the world at large, to be honest) tend to make way too big a deal out of singular events, but if there was ever a statement as to the current (and future) power of the Ivy League, it was Harvard’s complete demolition of Bryant Wednesday night at Lavietes Pavilion.
Having unfortunately borne witness to many of them over the years, it had all the look of a “guarantee game”. Of course, if Bryant wanted that, it could have gone down the street to Boston College or down I-95 to Providence.
But from the opening tip, Zena Edosomwan was just bigger and stronger than anyone the Bulldogs could throw at him, young guards Tommy McCarthy and Corey Johnson were bordering on arrogance because they could score whenever they pleased. Physically, athletically, skill-wise, whatever way you sliced it, it didn’t take a basketball expert to figure out who was the better team. It was a 20-point game by halftime and it was time to clear the benches and cheer for the walk-ons by the midway point of the second half.
SMITHFIELD, R.I. – It was a tale of two halves for Bryant Friday night in the semifinals of the 2K Classic at the Chace Athletic Center.
In Act I, the Bulldogs (2-1) obliterated a weaker opponent in Prairie View A&M (which entered No. 348 in KenPom) to the tune of a 23-point halftime lead. It ballooned to as much as 29 early in the second half before things started to go wrong in Act II, especially on the offensive end. Bryant was never seriously threatened (although close, the Panthers never got to within single digits), but the sloppiness was concerning for a Bryant team that wants to contend for an NEC title and its first NCAA Tournament berth in March.
Or was it?
It’s been a busy week of travel for yours truly, so instead of churning out my nightly NEC recaps for the past week, I decided to offer some thoughts on the NEC season as we head into the down stretch. Continue reading
From Opening Day, heck probably months before that, Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina has preached that defense was the way his team would improve on his first season in charge, a 5-26 campaign that saw the Pioneers win just twice in NEC play. Continue reading
With the possible lone exception of Mount St. Mary’s, no team in the NEC surprised pundits more than the Bryant Bulldogs last season. A veteran lineup supplemented with two promising transfers in Dyami Starks and Joe O’Shea helped elevate Bryant to an unprecedented 19-win season.
The 17-win turnaround from the season prior made NCAA history, even though Bryant finished their 2012-13 campaign with only six victories in their final 14 games. A small rotation and average at best athleticism inevitably did Tim O’Shea’s group in, and that was no more evident than during their February road loss to the aforementioned Mountaineers. After the defeat, a candid O’Shea admitted his team’s athleticism, depth, and defensive prowess wasn’t where it needed to be.
Now, however, O’Shea could be faced with a new “problem”. The sixth Division I season in Bryant’s history may result in the most depth the program has ever seen. After struggling to find production off the bench, is it possible O’Shea has too many backup options?
“It’s amazing how things have changed in just a couple of seasons, because in the past I couldn’t scrap together what I thought was a credible top five, let alone a top eight,” said O’Shea. “Now I think I have good players, one through 13 on scholarship. I have a lot of options. I guess it’s a problem, but it’s a good one.”
Of course, there’s the top four of Starks, Alex Francis, Corey Maynard, and Joe O’Shea, but after that it’s an open competition for rotation spots five through ten.
The biggest question heading into the offseason is how O’Shea compensates for the loss of All-NEC third teamer Frankie Dobbs. The point guard was instrumental in Bryant’s success, so the challenge will be replacing his minutes, and superb production. Sophomore Shane McLaughin, who averaged 1.0 point and 1.3 assists per game as a freshman, will have an opportunity to make an impact. Red-shirt freshman Declan Soukup, an Australian native, should also compete for minutes at the point.
The third member of the point guard competition happens to be the most notable freshman of O’Shea’s incoming class – 5’9″ point guard Justin Brickman. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Justin’s older brother, Jason, has been terrorizing NEC opponents for the past three seasons as a member of the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds.
While it seems lazy to use Jason Brickman as a player comp to his brother, it’s likely the most suitable. Like his brother, Justin profiles as a heady floor general with excellent court vision, an impressive handle, and the ability to knock down the long-range jumper. Despite the success the Brickman family has had playing Division I basketball – older brother Jordan also played one season for Navy – O’Shea is tempering his expectations for the youngest Brickman in season number one.
“It’s so hard, when kids are going from high school to college, you never know how (their game) translates,” O’Shea cautioned.
Behind Alex Francis, there’s an impetus of high upside youth in O’Shea’s front court, highlighted by Australian native Bosko Kostur and Connecticut product Daniel Garvin. Both players, listed at 6’7″ and 6’8″ respectively, possess impressive athleticism and come advertised with unique talents.
“High skill level, and a good first step,” said O’Shea when asked to describe Kostur, his latest player from the Land Down Under. “He has a good feel for the game like all my Australians and is a tough kid. All signs point to a guy who could be a really good player in our conference.”
While Kostur has excellent perimeter skills that could make him a “stretch four” in the NEC someday, Garvin may very well be the freshman with the highest ceiling of this recruiting class. The 6’8″ power forward, who could transition into a small forward at the collegiate level, displayed tremendous above-the-rim athleticism at Bethel High. Even though the competition for the western Connecticut school wasn’t top-notch, it was impossible to ignore Garvin’s ability to rebound, defend, and create havoc around the rim.
“(Garvin) is a tremendous athlete,” said O’Shea. “He’s so gifted physically – he has great athleticism and instincts – but he played in a low-level, in terms of high school competition. Making that transition, that’s going to be the key.”
The last recruit is Ellis Williams, a 6’8″ banger down low. With a wide frame and broad shoulders, the physical Williams has an opportunity to occupy the minutes lost with the graduation of overachieving center Vlad Kondratyev. Red-shirt freshman Andrew Scocca should compete for minutes with Williams at the “5” when O’Shea isn’t implementing a small-ball type of roster. Now healthy, Scocca only played nine games in his first season as a Bulldog, due to an unusual bacterial infection.
In total, nearly half of Bryant’s scholarship players are freshmen, yet O’Shea is excited about the team’s short-term prospects. Despite the youth movement, Bryant has enough veteran leadership at the top to consider the Bulldogs a worthy challenger to the NEC title. With more athleticism now at O’Shea’s disposal, the long time head coach is certainly optimistic about the position of his program.
“I like our chances. We have the chemistry. We’re going to have a tough non-conference schedule, but if we get through that OK, then I think we’ll be fine and in the mix the whole way.”
You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride